A new indoor play space is being designed on the third floor of Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Community Recreation Centre and Library. The play space will be developed with the help of community feedback and will focus on fun and creative play opportunities for children.

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  • Fall to Winter 2023: Community engagement Phase 1
  • Spring 2024: Hire a design team
  • Summer 2024: Community engagement Phase 2 and 3
  • Fall to Winter 2024: Detailed design
  • Spring 2025: Construction starts
  • Summer to Fall 2025: Construction complete, play space opens

The timeline is subject to change.

Level of Engagement

This project has been classified as an Involve project based on the International Association of Public Participation Public Participation Spectrum. This means we work directly with the public, stakeholders and rightsholders throughout the design process to ensure that ideas and aspirations are understood and considered in the design process.

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During this phase of the community engagement process, the City worked with local community members to define an overall vision for the indoor play space, including a series of guiding principles and big moves which will guide the development of two design options in Phase 2.

Vision Statement

A vision statement is a short description of the ideal future indoor play space. It inspires everyone toward a common understanding of the project’s overall goals. The vision for the play space is:

The indoor play space will be a fun and joyful place where children can unleash their imagination, creativity and playfulness through play. It offers a variety of equipment that focuses on the physical, creative and social skill development of children between the ages of five and 12. It is a place where children can learn, grow and thrive through play, especially during the winter months when the outdoor playgrounds are too cold.

Guiding Principles

Guiding principles are high-level directions that reflect the community’s most important values and ideas for how the indoor play space should look and feel. They help guide how the play space should be designed so that the vision statement can be achieved. The guiding principles for the play space are to:

  • Stimulate children’s physical, creative and social skills with colourful play themes that are fun and joyful.
  • Encourage active play that enhances children’s motor skills and satisfies their need for challenge. Children want to overcome their fears, and the playground should provide them with safe and fun risks.
  • Support discovery and creation that fosters children’s curiosity, creativity and confidence in exploring new interests and the unknown.
  • Promote free play with adaptable elements that children can transform to personalize the space and create novel play experiences that surpass the designers’ imagination.

Big Moves

Big moves are the main priorities for the design of the indoor play space. They are specific directions to the design team that flow from the vision and principles and help to make them a reality. The big moves for the play space are to:

  • Challenge children with play equipment that promotes strength building, exercise and courage, such as giant slides and climbing structures.
  • Provide oversized objects that children can interact with, such as giant rocks, tree stumps and hollow tree tunnels.
  • Provide loose pieces that children can use for different purposes and activities, such as building blocks, drawing tools and invention kits.
  • Encourage children to pretend to be in different scenarios and roles, such as hiking trails, gardening plots or camping sites.

November 2023

Online Survey

From October 20 to November 26, 215 community members provided feedback on the vision for the indoor play space. The feedback collected in this survey will inform the vision statement, design principles and big moves, which together will guide the draft design options for the indoor play space.

Playful Mindsets

The indoor play space aims to activate playful mindsets and foster a range of interactions among children and their caregivers. It has the potential to support the development of various skills, such as social, cognitive, emotional, physical and creative skills. Respondents were asked to select their favourite skills from six choices and the results were ranked according to the total percentage of responses. The results are as follows:

  1. Physical skills (21 per cent): Developing motor skills and doing regular stretches and exercises.
  2. Creative skills (18 per cent): Creating novel ideas and thinking of new uses and applications for existing materials.
  3. Social skills (18 per cent): Communicating, collaborating and understanding the perspectives of others.
  4. Cognitive skills (17 per cent): Learning in areas such as literacy, history and spatial awareness.
  5. Nature skills (15 per cent): Exploring the natural world and learning about water systems, plants and animals.
  6. Emotional skills (11 per cent): Identifying and managing both positive and negative feelings.

The results show that physical skills are the most important for the respondents, followed by creative and social skills. Cognitive and nature skills are also highly valued, while emotional skills are the least preferred.

Craft a Vision

Respondents were asked to share words that reflect their vision for the new play space. The words will help assemble a vision shared by community members. The following words were the most frequently used with the total number of responses in brackets:

  • Fun (28 responses)
  • Joyful (18 responses)
  • Imagination (16 responses)
  • Play (15 responses)
  • Creative (14 responses)

These words reflect the vision for the new indoor play space as a place where children can have fun, feel joyful, use their imagination, play with others and be creative.

Play Equipment

Respondents were asked to select their favourite types of play equipment from eleven choices and the results were ranked according to the total percentage of responses.

Play equipment ranked as the top six choices included:

  1. Climbing structures (91 per cent)
  2. Giant slides (85 per cent)
  3. Loose pieces (80 per cent)
  4. Oversized objects (76 per cent)
  5. Pretend play stations (75 per cent)

Less popular play equipment options included:

  1. Seesaw benches (69 per cent)
  2. Multi-media projections (61 per cent)
  3. Circular benches (54 per cent)
  4. Learning panels (53 per cent)
  5. Friendship swings (52 per cent)
  6. Sound pipes (34 per cent)

The key findings suggest:

  • The most popular play equipment options are those that allow children to climb, slide and manipulate loose pieces. These options are rated above 75 per cent by the participants.
  • The least popular play equipment options are those that involve sound, stationary play, or sitting. These options are rated below 55 per cent by the participants.
  • There is a moderate preference for seesaw benches, multi-media projections and multi-level basketball hoops. These options are rated between 61 per cent and 75 per cent by the participants.

Children’s Workshop

On November 10, children ages five to 12 took part in an interactive design workshop at the Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Community Recreation Centre. The workshop was part of the ARC after-school program and was facilitated by students from the University of Toronto St. George Campus. The students had designed the activities with guidance from the project team. The children were shown examples of other indoor play spaces and were asked to create a collage with their favourite ones.

Overall, the key findings suggest that children value:

  • Themes such as thrill-seeking, imaginative play and socializing.
  • Types of play such as movement-based, climbing and jumping and dramatic and expressive play.
  • Play equipment such as ball pits, climbing structures and slides.

October 2023

In-Person Community Pop-Up Event

On October 28, over 150 community members joined a pop-up event at Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ Community Recreation Centre. The event was held in the atrium during the Halloween festivities. Two team members facilitated family-friendly activities to collect feedback from the participants. One activity was a voting exercise, where participants indicated their preferences for different types of skill development by adding a paper ball to a tube. The types included social, physical, cognitive, creative, nature and emotional. The tubes were transparent, so participants could see how their choices matched with others. Another activity involved reviewing hand-drawn illustrations of different types of indoor play activities, such as a giant slide, pretend play or oversized objects and sharing their preferences using emoji stickers.

Playful Mindsets

Transparent tubes and paper balls were used to collect data on the preferences for different types of skills that they want to develop or practice. The numbers in brackets represent the number of votes each option received. The following is a ranking of the results:

  1. Physical skills (22 votes): motor skills, stretches, exercises
  2. Creative skills (21 votes): novel ideas, new uses, applications
  3. Social skills (18 votes): communication, collaboration, perspective
  4. Nature skills (15 votes): natural world, water, plants, animals
  5. Emotional skills (12 votes): feelings, identification, management
  6. Cognitive skills (11 votes): literacy, history, spatial awareness
Play Equipment

A display board with hand-drawn illustrations of different types of play equipment was used to collect preferences for different types of indoor play equipment. Dot stickers were used to represent the number of votes each option received. The following is a summary of the results:

  • Climbing structures (78 dots), giant slides (59 dots) and loose pieces (46 dots) were the top three options. These options reflect children’s enjoyment of climbing, sliding and building. They like to climb up and down, explore different heights and angles and challenge themselves physically and mentally. Sliding down gives them a thrill and speed, while building with different objects – such as blocks and toys – stimulates their imagination and creativity.
  • Oversized objects (40 dots), pretend play stations (40 dots) and seesaw benches (39 dots) were the next three options. These options reflect children’s enjoyment of pretending, role-playing and balancing. Children have fun pretending to be in different scenarios and roles, such as hiking, gardening, or camping. They also like to interact with oversized objects, such as giant rocks, tree stumps and hollow tree tunnels.
  • Friendship swings (38 dots), sound pipes (24 dots) and learning panels (19 dots) were the last three options. These options reflect children’s enjoyment of swinging, making sounds and learning. Children like to swing and chat with their friends, feeling the rhythm and the breeze. They like to make and listen to different sounds and music, using pipes, bells and drums. They like to learn and interact with educational games and puzzles, such as math, spelling and memory.
  • Circular benches (15 dots) were the least popular option. This option reflects children’s low interest in sitting and being stationary.

Overall, the key findings suggest:

  • Children prefer play equipment that offers them variety, challenge and creativity, such as climbing structures, giant slides and loose pieces.
  • Children have different learning styles, and they can benefit from a range of activities that cater to their interests, such as pretending, role-playing and balancing. By providing children with play equipment that matches their preferences and learning styles, we can enhance their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

In this phase of the community engagement process, the City and its design consultant will work off the outcomes of Community Engagement Phase 1 to develop two to three design options for the park improvements. These will be presented to the community for feedback, with the input collected used to develop a preferred design for the park.

The community engagement activities anticipated in this phase will be shared in spring 2024.

The anticipated outcome of this phase is the selection of a preferred design.

In this phase of the community engagement process, the City will share the preferred design with the community. When the preferred design is confirmed, the project will move into the detail design phase, where the design team will finalize the preferred design by working through the technical details and developing detailed plans and drawings to be used by the construction contractor.

The community engagement activities anticipated in this phase will include:

  • An Indigenous Advisory Circle (IAC) meeting
  • An open house
  • An online survey

The anticipated outcome of this phase is a refined preferred design.

Completed in 2023, Ethennonnhawahstihnen’ (pronounced Etta-nonna wasti-nuh) is a multi-use Community Recreation Centre with an Aquatic Centre, Child Care Centre and a Toronto Public Library branch.

An aerial photo of the exterior Ethennonnhawahstihnen' Community Recreation Centre and the surrounding area taken facing north. Text bubbles over the image show the location of the indoor playground, adjacent and facing Bessarion TTC subway station along Sheppard Avenue East.