Case Study: An adventure in nature

Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart ParkClient: Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces, Miami, Fla.

Designers: Karen Cheney, landscape architect at Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces

Goal: Create a “play-in-the-woods” experience to reconnect kids to the natural environment

Solution: To create a nature-inspired play experience, the posts of the Netplex™ and PlayBooster® playground structures are custom printed to look like tree bark and recycled wood-grain lumber panels were used. Custom oak leaf balance boards, mushroom steppers and a log balance beam enhance the nature play theme and deliver challenge disguised as fun. In addition to the play environment, Karen renovated the grade separation to be a concrete gravity wall that she envisioned as a balance beam for children as well as a resting area for visitors.

Bouncer_TomSawyer_blog SmartPlay_TomSawyer_Blog AcornSeat_TomSawyer_Blog

Visit playlsi.com to read more about how Karen and the Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces department designed a prescription for nature deficit at Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park, and watch the video below.

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.

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.

Let’s collaborate!

Browse or request your copy of the 2014 PLAY Book.

Get inspiration for your next playground project with our 2014 PLAY Book! In the 40-page book, you’ll see real-life projects from around the nation. From musical-themed play spaces to nature-inspired playstructures and uniquely designed playgrounds set in one-of-a-kind environments, you’ll be inspired to create a playground design that fits your community.

Harrison Recreation Center, Washington, DC

Harrison Recreation Center, Washington, DC

When you pair up with our designers, artists and sculptors, you’ll find an amazing toolbox of creative possibilities at your disposal. Plus, our extensive manufacturing capabilities let you artfully incorporate a variety of materials into your playground designs to create a play experience teeming with design innovation.

Triangle Park, Aurora, Colo.

Triangle Park, Aurora, Colo.

We’ll help you personalize your traditional design to make it out-of-this-world unique! Browse the 2014 PLAY Book or request a copy to learn how we’ll collaborate with you to create signature gathering spaces that your entire community will enjoy.

Hunter's Point South Waterfront Park, Long Island City, N.Y.

Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, Long Island City, N.Y.

Happy New Year!

With the arrival of the New Year, it’s a great time for us to look back on 2013. We’re honored, along with our playground consultants, to collaborate with you on playground projects and proud of what we’ve accomplished together. Check out just a few of the happenings from 2013 in the following list:

A glimpse of a few of our accomplishments throughout 2013.

  • Introduced exciting new products—Pulse™, We-saw™ and three site furnishings collections—in January.
  • Steve King, cofounder of Landscape Structures, unveiled his book A Legacy of Play, which documents the more than 40-year history of the company.
  • Announced our new partnership with Kiwanis International, and kicked off a contest to help bring play to communities around the world. Our winner was the Iola Kiwanis club in Iola, Kan., which is currently fundraising for their inclusive playground.
  • Barb King (1946-2008), cofounder of Landscape Structures, was inducted into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame, which honors women entrepreneurial leaders who represent 150 years of Minnesota business history.
  • Introduced new signature designs including the Eclipse Net® Plus, Hillscape Adventure and GeoNetrix.
  • Hosted occupational therapists for a playground tour throughout the Twin Cities metro during the AOTA Specialty Conference.
  • Collaborated with Washington D.C. Parks and Recreation to renovate playgrounds throughout the city.
  • Completed our 18th inclusive playground project with The Miracle League.
  • Installed a SpongeBob-themed playground at Enterprise Elementary School in Enterprise, Fla., which was the grand prize of the 2012 Nickelodeon “I Wanna Play” Sweeps.
  • Reconnected with, and met new, parks and recreation professionals at our party at Lucky Strike Lanes during the NRPA Congress & Exposition in Houston.
  • Attended the ASLA Annual Meeting & Expo in Boston at which our booth, featuring GeoNetrix, was voted by landscape architects as Best Visual Appeal.
  • Celebrated with our partner, Shane’s Inspiration, the grand opening of the first inclusive playground in the country of Ecuador.

In less than two weeks, we’ll continuing celebrating a great 2013 with our playground consultants from around the world when they arrive in Minnesota for our Annual Sales Meeting. Stay tuned for announcements of our new catalog, products and more in the upcoming weeks!  Want to be the first to hear about them? Sign up for our e-newsletters or subscribe to receive notifications of new blog posts by email.

Show your school spirit… on the playground

Versailles Elementary School created a school spirit theme for their school playground.

Personalization adds a unique element to playgrounds, and it also lets you show your school spirit! Versailles Elementary School in Versailles, Ohio, went all out to show their support for the Tigers. By incorporating their school colors—orange and gray—and a couple of personalized panels showing their school mascot, there is no doubt to anyone that visits the playground that it is the home of the Tigers.

Personalize your playground activity panels or welcome signs on your school playground.

Not only can we help you create an entirely personalized playground like Versailles Elementary, but we can add any level of personalization to best meet your needs. From a personalized welcome sign to playground panels with your school name, motto or mascot, or a customized freestanding play component, we’ll help make your school playground design your own.

Reconnecting kids with nature

In the past few years, we’ve noticed an increase in childcare facilities focused on nature-inspired activities and nature-themed playground equipment. And the Early Childhood Family Center (ECFC) in Stillwater, Minn., is just one example of a childcare facility providing opportunities for kids to reconnect with nature.

Early Childhood Family Center in Stillwater, Minn.

“Our ECFC chose a nature-inspired playground, which accents the surrounding landscape,” explained Betty Soine, early childhood supervisor. “Also, research supports the value of using natural environments to encourage children’s overall growth and development. Our parent education program encourages parents to get outside with children during all seasons to experience the variety of outdoor environments, breathe the fresh air and explore the wonders of nature through the eyes of their child. An outdoor play environment that mimics nature supports a health and wellness focus for all our families and staff.”

Help kids develop their balance with the Infant Balance Beam.

The Early Childhood Family Center added a nature-inspired playground designed for kids ages 6 to 23 months. The Infant Single Poly Slide, Infant Balance Bar and Chimes Panel provide the right amount of sensory stimulation, balance, coordination and strength challenges. Even more, a play space for kids ages 2 to 5 has realistic bark, wood and rock textures, natural colors and discovery items like chipmunks, worms and insects built into the Log Stack Climber, Log Steppers and Recycled Tree House Roofs.

Provide age-appropriate climbing challenge with the Log Stack Climber.

“Equipment was chosen with children of all abilities in mind,” said Betty. “Our team of staff professionals studied and selected types of equipment that could support building strength, mobility and cognitive skills through interactive outdoor play. The children are engaged in all types of movement and activities everyday that encourage and support physical, social and emotional, language and cognitive development. Our nature-inspired playground does exactly what we envisioned and more!”

Collaborating to improve playgrounds citywide

Work is underway at playgrounds all around Washington, D.C. The more than 30 playground renovations are part of an initiative of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) known as Play DC. Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has allocated $35 million to the playground improvement project.

Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE)

Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE)

The first of the completed playgrounds, located at Rosedale Recreation Center, celebrated its grand opening in late May. The playground offers a fully inclusive play experience for children and families, and it was designed to mimic many of the monuments located near the National Mall. Façades of the White House, U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument give the playground a truly signature look.

Palisades Recreation Center (5200 Sherrier Place NW)

Palisades Recreation Center (5200 Sherrier Place NW)

Another amazing project that’s part of Play DC is at the Palisades Recreation Center. The playground offers a Native American-themed play structure that pays tribute to the Potomac River settlement. And keeping in mind the whole community, planners included the HealthBeat® Outdoor Fitness System for ages 13+. “We opened that playground on July 4,” said Bridget Stesney, chief operating officer at DPR, “and it has been packed every day since!”

Noyes Recreation Center (Franklin Street NE & 10th Street NE)

Noyes Recreation Center (Franklin Street NE & 10th Street NE)

In July, DPR celebrated playground grand openings at Noyes Recreation Center and Fort Stanton Recreation Center on July 19 and 20, respectively. The Noyes playground was inspired by nature and includes lots of climbing rocks, while two play structures at Fort Stanton offer a fort theme for lots of imaginative play.

Fort Stanton Recreation Center (1812 Erie Street SE)

Fort Stanton Recreation Center (1812 Erie Street SE)

DPR is hosting grand openings regularly—the next one is happening Monday, Aug. 12, at the Raymond Recreation Center. And when they’re not celebrating grand openings, they’re celebrating ground breakings. The entire DPR team is excited to be able to renovate the playgrounds citywide, and hope that they will become spaces where all generations can come together to be active, have fun and play.