Celebrate Kids to Parks Day on May 16

In just over a week, children and families will descend upon local, state and national parks to celebrate Kids to Parks Day. The event, being held on May 16, 2015, marks the fifth year that the National Park Trust has encouraged children and families to get outside for play, exploration and adventure.

Make the pledge to visit a local park on Kids to Parks Day, May 16.

Visit kidstoparks.org to make the pledge to plan a trip to the park on Saturday, May 16. Just by making the pledge, you’ll be entered into a drawing for a Nikon COOLPIX L830 camera. And while your there, you can browse a listing of park events by state and city to find one near you. Or find a nearby playground on playlsi.com that you can go explore.

Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park, Hialeah, Fla.

According to the National Park Trust, Kids to Parks Day is becoming America’s unofficial kick off to summer. So mark your calendar and plan to get out and play on May 16!

Creating more excitement with playground colors

When it comes to playgrounds, color is just as important to a child’s learning environment as the play structure itself. To create a sensory-rich playground environment for children, we spent the past year researching outdoor environments and working with chemists to create color formulas in nature-inspired hues and tones. The new colors—Berry, Buttercup, Carbon, Grass, Lagoon, Paprika, Peacock and Sky—are designed to enhance a child’s play experience.

Nature-inspired playground colors

The benefits of these innovative colors are numerous:

  • Nature-inspired colors allow children to engage in a playground design that creates a calming experience. This is because tones that reflect the outdoors are familiar to children. For example, we wanted the tone Buttercup to relay the feeling of playing a field of flowers.
  • Unlike the average toy, which is meant to drive visually loud experiences, natured-inspired playground colors help children focus. This is particularly beneficial for children with sensory processing disorders who often seek soothing environments, and the tones Sky and Peacock are meant to replicate the calming sense of sky gazing or playing in a garden.
  • Our new color line intentionally adds a metallic fleck to a matte finish for a richer finish that creates texture and offers a tactile play experience.

Harry Thomas Sr. Playspace

Learn more about our color inspirations and our overall design philosophy at playlsi.com. And tell us here how you use color to create additional dimension in your designs.

Guest Blog: Working to restore urban and wildland forests

Since 2008, we’ve partnered with American Forests to directly offset the total amount of CO2 generated for each playsystem and Skatewave® skatepark produced in our Delano, Minn., production facilities. Today, we’re happy to have Jami Westerhold, Senior Director of Forest Restoration, as our guest blogger, discussing the work that American Forests has done for the past 140 years.

SC-Longleaf-Pine_web

As the oldest national conservation nonprofit, this year American Forests is celebrating our 140th anniversary. Our mission is restore threatened forest ecosystems and inspire people to value and protect urban and wildland forests. As our forests are damaged by a myriad of threats—pests, disease, fire, development—American Forests works to restore these areas to health. Identifying high-impact projects American Forests selects a variety of projects in a range of locations and address different ecological challenges. Restored healthy wildland and urban forests provide numerous benefits ranging from providing wildlife habitat to cleaning air to reducing energy costs.

I manage one of American Forests’ keystone programs: Global ReLeaf. While the world watched the space shuttle Discovery place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 25 years ago, American Forests was launching a stellar program of its own.

Trees

Though we had dipped our toe in the water of forest reforestation before 1990, this was the first year we committed to supporting multiple large-scale, on-the-ground projects. Since its inaugural year, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has blossomed into what is now our flagship program, planting more than 48 million trees in all 50 states and 45 counties.

Perusing our projects you will see that though the projects differ each year, there are common themes among American Forests’ comprehensive work to protect and restore the most damaged ecosystems. American Forests works to ensure native species are used and all elements are considered. Though our lives are dependent on forests—more than half of drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests!—their importance is much broader, reducing the rate of erosion, flooding, climate change and much more.

longleaf-pine

Credit: USDA/Flickr

American Forests is thrilled to have partners like Landscape Structures supporting the success of these projects. Since 2008, Landscape Structures has offset carbon it generates through high-impact projects. Just last year, the company helped American Forests and the U.S. Forest Service re-establish longleaf pine, a priority in the southeastern United States, in an area affected by a high-intensity wildfire. Longleaf pines, which once covered more than 90 million acres of the North American landscape, now encompass less than three percent of their original range, or 3.4 million acres. These forests represented some of the world’s most unique biodiverse ecosystems and are a high priority because of the large number of threatened and endangered wildlife species that depend on these forest ecosystems.

Though we have restored hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, there is more work to be done. It is the partnerships with companies like Landscape Structures that lead to American Forests’ success in achieving our restoration goals.

Celebrating landscape architecture throughout April

In addition to being Autism Awareness Month, this April has also been designated as World Landscape Architecture Month. The month-long event celebrates landscape architecture and the work its professionals do to design public and private spaces.

World Landscape Architecture Month 2015

We’re proud to be able to work with landscape architects to create innovative playground designs. Whether it’s a curvy, sprawling design of playground nets, an environment that teaches kids about the history of their community, or a themed playground that sends kids on an adventure in their imagination, playgrounds designed by landscape architects become spaces that welcome individuals of all ages, abilities and cultures.

Summit Park, Blue Ash, Ohio

We love the result of collaborating with landscape architects, but their designs go way beyond parks and playgrounds. See projects “Designed By A Landscape Architect” by following #wlam2015 on social media, then visit asla.org to learn more about World Landscape Architecture Month and the landscape architecture profession.

Planning for inclusion on World Autism Awareness Day

Today marks the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day. This day brings autism organizations around the world together to help raise awareness about the disorder affecting nearly 1 in 68 children. Because of these stats and the fact that there are one in seven children in the U.S. living with a disability, we took a close look at public playground requirements for children with disabilities by conducting a survey of nearly 900 parents of children 12-years-old and younger.

Landscape Structures Inclusive Play survey

More than half (57 percent) of all parents asked about playground requirements for children with disabilities, mistakenly believe playgrounds are required to have elements designed for children with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, and visual and hearing impairments. That means that people who think they’re designing an inclusive playground based upon ADA standards are really only designing to the minimum requirements and could be missing a huge need in their community.

Over the past few years, we’ve learned about a desire to include sensory play experiences and multigenerational opportunities for social interaction. Planners also want to make sure the community or school playground offers enough challenge for children who are typically developing as well so that there are opportunities for healthy interaction among children of all abilities. Our survey echoed that idea… nearly 75 percent of parents believe it is important that their children have an opportunity to play with a variety of children, including those with disabilities.

The Oodle® Swing encourages healthy interaction among children of all abilities.

Overall, when planning an inclusive playground, inclusion should be used as a guiding principal—a checkpoint that you continue to question, “How are we fulfilling this need?” Learn more about inclusive play at playlsi.com, and see more results from our Inclusive Play survey.

Supporting the children and nature movement

We know that improved concentration and school achievement, reduced stress levels and a foundation of environmental stewardship are just a few of the benefits that kids receive from playing outdoors. That’s why we’re committed to designing nature-inspired commercial playground equipment that gets kids outside for play and reconnecting with the natural world around them.

Children & Nature Network 2015 Conference

Our commitment to outdoor play is also why we’re proud to support the Children & Nature Network’s 2015 Conference April 7-9, in Austin, Texas. We’re looking forward to connecting with leaders from around the world to hear what others are doing to create nature-rich communities that are so critical to the health and wellbeing of children and families.

Learn more about how we help communities create natural play environments, and check out the Children & Nature Network for the latest in research and policies.

From prison yard to Grammy’s Garden

Grammy's Garden

A former prison might seem an odd place for a childcare center. But places change over time, as do the people who inhabit those places. And when those people are between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, they experience a lot of change in a short amount of time.

Prince George's County Employees' Childcare Center.

Read about the metamorphosis of the play area at Prince George’s County Employee’s Childcare Center below, and get the full story at playlsi.com.

Client: Prince George’s County Employee’s Childcare Center

Designers: Brenda Iraola, landscape architect, and Sparks@Play

Goal: Develop a fresh narrative for the existing play environment around the theme of transformation

Solution: Drawing on the memories of her Grandmother Freda’s farm in Minnesota, Brenda divided the courtyard into four play areas where kids can follow the journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. A larger-than-life caterpillar welcomes explorers into an enormous, interactive garden. Play structures are outfitted with flowers, ladybugs, bees, ants, mushrooms and leaves to create an immersive storybook experience.

Prince George's County