Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center has plans to replace its aging playset with a multi-faceted playground designed specifically for children with special needs – and the children and staff alike are excited!

“Our new playground will bring an extension of our classroom to the outdoors,” said Karen McClure-Richard, director of Pine Tree Society’s Early Learning Center.

For many of the children, this playground represents their only access to the outdoors.

“A lot of our kiddos don’t have yards at home,” said Karen. “Playing outdoors is so important for their social, emotional and physical development. They are getting most of their outside time when they’re here with us and we’re helping them learn what they can do outside and grow their passion for the outdoors.”

A playground provides many learning opportunities. Not the least of which is learning how to try new things and take risks.

“Taking risks builds confidence,” said Karen. “It teaches them that they can do the hard things. It also teaches them to trust that we are going to be there for support and not let them down.”

The new playground will feature climbing opportunities to work on hand and leg skills as well as separated areas for the slides and swing sets. Allpieces have been specifically designed with various levels of accessibility to ensure that all of the children are able to meaningfully participate. The pieces will promote safe climbing activities to support strengthening muscles and building endurance.

Combining play with the use of big muscles is critical for learning.

“Our brain needs to work left-to- right when reading,” said Karen. “In order for kids to learn that skill, they need to be able to shift focus from one side of their body to the other. For example, many kids use their right hand when something is on their right side, then shift to their left hand for their left side. To develop their brain for reading and writing, we need to teach kids how to cross their body to get things versus switching hands. It’s all connected.”


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