Return to play

During the global pandemic, children and families have been eagerly waiting to get outside and back to the playground. And as many communities reopen their parks and playgrounds, we’re here to support you in your efforts to Play Healthy™. That’s why we’ve pulled together resources from our partners, which provide guidance to ensure the reopening of play spaces is done safely and swiftly. Additionally, city leaders will find product offerings to support their efforts of keeping the community healthy.

There’s a lot of information out there about reopening playgrounds, so we’ve curated some of the key resources released by our partners including KABOOM!, NRPA and NAESP. Here you’ll find actionable guidelines for returning to play equitably, a webinar on safely reopening play spaces, as well as tips, best practices and professional resources for park and school professionals. And if you’re at home for distance learning or other reasons, we’ve pulled together innovative ideas for kids and families to stay active and playing.

In addition to the above resources for reopening playgrounds, we have product offerings to support your community’s health:

  • Return to play safely with the new Play Healthy Hand Sanitizer Station! With this ADA-compliant Sanitizer Station, all park and playground visitors will have access to hand sanitizer before and after play. In addition to holding up to one gallon of sanitizer to require less frequent reorders from your sanitizer supplier, the graphics on the container can be customized with your logo, tagline or your own pictorial instructions.
  • Remind users how to play safely with our Play Healthy Labels. These tamper-proof labels can be affixed directly to your Landscape Structures playground. Contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant to request the labels, and add them to your playground to keep visitors healthy.

Meet the 2020 recipient of the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship

Earlier this year, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) awarded more than $100,000 to 17 outstanding students for its 2020 scholarship season. The scholarships and fellowships support the next generation of designers by rewarding superior student performance, encouraging diversity, supporting original research and assisting students with unmet financial need.

One of those awards is the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship, which was created by Cofounder and Chairman of Landscape Structures, Steve King, FASLA, and the inventor of the continuous play concept.

The purpose of the scholarship is to recognize a student who has high potential in the design of play environments. This student must show an interest in the value of integrating playgrounds into parks, schools and other play environments and understand the significant social and educational value of play. Key qualities in the student receiving the Scholarship are creativity, openness to innovation, and a demonstrated interest in park and playground planning.

This year’s recipient of the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship is Allyson Fairweather. This past May, Allyson received a Master’s of Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and is working part-time at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects. We were happy to sit down with Allyson earlier this summer to hear more about her interest in landscape architecture, and the project she submitted as part of her scholarship application.

Last spring, Allyson took a research class and was interested in studying if there was a relationship between an adult affinity for nature and how much time that adult spent playing in nature as a child.

“I was excited to discover that there is evidence to suggest that children that play outdoors in nature exhibit more environmentally responsible behaviors, greater nature inquiry, great awareness of ecological process and greater environmental stewardship,” Allyson explained.

In her research, the term “nature playscape” popped up a lot. She learned that a nature playscape is an outdoor play space that is specifically designed to connect children to the natural environment and included elements such as water, plants, soil and incorporated wild life.

“As a child, I played outside all the time,” Allyson shared. “I was always on my hands and knees in the dirt playing with bugs, collecting flowers and leaves, and running around in my parents’ garden. I have more memories of that than I do hanging out on a swing set. And now as an adult, I love the outdoors. So that’s what sparked my interest in this subject.”

Through her connection to adjunct professor and Principal at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects, Emily Wright, Allyson was made aware of a playground redesign project at The Bement School, a small, co-ed day and boarding school for kindergarten through grade 9 in historic Deerfield, Mass. The school, nestled below the Pocumtuck Range and flanked by the Deerfield River, has a beautiful, rural environment. Their existing playground was outdated and disconnected—scattered throughout campus. And upon further conversations, Allyson learned that the playground equipment wasn’t challenging enough for the range of students using it.

Allyson met with the playground committee—two school administrators and a teacher—a few different times. Initially, she visited the site to understand the space. Then she held two workshops—one for the playground committee and a second one for a small group of students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 7.

“The ultimate goal of these workshops was to understand how the play space was used, what the school community liked or didn’t like, and their vision of how it could be improved,” explained Allyson. “We prompted the adults with questions for discussion, but for the students we planned a more interactive exercise using a printed map of campus and inspirational photos. The students used stickers to vote for favorite pictures of nature play spaces.”

Allyson explained that the kids’ favorite photo was a playstructure embedded into a hillside because it appeared challenging and the students could imagine many creative ways to play there.

“A large part of this project was engaging with The Bement School community,” Allyson said. “They loved being a part of this project and kept asking when we were going to come back.”

After compiling all of the feedback into a report, Allyson started laying out the design of the nature playscape.

“One of the first things I did with this design was start with a continuous accessible path that circulated through the entire play space to create a boundary that unifies the play area. I tried to accommodate a range of ages and abilities in the play equipment. We imagined the playground would be created out of locally sourced black locusts because it’s really strong, sturdy wood that doesn’t splinter.”

Of course, they were tasked with blending the nature-inspired elements with more traditional playground features like foursquare and basketball courts, and swings. They included those elements but oriented them at angles that give different views of the soccer fields, the play area and the surrounding landscape.

“The committee wanted to include a tire swing as it helped demonstrate one of The Bement School’s core values, collaboration,” Allyson explained. “Older kids help younger kids up onto the tire swing so it presents an opportunity for different age groups to interact and build friendships. We really appreciated their observation and positioned the tire swing in the space between two different play zones so both age groups can meet in the middle.”

In addition, it was important to include quiet areas for older kids. Picnic tables and boulders were positioned throughout the play space to offer hangout spaces. Integrated plantings, boulders and rain gardens were woven throughout the play space to extend learning to the playground.

“We presented the nature playscape to The Bement School in January 2020, and they loved it,” said Allyson. “They hope to invest in the project in the future.”

We hope to see this project come to fruition, and to see what types of playscapes Allyson completes in her future career. Congratulations, Allyson, on your scholarship!

Read more about all of the 2020 LAF Scholarship winners.

Play during social distancing

“Play never told me you can’t.”

Those are the words that open the second chapter of our Shaped by Play video. And now, more than ever, they ring loud and clear. While we’re all practicing social distancing and many playgrounds across the world have been closed down during the pandemic, children, families, friends and teachers are showing us that play is an invitation to be creative.

New and innovative ways to play are being created by our partners, friends and even celebrities. Check out these fun ideas to encourage play that we’ve seen throughout the world:

  1. Teach your children about landscape architecture through drawing and doodling; the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has created a free activity book for download.
  2. Think field trips are out of the question? Think again. Browse the virtual events from Discovery Education for a chance to visit amazing places for remarkable experiences. And for a learning break, take a virtual field trip to playgrounds around the world!
  3. We’re all inside with our children and families. Luckily, Too Small to Fail has curated resources to help you talk, read, sing and play your way through the day. Pick and choose the ideas that work best for your child’s age and interests, and follow his or her lead.
  4. Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration has been sharing fun ideas to stay playful throughout April; check out their #30daysofplay on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Check out Storyline Online, made available by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, and hear your favorite actors read your favorite children’s stories.
  6. Grab your paper, pencils and crayons and join Mo Willems at the Kennedy Center to explore new ways of writing and making together. All 15 episodes and downloadable activities are now available on-demand.
  7. Get creative with your environment! Design your own ninja warrior course in your backyard or see seven steps to create one inside your home.
  8. Read! In addition to reading your favorite books, check out our On the Playground digital publication that is sure to help strengthen your mind and body.
  9. Scavenger hunts are a great activity to challenge your mind while being active. And best of all, there are so many options available from Primary Playground! Browse scavenger hunts that you can do in your backyard, while you’re reading books or even one inside!
  10. Play a game of bingo. There are so many timely game boards available—work from home bingo, social distancing bingo or reading bingo. Find one that will be the most fun for your family and get playing!

During this time of quarantine, remember that imagination will never fail us, words will never hurt us and play will always shape us. Keep playing, and share your quarantine play tips with us using #shapedbyplay. Bonus points for photos or video!

Building play spaces to support community healing

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Earlier this year, we became KaBOOM!’s Partner in Play. That means we’re their primary supplier of commercial playground equipment, and we partner with them to build playspaces in communities in need across the United States, Canada and Mexico. And this summer, building playspaces is exactly what we’ve been doing. Together with KaBOOM!, we completed more than 30 playground builds during the months of June and July, and we’re on target to complete 13 more before August is over.

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It’s more than just the numbers. The playspaces that KaBOOM! builds help ensure that all kids have great, safe places to play. In fact, a single build in June–at the Abbott House in Irvington, N.Y.–impacted more than 500 kids! Abbott House is an organization that supports children in foster care, unaccompanied immigrant children, and other vulnerable populations while providing a place for healing. And the new playground is sure to deliver an additional source of restoration needed kids and their families.

Held during Morgan Stanley’s annual Global Volunteer Month, Morgan Stanley employees withstood the blistering heat to help transform a 50-year-old rundown and unsafe playground into a brightly-colored play space with slides, climbers and playground spinners. They were joined by enthusiastic Abbott House staff and volunteers who embraced the opportunity to transform the space. At the end of the day, the playground space was complete. Volunteers stood silent, many with tears in their eyes, as a group of children, recently transported to Abbott House, thanked them for their hard work.

To learn why play matters for all kids, visit KaBOOM! and join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram with #playmatters and #PLAYceforKids. Get more details about our partnership with KaBOOM!

Keep your cool with heavy duty shade sails

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Branford Park, California

From small shade to big shade, decorative shade to themed shade, we offer flexible and stylish commercial shade sails for everywhere people like to gather. SkyWays® by Landscape Structures offers the largest reprieve from the sun’s rays to provide cool and reliable shade for any play, rest and activity area!

Recreational areas such as tennis courts, fitness parks, playgrounds and dog parks; outdoor activity spaces such as zoos, amusement parks, waterparks and splash pads; public/community spaces like pavilions; and corporate locations, hotels and airports all benefit from the addition of commercial shade structures. Our sun shade structures are available in a variety of standard shapes and sizes, and these industrial shade canopies can be customized to fit the unique requirements of your environment.

SkyWays shade structures are unmatched in materials, design, engineering and manufacturing, and successfully block up to 97 percent of harmful UV rays from the sun and keep areas beneath up to 30-degrees cooler. Even more, SkyWays by Landscape Structures is certified to ISO 9001-2015, ISO 14001-2015 and AISC for steel building structures so customers can be assured that they are working with a manufacturing facility dedicated to providing the highest quality and most durable heavy duty shade structures.

Learn more about commercial sun shade sails and structures from SkyWays by Landscape Structures.

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Lincoln Heights Recreation Center, California

Principals give back to the local community

On Monday, more than 100 principals representing the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) came together to build a playground at Adams Elementary School in Spokane, Wash. The community service day was part of the 2019 NAESP Pre-K-8 Principals Conference held in Spokane.

The school playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features playground slides, climbers, and activity panels in addition to overhead events and bridges. The playground is ADA compliant and designed to welcome children of all abilities. In addition to building the playground, principal volunteers participated in landscaping, painting and other beautification projects at the school.

As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the build. This community service day marks the 11th anniversary of our partnership with NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school.

See more about the playground build from KXLY.com and The Spokesman-Review.

Kiwanis Legacy of Play Winners 2019

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We’re excited to announce that the Kiwanis Club of Barron, Wisconsin is the winner in the 6th Annual Legacy of Play contest. The club, which will receive $25,000 in playground equipment, plans to build an accessible and inclusive playground in Anderson Park to provide a safe and fun opportunity for all kids of the community to play together and be themselves.

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Located in Northwestern Wisconsin, Barron is a rural city with a special needs community of children that make up 20% of the child population and over 50% of children qualifying for free or reduced lunch. It is important to the city of Barron to create a park for the community that children can enjoy regardless of their physical and mental ability or socio-economic status. The City of Barron and the Barron Kiwanis Club are excited to collaborate on this special project, and we’re excited to see this inclusive playground vision come to life over the next year, as well!

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Stay tuned for updates along the way through our website, and Barron Kiwanis Club.

Planning an Inclusive Playground

Planning a playground requires consideration for children of all abilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all playgrounds to be brought into compliance. Since the ADA requirements have come out, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have provided written guidelines for accessibility compliance. ASTM F1487-05 Standard is a document that provides specific playground/play equipment accessibility guidance.

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The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board has also authored a guideline that is the standard of practice for determining compliance with the ADA.

Legally, the ADA requires that “each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to, and usable by, individuals with disabilities.” This law covers “both indoor and outdoor areas where human constructed improvements, structures, equipment or property have been added to the natural environment.”

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Accessibility law only requires that comparable experiences must be provided for all. If there are several slides and two or more swings, it is considered accessible if children with disabilities can use one of the slides and one of the swings. To learn more about the difference between accessibility and inclusivity, click here.

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Aside from the regulations put forth that determine how to design an accessible playground for children of varying mobilities, there are many actions a planner should take to ensure their structure is truly inclusive. Inclusivity on a playground can be witnessed when children of all abilities can play together and participate equally- not separately and on their own. A well-designed playground incorporates the aspects of inclusive play to blend seamlessly.

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To learn more about inclusive play structures, visit playlsi.com

To find an inclusive playground near you, click here.

Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners

Introducing: The Curva® and Chill™ Spinners! These new play pieces from Landscape Structures Inc. are bound to add a twist of vestibular fun to any play project.

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The Curva® Spinner allows for one or multiple riders on each spinner. The spinning motion allows children to experiment with centrifugal force and learn about cause and effect in the way they use their bodies to engage in movement. The unique design adds a custom, designer look to any space and is available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.

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The Chill™ Spinner has all the spinning fun of the Curva® Spinner, with a more relaxed design feature. The comfortable seat accommodates players who require or desire a little more support and comfort when taking part in the spinning fun. Textured rubber belting adds to the secure and relaxed feel. Users can control the movement themselves or have another player spin for them.  The Chill™ Spinner is also available in any of the ProShield® colors or stainless steel.

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Both products are ideal for players age 5 to 12 years old and promote freestanding play and developmental benefits such as balance, problem solving, proprioception and vestibular experiences.

Creating a Community Splash Pad: Benefits and Pre-Planning

Planning a community splash pad can be an intimidating process. There are many aspects to consider in order to make the investment a success. In this series, we will be offering guidance on what to expect, steps to take, and elements to consider during the planning process!

There are many benefits to investing in a community splash pad. One of the long-term benefits is the revenue that residents and non-residents bring into the community along with the added appeal of living in that area. Attracting people means attracting money and patronage to the community. Patrons eat at restaurants, go to movies, buy gas, and go shopping whether they are living there or visiting. Adding to inclusive play opportunities for children is another important benefit. People who are looking for inclusive areas that are built with their children in mind can appreciate design intended for their kids’ physical and mental needs. Inclusive water play may be one of the only public areas that caters to all ages and abilities. Overall, splash pads can benefit a community both socially and economically.

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Pre-Planning Steps

Progressive cities should develop a coordinated system of parks and open space to meet the recreation aspects of urban life. This system, when properly planned, will maintain a consistent ratio between the park system and the developing population. The system will also develop a program consistent with the specific needs of the population. Finally, the system will develop a plan for future development to meet the demands of a growing population.

During the planning and development phase public officials should have an in depth knowledge of the communities needs based on resources, age demographics, future community growth, maintenance capabilities, expansion, location and funding. This should be accomplished based on past history and future expectations.

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History of the Park & Recreation Department: The first section of a plan gives the community a historical context in which to view the department and provides details as to how and why city leaders determined the need and created the department. This section is relevant to the plan because it allows the plan user and community to discover the progress which has already been made in parks and recreation in the city.

Introduction to a Master Plan: This section briefly describes that many progressive cities adopt coordinated parks system plans and explains the purposes of the plan. The section provides a preview of the contents of the overall master plan. Plus, it will define the overall park system by type and size facility. It will then project future needs both in terms of land and physical fixtures. Finally, it will provide a basis for a long-range capital improvements program, and provide for flexibility in the design and construction of individual parks.

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Analysis of the City: A section detailing information on demographics, projected population, and observed needs of the city’s existing and future population. This is an important section of the plan because it details who will be utilizing the splash pad in the future and what their recreational needs may be.

Profile of the Existing Parks and Recreation System: This section details the size, location, and facilities of each park, and all programs currently sponsored by local sports associations as well as the parks department. This section is important to the plan in that it provides information in which a sort of “state of the system” or status of the parks system may be ascertained.

These sections provide a complete overview of the scope of a recreation facility project such as a splash pad and can be referenced by all those involved for a more cohesive understanding of the details of the project.

Stay tuned for the next installment of in our series about creating a community splash pad!