Building a Brighter Future: Bucharest's Journey to Becoming a Child-Friendly City Begins With New Sensory Park

Children and teenagers at the "Prof. Dr. Alexandru Obregia" Psychiatric Hospital in Bucharest now have access to a sensory park. This park provides them with an opportunity to enjoy music, learn, and socialize while being outdoors. The park is a joint initiative of the Bucharest City Hall, the Bucharest Hospitals and Medical Services Administration, and the UNICEF Representation in Romania. It serves a dual purpose, acting as a therapeutic and socialization space for children with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as adolescent patients. By exposing these children to specific sensory experiences, the park helps them develop and regulate their reactions to external stimuli.

According to general mayor Nicuşor Dan, this is the first project of its kind in Romania. Mayor Dan commented: "We want to make Bucharest a more child-friendly city, to offer them more quality services. The memorandum we signed last year with UNICEF, within the framework of the Child-Friendly Cities Initiative, was a first step followed by concrete actions such as the installation of this sensory park."

Anna Riatti, the representative of UNICEF in Romania, emphasized that investing in quality mental health services for all children and adolescents is urgently needed in the country. "One in ten children in Romania needs such services every year, and I am glad that we can take steps in this direction together with our partners in Bucharest, with whom we have had an increasingly consistent collaboration in recent years."

The new space offers a chance to engage in sensory exploration, allowing children and their families to understand what triggers certain reactions and learn how to calm down. The park has equipment that stimulates the senses visually, auditorily, tactilely (such as a sensory alley with various textures for barefoot walking), and kinesthetically (including hammocks and special swings to develop balance).

The carefully chosen outdoor percussion instruments and sound effects will prove beneficial for auditory stimulation, socialization, and bonding among hospitalized children, hospital psychotherapists, or visiting family members. The park's architect selected five instruments from the Inspired by Nature range, which includes Harmony Bells, Sunflower, and Forget-Me-Not Petal Drums, as well as Rainbow Sambas and Talk Tubes.

Dr. Florina Rad, the Chief Physician at the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic, stated in an interview with Digi24, "During hospitalization, it's important for children to stay active, interact with other teenagers, and participate in various therapy and socialization groups. This will enable them to use the hospital as a place for social interaction. Children with autism spectrum disorders have a slightly different pattern of sensory integration from neurotypical children. They may experience auditory, olfactory, visual, or tactile hypersensitivity and overreact to some stimuli that we may perceive as trivial, such as the sound of a hair dryer. By gradually exposing them to various stimuli, we can help them integrate into their natural living environment. In some cases, there may be hyposensitivity, where the child may not react to pain and expose themselves to significant dangers without being aware of the danger”.

The park is designed for individuals up to 18 years of age and will also function as a social space, with plans to include a basketball court.

The instruments were provided by Percussion Play’s representative, Raluca from Percussion Play Romania