Encouraging whole-child development with toddler playgrounds

Toddlers and preschoolers always find new, but not always safe, ways to play. That’s why we make playground safety a top priority by creating age- and developmentally appropriate products like our Smart Play® playstructures.  The Smart Play designs specifically for toddlers and preschoolers are packed with play activities to help build their senses, and motor and cognitive skills. See below for more details about these designs:

  • Nook: Designed for kids ages 6 to 23 months, its 20 interactive components prompt adult-child conversations and support whole-child learning across key developmental domains.
  • Loft: Handrails lead 2- to 5-year-olds up into a world of imaginary play, with a built-in find-it game, learning activities, lower level clubhouse and so many more interactive elements.
  • Cube: Plenty of activities in this modern, compact playground design means plenty of fun for little explorers ages 2 to 5.
  • Motion: Packing 16 activities into a compact space, the whimsical Motion playstructure keeps kids ages 2 to 5 entertained in a safe, developmentally appropriate way.

Even more, we’ve partnered with Too Small to Fail to create language-rich playgrounds using their Talking is Teaching creative content on panels and signage throughout the playground. These literacy panels will encourage parent-child conversations to help prepare children for success in school and beyond.

Let's Talk About Food

Learn more about how to create a dream playground for toddlers and preschoolers at playlsi.com, and get started on an early childhood playground design by contacting us here.

Guest Blog: Exploration through music

In 2015, we collaborated with St. David’s Center in Minnetonka, Minn., to design an inclusive playground complete with an area dedicated to the new Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments. Today, we’re happy to have Jackie Hanson, assistant teacher and children’s group piano instructor, as our guest blogger discussing how the music play equipment is helping students learn.

StDavidsMusic04

In the distance I hear a “Bang! Bang!” and a “Ding, Dong, Brrring” sounding out in mismatched pitches and uneven rhythms. I turn my head to see grins lighting up small faces and bodies in motion as children swing their arms back and forth, hitting the drums as hard as they can. One child tilts his head at the base of the hollow metal tubes of the Grandioso™ Chimes as another bounces the mallets off the bars, creating sounds of different pitch and timbre. What some might see as an annoyance or an incorrect attempt at playing music, I see as the purest form of artistic enjoyment and cognitive exploration.

St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development has been fortunate enough to install a brand new all-inclusive playground, which includes a new area filled with the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments ready and waiting for creative discovery. Music is an art form that humans were creating before the dawn of the written language. Therefore, it can be reasoned that it is one of the most natural ways in which a developing child can learn. The musical instruments at St. David’s Center including the Chimes, Vivo™ and Animato™ Metallophones, and three drums create the opportunity for children to foster fine and gross motor abilities, observe and explore scientific relationships, nurture creative imagination, and grow social interaction skills in a joyous, engaging and natural way.

When a child is playing a drum, fine and gross motor abilities are being developed. In the repeated motion of lifting each arm to hit the drum, gross motor strength is being built. Control is being developed in all the muscles of the arm as the child has to aim his/her hand toward the center of the drum, rather than letting it fall randomly on any area of the drum. Finally, the core is in constant use because it is being used to stabilize the body while the arms move quickly and the lower body stays still.

Scientific exploration is another wonderful educational opportunity these musical instruments can create. Once, a boy slammed the drum with all his force while another rested his cheek on the drum head feeling the vibrations. Another time, a little girl brought me over to tell me something to the effect of, “Look… this big one makes this really scary sound…” when pointing to the pipes of the wind chimes. Most recently, two friends were hitting the Grandioso Chimes as hard as they could and counting how long the sounds lasted. These are just a few examples of the observed scientific exploration, which are the building blocks of more complex discoveries in the future.

Music also fosters creative imagination and growth. While it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of using an instrument for its “defined” use we forget that music is meant to be creative and a gateway for new ideas. While on the playground, I have seen children hitting the drums with sticks instead of their hands, riding the drums like horses, knocking on the Chimes pretending it’s a doorbell and using their fingers to try to play. Not all of these uses create music. But the children are using the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments to think outside of the box. They are not only fostering creative ideas for ways in which to play music, but also in how to use the musical instruments for completely different things.

These instruments have created countless moments of social interaction and growth. Music creates community; it is joyful and fun, and on more than one occasion I see two or three friends banging on the drums together with nothing but smiles and laughs on their faces. Playing the musical instruments together on the playground creates opportunities for social interaction skills. If two friends disagree on how to play, they learn how to resolve the conflict. Assuming the latter occurs, they then learn how to use each other to think of new creative ideas and work together. Having music on the playground creates one more outlet for these opportunities for social growth to occur.

StDavidsMusic03

Music is a unique tool in that it is an artistic activity that can extend its educational impact to numerous other areas of development. Furthermore, it is one of the most natural ways to feel and express emotion as well as create a joyful sense of community. It has been wonderful to see children growing and further developing their skills using the instruments on St. David’s Center’s new inclusive playground, and I can’t wait to see the new discoveries and experiences that will continue to occur in the future years.

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

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

Playground planning for preschools and daycare centers

Choosing the right playground equipment for preschools or daycare centers may seem a little daunting at first, but we’ve compiled a list of industry-specific resources to make the planning process easier. Even more, we have a playground planning checklist with five easy steps to create the ultimate childcare playground.

Assisi Early Learning Center, Madison, Miss.

Assisi Early Learning Center, Madison, Miss.

Toddlers and preschoolers always find new, but not always safe, ways to play. That’s why we make playground safety a top priority by creating age- and developmentally appropriate products using the best materials and innovative features.

Trinity Church, Lubbock, Texas

Trinity Church, Lubbock, Texas

Securing funds is an important step in creating dream preschool or toddler playgrounds. And we can help with that! We have fundraising programs available, can help you find playground grants for child care centers and we have purchasing contracts to help expedite the buying process.

Learning and Wellness Center, Chicago, Ill.

Learning and Wellness Center, Chicago, Ill.

Check out our list of early childhood playground resources for even more information on how to plan an outdoor playground for daycare centers including details about our partnerships, certifications, and how to design an inclusive and accessible playground.

Playground activities to help develop smart kids

After years of observing toddlers and preschoolers at play, one thing is certain… they are on the move. These younger kids are still developing many of their senses and skills, so they are interested in playground activities that move—steering wheels, puzzles, shape-and-fit games. That’s why we’ve created the Smart Play line with interactive playground activities for kids ages 2 to 5.

Smart Play: Cube 2-5

NEW Smart Play: Cube 2-5

While the Smart Play designs—Smart Play: Cube 2-5, introduced earlier this year, and Smart Play: Motion 2-5, introduced in 2014—welcome kids ages 2 to 5, they were designed specifically to meet the needs of 2- and 3-year-olds. Every playground activity was thoughtfully included because of their developmental benefits to help toddlers and preschoolers build their senses, motor and cognitive skills, and encourage cooperation and imaginative play.

Smart Play: Motion 2-5 was introduced in 2014

Smart Play: Motion 2-5 was introduced in 2014

And now with two unique designs from which to choose—mid-century modern or more whimsical—playground planners can incorporate these affordable, activity-packed play structures into tight spaces and budgets. Even more, you can feel good about purchasing Smart Play structures; they’re manufactured using a smart use of materials.

Tell us what you think about our Smart Play line of playground designs below, and then visit playlsi.com to learn more.