Jared, 4 years of age, wasn’t your typical child, his mother told me. “He was never found playing with blocks, or sitting down, painting or the other quiet stuff he could never get through because he didn’t have his fill of the physical stuff.”
For kids like Jared, growing up in Brooklyn, the place to play was a neighborhood park 20 minutes walking distance from his mother’s NYC apartment. This was also his very favorite place, according to his mother. “Here’s what has always been the rub: It’s his favorite place where he could get his energy out. But it’s also where the noise, and definitely the proximity of kids – a New York City playground on a May afternoon, for a kid with sensory issues – it’s a nightmare!”
Jared loved playing in the sandbox, especially the sensory nature of its texture and feel. He’d roll around in the sand as well as play with it. But, according to his mother, he could not handle the sensory overload of too many kids bumping into him or the noise of their shrieks and giggles. Fortunately for Jared, he was enrolled in a pre-school that provided various forms of therapies: sensory integration, art, music and horticulture. There, he was able to get his fill of physical activity in a quiet setting. His mother was also befriended by other mothers who were looking for less crowded and noisy settings such as the trails in Prospect Park. There, Jared took opportunities to lead the small group of children off the path to explore some of the wooded places, under the careful supervision of the parents.
Jared’s mother indicated that the neighborhood playground was being redesigned. She wished there was a way to change places like the sandbox so that it wouldn’t be so crowded. Teardrop Park, in Battery Park City, broke the tradition of having small, controllable areas for sandboxes. Sand tends to attract animals, especially cats that use the sand as a litter box. At Teardrop Park, however, the sand is placed in a long, linear area that tends to do away with the congestion of small, noisy bodies. This configuration might be just the thing to stop the clash of the tiny titans on public playgrounds!
Next: Finding just the right form of sensory play