Hesperian Health Guides

A ‘Playground for All’ Built by Children—Projimo, Mexico

When disabled village health workers in the small village of Ajoya decided to start a rehabilitation program for disabled children, one of the first activities was to involve the local children in building a playground.

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1. First the children went into the forest to cut poles and vines.
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2. These they brought back to an empty lot at the edge of the village.
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3. While some children cleaned up the lot, others began to build the playground equipment.
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4. They built ramps or ‘wedges’ like this one, which can be used in many ways for play and exercise. Here a child with cerebral palsy walks up the ramp to help improve balance and stretch his feet upwards to prevent contractures.
children lying on wedges playing
The wedges can also be used for severely disabled children to lie on, so that they can lift their heads and play with their hands.
child sitting in a pole seat
Pole seats like this help a child sit who still lacks balance, or has trouble controlling his position.
pole seat with seperators for the legs
These separators will hold apart the legs of a child whose legs pull together (spasticity).
pole seat with shelf on it
Putting front posts the same height allows a shelf to be placed for play.
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Poles tied together to make parallel bars at different heights, horizontal pole inserted into vertical pole at different heights.
Simple parallel bars can be used as gymnastic bars by the able-bodied children... and as bars for learning to walk by disabled children. Bars need to adjust to different heights for different children. Here are 2 simple ways.

Boy walking using parallel bars at height of hips.
Boy standing with elbow high parallel bars.
Boy standing with parallel bars at the height of arm-pit.
For most children, the bar should be about hip height, so that the elbows are a little bent (the same height as the handles of crutches). A child with very weak upper arms may find it easier to rest his forearms on the bar. The bar will need to be elbow high. A child who tends to slump forward may be helped to stand straighter if the bar is high, so that he has to stand straighter to rest his arms on it.


Bars should be close enough to leave only a little room on either side of the child’s body. Too close, they get in the way. Too far apart makes weight bearing more difficult.
Boy with hands down, slightly distanced from the sides of his hips.
Smaller children require closer bars. Therefore, put uprights so they are wider higher up.
Two vertical poles that are slightly angled outwards.

Simple, homemade bars, adjusted to the individual child’s needs, often provide more benefit than expensive walkers or other equipment.


Two children wheeling their chairs over boards covering logs to create teeter bridges.
This can be part of an 'obstacle course' for wheelchairs, including hills, drops, curbs, rocky ground, sand pits, and zig-zags between posts.

A simple seesaw or teeter-totter like this is fun and helps disabled children gain balance. The one in the photo was made by putting a pole in the crotch of a mango tree.

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Rocker supports for a seesaw can be made in many ways.
Seesaw, with a picture of the supports on the underside.
Some sort of blocking is needed to keep pole from sliding or rolling.
Metal pipe going through two vertical and one horizontal wooden poles.
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One way to prevent rolling and rotating is to pass a metal pipe through the pole. One end of this seesaw has an enclosed seat for a disabled child. Space is left behind the seat for an able-bodied child to sit and protect the disabled child.
Small child in seesaw with straps and older child behind.
rubber crutch tips to keep from bumping head
strap to hold in child
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On the other end a wooden donkey head adds fun.

Here are some other ideas for seesaws.

Two children in seesaw built on log put through tires.
Seesaw built on oil drum with seats formed from tire and piece of plastic bucket.
piece of tire turned inside out
band cut from inner tube to hold child in seat
half a plastic bucket
old 55 gallon drum


  1. To avoid accidents, be sure the pole for the seesaw is strong enough. Test it every few weeks by having 2 adults put their full weight on the ends of the pole.
  2. To avoid coming down too hard, put old tires under the ends of the seesaw.
  3. Make sure the seesaw will not roll lengthwise or sideways (see above).

See another seesaw idea.


Children with different disabilities playing at wooden climbing frame with several horizontal bars.

Children can make a simple climbing frame out of poles, by nailing them or tying them together with string.

The climbing frame can be used for all kinds of play, for helping disabled children pull up to sitting or standing, and for therapy exercise.

High bars (horizontal bars) at different levels for different children can be used for exercise and gymnastics.


Climbing gyms can be made out of many materials, including old tires.

Gym will be more solid if tires are bolted together.
Children playing in tire gym.
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Tires that are bolted together.
washer or metal plate
The children in the village of Ajoya, Mexico helped those in a nearby town build their own rehabilitation playground. This tire climbing gym was one of the playthings they created.

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Rocking horse made of logs joined together with pieces of car tire.
Building and riding a rocking horse made of logs. Pieces of car tire to join logs allow horse to rock back and forth.


A wide variety of swings can be built out of different local materials. Swinging is fun; it can help develop balance, head control, coordination, and strength. Swings with special features can be built for the needs of particular children.

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Here children in PROJIMO make an enclosed swing. This child with cerebral palsy had never had a chance to swing before. At first he was afraid... but after a while, he loved it.

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Regular swings are placed next to special and enclosed swings, so that non-disabled and disabled children learn to play side by side. Swings in the form of animals or fish add to the fun. Extra wide swings allow 2 children to swing together—one assisting the other.
Children playing on swings with different forms, a tire, a seat, a horizontal pole, rings and hanging pole.
tie to hold child in swing
Rope passes through hole in bamboo, and is knotted.


Child cutting out inner rim of car tire.
Rings for swinging and many games can be made by cutting out the inner rims of old car tires.
Person in wheelchair pushing girl in cut tire swing.
Person cutting a tire.
Adult putting weight on cut tire.
Cut away this part of the tire Then turn the tire inside out.

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Children with different disabilities playing in tire swings and ladder attached to tree.
This swing made of an old tire is especially good for children with spasticity because it bends their backs, heads, and shoulders forward.
In this swing, a 'floor' of sticks can be put in the tire and covered with straw or a mat.
This flat-hanging tire swing is especially useful for the severely disabled or delayed child who is just beginning to learn to move his body. The child can lie across the tire and move this way and that by pushing the ground with his hands. It swings! It spins!
It bounces!
Fun for the able-bodied!
Fun for the disabled!
Several children can play on it at once!
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Child lying face down on tire suspended a few inches off the ground by a pole.
Hang tire just a few centimeters from ground so the child can move with his hands.


Cross beam pivots on an iron pipe.
Older child pushing smaller children on swings attached to rotatable pipe.
Older child pushing smaller children on swings attached to rotatable pipe.
Hole in beam is coated with candle wax to make it turn around easier.
Circular swing in PROJIMO rehabilitation playground. (Here the child pushing the swing has cerebral palsy. The twisting motion he uses is excellent therapy.)
CAUTION! Be sure both the pole and beam are of strong hard wood. Test them occasionally with adults’ weight.


Man holding girl's arm as she jumps on canvas extended over large tire.
Piece of strong canvas or animal hide stretched tight over large truck or airplane inner tube.
Girl holding horizontal support pole while bouncing on canvas extended over large tire.


Wooden hobby horse suspended from four poles by rubber inner tire tubes.
loops of car inner tube
Child bouncing on wooden hobby horse with cow's skull, suspended from four poles by rubber inner tire tubes.
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Be sure to notch poles and attach tubes so they do not slip. A cow’s skull makes a good head for many playground toys. The child holds onto the horns. (Cut off the points.)

Note: It is much easier to put holes through tires that do not have steel wire in them.


Disabled children who can sit and hang on can play with non-disabled children on the maypole. But to start turning round the circle, they may need another child to help push them.

Children playing on the maypole with help of older child, using different hanging and sitting options.
top turn-mount made of old car wheel and axle end (see box)
inside rim cut from car tire
car tire inner tube
Round metal pieces, nuts and bolts to make a top turn mount.
lug bolts
hole in post
Short pole attached to rectangular object, circle with four equidistant holes in outer rim, with wires attached.
Weld steel plate to steel pipe.
Grease fitting
Taper pole to fit pipe.
holes for chains or ropes
Fasten chains with "S" hooks.



See saw like swing for hanging on, built on board on top of tires, hanging from tree branch.
Oil drum, and single and grouped tires, tire rims suspended on poles, put together for crawling through and hanging from.
Rims of old tires.

WARNING! Be sure to use extra strong rope or cable in any equipment where children could be seriously hurt if the rope breaks. Adults should test rope strength regularly.

The weight of the tires adds stability for smoother swinging.
Boy sitting supported by log bounces ball to child sitting in tire.
Old tires and drums can be used for crawling games and obstacle courses.


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Child sitting on board placed on top of half a tire.
A wider rocker base makes rocking smoother.
For the rocker, you can use 2 pieces of old tire.

See more information on balance boards and balance beams.


Adult rolling child over oil drum.
Child draped over log with hands on ground, adult sustaining.
Boy standing arms out with log between feet, and older boy holding out hand for him to approach.
Girl walking on row of half buried tires.
A row of half buried old tires. The tires sink in when stepped on. A test of balance and great fun!

Old barrels, oil drums, paint cans, and logs make good playground equipment—for therapy and fun.



Child crawling into oil drum.
Oil drums separated by structure formed by one horizontal pole and 2 vertical poles.
CAUTION! Hold drums apart with sticks to prevent smashed hands and feet.
Hanging oil drums for crawling, where each one is separated by sticks.


Children in wheelchair throwing rings attached to string at notches in tree trunk.
rings of tire rims or anything else
Child in wheelchair and child belly down on a board play with ball suspended by string from a tree.

For children who have trouble going after dropped balls or rings, tying a string to the toy allows the children to pull it to them.

This page was updated:27 May 2020