Editor’s note: This article was updated on June 23, 2023.
Being active outside is essential for our mental and physical well-being. However, it can be difficult to find suitable activities for kids with disabilities.
Common obstacles include accessibility and safety, finding adaptive equipment, and financial barriers. But here are a few ways to eliminate these hurdles so you and your kids can get outside for an active and inclusive summer.
Does Canada need more inclusive playgrounds? Yes, and here’s why. If you’re getting out and about and looking for an inclusive playground in your area, here are a few places across Canada to check out:
- Calgary recently got 10 new inclusive playgrounds
- Head to Jaycee Park in Mississauga, Ont.
- If you’re in Halifax, visit Westmont Inclusive Playground Park, the first accessible playground in Canada equipped with an outdoor mobility challenge course
Ever tried pushing a wheelchair through sand? Impossible. Accessible beaches make it easier (and more enjoyable) for everyone.
Beach access mats or walkways allow families who use mobility devices to enjoy the total beach experience. And the number of accessible Canadian beaches, outdoor pools, and marinas continues to grow. Many beaches now provide beach-friendly wheelchairs or offer water wheelchairs for rent.
Do an online search for the closest Blue Flag or accessible beach near you, pack a lunch and your sunscreen, and go get sandy. Here are some resources to help:
- Top 16 accessible beaches in Ontario
- Reserve a water wheelchair in Vancouver
- In New Brunswick, don’t miss Parlee Beach—fully accessible with a new inclusive park
A smooth trail makes it possible for you and your kids to take a walk through nature. Flat, wide paths ensure those with mobility aids can safely enjoy a stroll or a roll in the fresh air.
Check out these accessible (and gorgeous!) trails and boardwalks across Canada.
Tips and tricks for when you’re staying close to home
Venturing too far from home can be daunting for some families. Medicine and feeding schedules, toileting, naps, and the like are sometimes more easily managed at home, but this doesn’t rule out outdoor fun. There are plenty of opportunities to be active in your own backyard or closest outdoor space!
- Bring a yoga mat outside and follow an online movement or yoga video
- Make paper airplanes and fly them around the block
- Play bean bag boccia ball or try some target throwing
- Toss water balloons
- Go on a scavenger hunt around the yard
- Create an obstacle course
- Play frisbee, ring toss, or hula hoop
- Decorate bikes, strollers, or wheelchairs and parade down the street
- Have an outdoor dance party
Remember: When you’re planning outdoor activities, consider movement, imagination, and fun and you can’t go wrong.
Not every activity requires equipment, but items to have in your summer arsenal could include:
- Resistance bands for various strengthening exercises
- Yoga mat
- Bean bags
- Balloons and bubbles
- Utility ball or Beeper ball (it makes a sound and is helpful for those with a visual impairment)
- Hula hoop and skipping rope (to be used in a multitude of ways beyond the traditional)
- Swing ball or a t-ball stand
- Velcro easy-catch ball and glove
Some Canadian organizations may have equipment lending libraries. Check for opportunities to borrow and test out adaptive bikes and trikes, Beeper balls, and other adaptive equipment. Facebook groups are another great place to source gently used equipment for purchase or exchange.
Many outdoor activities are free (e.g., playing at the park, stretching on a blanket on the grass, chasing bubbles, flying a kite, bouncing a ball against the wall). But some structured programs and activities can be costly.
Have a look at the Access 2 Card (supported by Easter Seals). There are 500 participating entertainment, cultural, and recreational venues available coast to coast. The cardholder pays the regular admission price but receives one free or discounted admission for their support person.
You may also be eligible for funding for your child’s activity via the Jumpstart program.
KidSport Ontario provides grants to help cover the costs of enrolment so that all kids ages 18 and under in Ontario can play a season of sport.
MOVE by GoodLife Kids is a free virtual physical activity program for Canadian youth ages 12 to 21 with intellectual disabilities and/or autism.
Happy active and accessible summer everyone!