Saturday, August 21, 2010

A day at Imagination Playground

A few months ago, I read a magazine article about Imagination Playground, a breakthrough play area at South Street Seaport in New York City that encourages unstructured play. David Rockwell designed it, a big-shot architect who's tackled everything from hotels to the set design for the Broadway show Hairspray.

The piece mentioned movable foam parts kids could use to build stuff, sand, water structures, a tower to climb. It sounded fantastic, and much more exciting than the usual slide-swings-jungle-gym playgrounds. Then Beth from Role Mommy and Kim from Mom In The City invited a bunch of local bloggers to a family event at Imagination Playground. Is it weird that I was even more excited about it than Sabrina was? I felt bad, Max had school, but we'll definitely come again.

First, we had lunch at the lovely and fascinating South Street Seaport Museum, catered by 'Wichcraft and Stew Leonard's. Double yum. Sabrina was especially pleased that I let her have a cupcake before her sandwich (because, er, I did that too).

Then we hit the playground and like all the other kids, Sabrina jumped right in. I did wonder how they're going to keep the blocks clean; am I turning into my mother? Not that there's anything wrong with that, Mom.

Overall, I was wowed; ditto for Sabrina, aka Ms. Picky. Imagination Playground is a really creative take on the standard playground. I also liked that there were park rangers there to supervise. A tiki bar with frosty drinks would have been nice, too. He, he. Sabrina's review: "It is fun to go to! I played in the water! I got sand in my sneakers! They need purple blocks for Max!" Be sure to bring good sunscreen and hats for the kids (there are a bunch of umbrellas but the play areas are out in the open). Imagination Playground is accessible to kids with disabilities—the playground is mostly level, and there's a ramp you can ride a wheelchair around that gives you a nice view of the entire space. I know Max would have a blast in the water play area.

If you're visiting New York and plan on exploring South Street Seaport, Imagination Playground is a great place to take the kids.

Imagination Playground location: Burling Slip, John Street between Front and South Streets
Hours: Open daily 9am-7pm

How are the playgrounds near your home? The ones by us are pretty good, but in my dreams, there would be one that's just for kids with disabilities.

Update: Beth shared a video she put together, check it out!


  1. What a great playground-- looks like Sabrina had a blast! Yeah, I have no idea how they're going to keep those blocks clean either, though. Looks like they'd get torn up pretty quickly to me.

    We DO have a playground in our little town crafted especially for kids with disabilities! It's called Savannah's Place (though pretty much everybody calls it Bradley Park Playground because that's the city park it's inside), and it is AWESOME. We've spent many happy hours there with Connor. It's pretty amazing how the park came about, too-- here's a link to the story:

    The really funny thing is that there's a second playground at Bradley that's not accessible right next to Savannah's Place, and usually it's DESERTED. All the kids are naturally drawn to the inclusive playground, so Connor always has lot of friends-- typical and with special needs-- to play with whenever we go!

    I think it would be so cool if EVERY town had an inclusive playground!

  2. There are at least two I am aware of near Salt Lake City - each up a canyon and beyond, one at the National Ability Center in park City where we pay a hefty price to do hippotherapy (worth every penny) at a facility that is very large, spread out, training gounds for winter sports paralympians, etc., and it is pretty cool even for my two year old although the sign says designed for 5-8. I hear there is another at a different ski resort, Snowbird, that is excellent but have not been there yet. We are mobile enough to do quite a lot at a regular playground, in fact, I meet my PT at such places all the time, but it is Xanax inducing to see my little one reach the top of the "climb" and be on a tower while the PT swings up behind her to take her down the slide for her reward. Scares the crap outof me and I would never have done it without a professional but he sure gets great results from Hannah.

  3. The playgrounds in our area are pretty crappy--but there's plenty to do just "out and about" so no biggie. The best playgrounds are the ones in backyards!

    Two cool things about your day, aside from the fact that you went to a really cool playground:

    Sabrina got a day alone with Mom, that's always fun!

    Sabrina selflessly thought of her brother: "They need purple blocks for Max!"

    I also liked the size of those cupcakes! Sometimes, you would just LOVE a cupcake, but that "serving for four" commitment you have to make with some of them is a bit off-putting!

    What a wonderful day in the Big City!

  4. We have one! It's called Possibility Playground in Port Washington, WI. It is amazing.

  5. Ohhhhhhh. So fun!!! I want to go. You bring the cupcakes, I'll bring the margaritas!!!

  6. This playground looks amazing! Unfortunately, I can't think of a single playground in our area that is accessible and designed for kids with disabilities. City planning really needs to work on this!
    p.s. I met you on the Kodak bus tour with BlogHer. Thought I'd stop in and say hello!

  7. We actually have an "every child's playground" just a few miles from our house. I don't think most people really pay much attention to the things that SN mothers see when they look at it. No "normal" swings, just the heavy duty armchair looking ones with a 5 point harness ( awesome for small children), sensory slide that makes your butt numb (looks like an old conveyor belt made of metal poles), all the awesome padding on the ground ( instead of wood chips). It is definitely the preferred place for play dates. Several times a summer we get together with a few friends of mine from HS, and we meet at that park!

  8. We have at least two accessible playgrounds in Los Angeles: Shane's Inspiration in Griffith Park and the playground at Orthopaedic Hospital near USC. Both are popular with both disabled and typically developing kiddos.

  9. That playground looks awesome! I wish we has something like that where I live.

  10. I can't wait to get to New York to try out Imagination Playground. I've read so much about it, and just can't wait to see kids playing on it.

    If you are looking for a list of accessible playgrounds, please visit my site, Not only does the site have a directory with a listing of accessible playgrounds from throughout the United States and Canada, there are also featured articles describing great playgrounds. The most amazing accessible play place could almost be considered a theme park for children with special needs. Check it out at

    BTW I always enjoy your blog.

    Mara Kaplan

  11. I have an inclusive playground a few miles from me modeled after Jonathan's Dream. I found a small blurb about it here

  12. I love 'wichcraft! and I've always wanted to check out this playground! Who wants to lend me a child or two so I don't look like a super creepy 22 year old, playing on the playground.

  13. Morgan's Wonderland in San Antonio, TX was built specifically for people with special needs. They have swings for wheelchairs, an accessible playground area, a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round, a water area, a wheelchair accessible train, a wheelchair accessible fishing dock, a sensory village and more! I have CP and use a wheelchair - and it is an amazing place & so much fun there!

    "It is the World's First Ultra Accessible Family Fun Park designed specifically for children and adults with special needs, their family members, caregivers, friends and the entire community. This 25-acre park is a unique oasis, that through the spirit of inclusion, allows people of all abilities to play, learn and share life changing experiences together, in a fun and safe environment."

    The park you've written about looks like LOTS of fun too!!

    Take care!!

  14. That's awesome that some of you have accessible playgrounds in your area. Molly, I am SURE you can find some neighborhodo parents who would be glad to loan you their kids! Mara, I am headed over to your site to explore, thanks for sharing. Sarah: Thx for that link. Boundless Playgrounds specializes in accessible playgrounds, I should get in touch with them. And Anonymous, from what I've heard Morgan's Wonderland is a wonderful amusement park, I would love to visit someday.


Thanks for sharing!

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