Earlier this afternoon, Lt. Governor Habib spoke to the benefits of embracing risks in childhood at his keynote address at the annual Seattle Children’s PlayGarden luncheon. Completed in 2010, The PlayGarden is a public-private partnership between the Seattle Children’s PlayGarden nonprofit and the Seattle Parks Department, aimed at providing an accessible space for children of all abilities. The PlayGarden’s space includes a play structure, grassy trails, a garden, a beehive enclosure, a tree fort, and a basketball court, and about 70% of its participants are children who identify as having a disability.
In his remarks, Lt. Governor Habib emphasized the importance of inclusion, imagination, and access to the outdoors. Referencing his own childhood experiences, Lt. Governor Habib told the audience that the reason the PlayGarden’s work is so important is because of what is at stake: the development and empowerment of young spirits, exploring the world. This is especially true, he said, of those children facing physical, emotional, or mental challenges, for whom the exposure of play provides an irreplaceable opportunity for learning, exploration, and risk-taking.
The Lt. Governor also noted the intrinsic relationship between the outdoors, and Washington’s state culture – and the natural inclusivity of the outdoors. The outdoors were not made to conform to anyone’s particular bodily abilities, and therefore the outdoors challenges all people, with and without disabilities. Moreover, he said, the outdoors provides an opportunity for those whose bodies are different, and for those who are made to feel ashamed of that difference, to engage on a fundamental level with their own natural state in the world. In outdoor play, children can take joy in just how natural they are, and how naturally they fit into the world around them – a lesson that will inform their lives as they grow up and navigate society.
Lt. Governor Habib finished by stating his deeply-held conviction that inclusion is fundamental to our DNA as a people, and as a country. The work that Seattle Children’s PlayGarden is doing to promote inclusion for all children, he concluded, is core to that fundamental idea.