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

How to design nature playground environments

Orono Park, Elk River, Minn.Not many of us would disagree that technology is great—it provides convenience, fun and connection to everything. However, all of that technology has also changed the way children play. Kids are spending more time inside, in front of screens and they’re being less active.

Booker T. Washington Elementary School, Tampa, Fla.

So, how do you get them to turn off the screens and go outside to play? By creating fun, challenging and innovative playground environments! If you’re designing a playground or outdoor learning environment, you have an opportunity to create a space that encourages kids (and their families) to be outside and reconnect with nature. Use the following tips to plan for your nature-inspired playground:

  1. Use vegetation as shade rather than cutting down trees or shrubs
  2. Take into account topography and natural features and incorporate them into the play experience
  3. Choose natural looking playground equipment that meets safety standards, fits the needs of your users and easily blends into your community
  4. Create educational signage to teach visitors about the native plants and animals

Sunset Park, Las Vegas, Nev.

We think the great outdoors is the best place for kids to play. They can run around freely, make up their own games, explore nature and so much more. It’s fun for kids of all ages and the benefits to kids’ bodies, minds and spirits are numerous! Browse our nature-themed playgrounds to get inspired, and learn more about creating natural playgrounds.

Connecting kids to nature with natural playground designs

When it comes to themed playground designs, it’s all about natural playgrounds. At least that’s what experts are saying according to the article, “Let your Imagination Run Wild” in the February edition of Parks & Recreation magazine. Our very own Scott Roschi, director of design, says nature-themed playground equipment is so popular because community leaders are looking for ways to reconnect kids to the natural world around them.

Desert Arroyo Park, Mesa, Ariz.

Desert Arroyo Park, Mesa, Ariz.

We’re doing what we can to connect kids to nature with nature-inspired playgrounds. Earlier this year, we introduced the Canyon Collection™. The realistic rock panels integrate with PlayBooster® play structures so that the natural climbing structures are no longer set apart from the rest of the playground. In addition to the climbing rocks, the Canyon Collection offers nets and a deck to create challenging and exciting play experiences for 5- to 12-year-olds.

The Canyon Collection™

We sculpted the Canyon Collection rocks based on molds from the Gneiss (pronounced “nice”) Outcrops in Southwestern Minnesota. The result? Incredibly realistic texture and rock shapes for truly natural looking playground equipment. Kids can climb on both the outside and insides of the rock panels as well as find lifelike frogs, mice, bats and insects sculpted into the rock faces. Best of all, the Canyon Collection is available in a variety of configurations to satisfy a range of budgets and footprints.

Nature-inspired playground collection

Tell us what you’re looking for in natural outdoor play equipment below, then visit playlsi.com to learn more about the Canyon Collection and our collection of other nature-inspired products.

Five considerations for your toddler and preschool playgrounds

When you’re designing a playground to meet the needs of toddlers and preschoolers, it’s important to keep their developmental needs in mind. Playgrounds for young kids not only help them build their senses and motor and cognitive skills, but they also teach them about cooperation and social imaginative play. To help you create a dream playground for your daycare or preschool, we’ve created a fun infographic.

See below to learn the five developmental needs to consider when designing early childhood playgrounds.

5 Developmental Needs to Consider when Designing Early Childhood Playgrounds