Posted on March 25, 2021

Playground supports therapy disguised as play for children of all abilities

When Mary’s Therapy Playground was created in 2018, the outdoor space provided a fun, healing space for our youngest patients to grow. Three years later, the playground has grown, too!

The growth occurred as part of Mary Free Bed’s decision to build its own kitchen to better serve the nutritional needs of patients. Construction of the kitchen was sited for the floor above the outdoor play area, necessitating its enclosure and expansion.

“The new space is bright, fun and open,” said Andrea Dennis, a physical therapist on the Mary Free Bed Kids outpatient team. “And the enclosed space will allow us to use the playground year-round.”

A happy place where children and adolescents can work on their rehabilitation goals, the playground features elements that are fun and functional. Located adjacent to the outpatient Kids area, patients with a range of diagnoses and abilities can work on cognitive, physical and social skills.

The playground features equipment that enables patients to work on coordination and fine motor skills, including climbing structures, musical elements and gear panels. A slide and stair were modified from its original height and width to fit the new indoor space.

A new climbing wall and therapy loft were constructed by Mary Free Bed Plant Services department craftsman Rick Nequist. The space also has a ramp.

The playground expands the therapeutic opportunities young patients have and equips them with the confidence and ability to navigate more effectively in unfamiliar environments, Andrea said.

“A huge benefit for therapy is the additional space,” she said. “The playground’s different elements allow for us to work on functional mobility skills while also having fun. The ramp has been helpful for wheelchair training and ramp navigation with children using assistive devices. The large stairs on the loft help with climbing and preparing kids for bus-stair negotiation, and the climbing wall is an excellent strengthening activity but appealing to kids.”

Mary’s Therapy Playground initially was part of the Mary Free Bed Foundation’s Therapeutic Healing Gardens project funded by donors.