About four years ago I attended the Birth to Three Institute. A former program of Head Start. I went to a very informative workshop, “Adapting and Embracing the Environment: Fostering Participation for Children with Disabilities”. Th“e session was led by Linda Brault, Project Director, WestEd and Senta Greene, Executive Director of Full Circle Consulting Systems, Inc.
The most important information I left with from this session is that you don’t need a lot of money or anything fancy to create a universal design play space for toddlers. If you treat each child as an individual, you can create multiple possibilities for engagement. And “multiple” is the key word to keep in mind. Are there multiple ways for the child: 1) to enter and interact in the environment, 2) access materials and toys, and 3) play, among of things to consider?
During this interactive session, each group received a small plastic bag with a lot of common items like fabric, straws, craft sticks, sponges, etc. These items came in different sizes, colors and textures. Then we were told to try different ways we could play with these things. The group was pleasantly surprised with the number of activities we created from simple materials that are easily found at home.
Creating a Universal Design environment doesn’t have to be expensive. As I was reminded in the workshop, hands and feet are a child’s first toy. There are number ways you can enhance play with sensory items, music and a bunch of other things. You just need to think broadly about what you can do to change or enhance the experience for all toddlers.
The link above in the workshop title will take you to the very informative documents shared at this session.
Carmen Boston is the Children’s Services Coordinator for DC Public Library. In addition to loving to read, she enjoys taking advantage of the many arts programs in Washington, DC, especially the free Smithsonian museums.