The Seattle Children's PlayGarden Programs
The PlayGarden offers developmentally appropriate, nature-based programs for children of all ages and abilities (infant – 18). We offer infant/toddler playgroups, outdoor preschool, summer camps, art/music/drama workshops, after school children’s choir, fieldtrips and community events throughout the year. All programs and events are inclusive and multi-age, maximizing the opportunity for children with special needs and their typically developing siblings and friends to attend together.
Our program design benefits multiple populations: typically developing children participate with their siblings or friends who have special needs, increasing their sensitivity toward these peers; parents/caregivers appreciate a place where all their children are welcome and where they can relax, network, and learn to advocate for their children; residents of the neighborhood help steward the garden, providing a sense of involvement and pride.
Our summer camps offer activities similar to typical day camps: arts/crafts, gardening, sports, water play. The difference: Children are accepted without regard to physical, cognitive, or social abilities. We are committed to creating an environment where children with physical and behavioral impairments can engage to their full capacity. Because of this, we provide a lower child-staff ratio (3:1) than that maintained by traditional camps. Our model allows siblings to attend camp together: A child in a wheelchair due to spinal muscular atrophy can enjoy camp activities with her typically developing brother. Typically developing peers attend alongside children with special needs. Children of all abilities are welcome!
Preschool for Ages 2.5-5
The PlayGarden Preschool is offered Monday - Friday with an option of enrolling 1 - 5 days a week. At the PlayGarden we play outside, celebrate the seasons, make friends, grow our own food, include everyone, and have lots of fun! The PlayGarden preschool curriculum is based on the Council for Environmental Education's curriculum, Growing Up WILD. This curriculum is correlated with both Head Start Domains and The National Association for the Education of Young Children's accreditation criteria. Instructional themes follow the seasons of the year and include lessons relating to: connecting children to nature, expanding early language and literacy skills, developmentally appropriate mathematics, and health and wellness through "Garden to Table" snack preparation and active play.
Our facility is available to private individuals for parties, schools for field trips, and organizations whose mission aligns with the PlayGarden's (such as special-needs advocacy and support groups).
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
In 2013, two NEW remarkable play features will be added to the PlayGarden grounds
- A musical art sculpture created by Seattle resident, Trimpin - the most eminent sound-sculpture artist in the world. This sculpture entitled "Bongo Benny Quintet” will be dedicated on June 4, 2013.
- A tree-fort lookout completed in May 2013. This wheel-chair accessible deck with a series of pulleys for children to manipulate and explore, overlooks the southwest corner of the property called “The Wild Zone.”
With our multi-phase capital improvement projects completed, we are excited to focus on expanded programming and operations. Our current staff is composed of one FTE and three quarter-time employees, as well as seasonal counselors and special education teachers. Even a small increase in staff - e.g., increasing the role of the Administrator to half time, hiring a 3/4 time special education teacher, and adding a volunteer coordinator - will allow us to increase programs and thus serve more families.