Magical Bridge Playgrounds are intentionally divided into distinct zones because predictability matters for many visitors.
Each zone represents a type of movement, such as spinning, swinging, or sliding, or a play style, such as imagination, music, or tot-sized equipment. While clearly designated by zone markers (often including Braille and raised tactile maps) and with changes in ground color, the zones are seamlessly integrated and connected to each other allowing ample space for free movement between the areas.
Magical Bridge Playground zones include:
SWING AND SWAY ZONE
Bucket swings that accomodate all sizes and group disc swings are a popular feature at Magical Bridge Playground. Swinging creates vestibular stimulation, activating the inner fluids in one’s ear canal, which is critical to maintaining body posture and equilibrium. This is especially beneficial for people with various autism spectrum disorders. Swinging restores balance to the vestibular system, provides proprioceptive input (deep pressure), and also soothes, relaxes and increases concentration.
SLIDE AND CLIMB MOUND
The wheelchair-accessible slides at Magical Bridge Playgrounds are adapted with Magical Bridge-patented Sit and Slide Landings™ which provide an extended resting bench at the bottom of each slide for those who need to wait for a mobility device or help from a friend. Additionally, wider slides enable the whole family to slide together and the expansive slide mound allows a helper to run alongside and assist a slider all the way to the bottom. Sliding and climbing activate our vestibular systems, which contribute to our sense of balance and spatial orientation. Vestibular input coordinates movement of our eyes, head and body, which affects our body’s balance, muscle tone, visual-spatial perception, auditory-language perception and emotional security.
Music stimulates more parts of the brain than any other human function. In children, it motivates interaction, facilitates socialization and improves social skills. The brain processes music in a different area than speech and language, therefore, for those who have difficulty communicating verbally, music provides a way to express themselves in a non-verbal manner. In the Innovation or Music Zone, Magical Bridge Playgrounds feature a 24-string Laser Harp, created by artist Jen Lewin, which encourages visitors to create a symphony of sounds. When one moves through the harp, musical notes play as the invisible laser beams are broken. Tones are on a pentatonic scale which is proven to be more soothing than a western scale, especially to those who have autism.
Rotary vestibular input, caused from spinning, is the most powerful form of sensory input that the brain can process. Just 15 minutes of vestibular input can have a 6-8 hour impact on the brain. The carousel at Magical Bridge Playgrounds fits two wheelchairs and the spaced spinners allow spinning in various positions. Spinning should be controlled for the best benefit. Encourage children to spin 10 times in one direction. Then stop and spin in the other direction.
PLAYHOUSE + PLAYSTAGE
Through pretend-play, children experience the full range of their senses and feelings, how their bodies move through space, and how their imaginations can create alternate worlds of existence. Since 1987, Barbara Butler Artist-Builder, Inc. has created over 600 unique play structures — and the company’s first wheelchair-accessible, two-story playhouse and treehouse was designed and built especially for Magical Bridge. The custom playhouse and stage, tinted with all-natural redwood and non-toxic tung oil wood stains, has become a community gathering place for summer concerts, performances, and impromptu creative expression.
The playground is often a child’s first classroom. When children begin their play lives with kindness, inclusion becomes the norm for the rest of their lives. These formative experiences help build more open and accepting communities. The equipment in the tot zone helps develop fine and gross motor skills, offers challenges for risk-taking, and encourages imagination and socialization.
The heart of Magical Bridge, the Kindness Corner is a gathering place for reflection, compassion, and conversations about acceptance, friendship, and the importance of diversity. The messages in this space designated for kindness is meant to spark conversations and lessons about making friends with someone who is “different,” modeling positive behavior, and encouraging kids to be up-standers and address the issues of bullying.