Provide Support for High Quality, Safe and Inclusive Play in Grant County

Provide Support for High Quality, Safe and Inclusive Play in Grant County

Many studies show that ‘play’ is a vital activity for children when learning how to manage their emotions, interact with the world, develop and use cognitive skills. Play provides an outlet for children to gain and cultivate their mental, physical and social skills.

Marion, Indiana has long experienced a lack of indoor play options, which is vital for a town that experiences wintry weather for over half of the year. Local churches saw a need in the community and began working together in 2018 to create a safe play environment for children, known as WonderSpace, to enjoy during the cold months of Fall and Winter.

WonderSpace serves families with children ranging from preschool to 4th grade by providing a mobile play pop-up environment to engage young children in learning through play by using their imagination and keeping active. It is a place where children are able to develop and challenge their cognitive, physical, emotional and social health in a play environment.

One of the goals of WonderSpace is to create a place that children can use and cultivate their skills all year around in a safe and inclusive environment.

Currently, the pop-up play offers three main types of play: Cardboard City, Imagination Playground, and Snug play. Each of these stimulates the imagination, problem solving, and physical activity. However, WonderSpace was looking at incorporating new initiatives to the play experience that would promote a safe space for every family and child.

“It will be our priority to ensure that our pop up playdate locations are fully accessible.” – Stephanie Freemyer, Program Director of WonderSpace

Part of inclusion is providing safe play opportunities for all children, including those with special needs. To create a safe and suitable play environment for children of all needs, Stephanie Freemyer contacted the Community Foundation during the February grant cycle.

The Community Foundation awarded WonderSpace with a grant of $9,925 through multiple funds to promote and support the growth of this amazing opportunity for grant county.

With the grant, WonderSpace attended the Power of Play conference put on by the National Inclusion Project. WonderSpace employees, Little Giants employees and other organizations in Grant County that have experience working with special needs children were invited to join in attendance.

The conference taught the employees how to create effective play environments that are accessible to all children. This includes adding a sensory space for children to re-center and acclimate, adding timers to assist with transitions, and creating an option for families to ‘create a schedule’ for children who benefit from structured play. The grant also funded the purchasing of noise cancelling headphones and floor mats with a 4ft tall ramp edging to prevent falls.

“November 9th is our first play date where we will see these modifications in action. We are looking forward to seeing how these make a difference!”—Stephanie Freemyer

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