Promoting language-rich interaction on the playground

Too Small to Fail_structure

There is a general notion that there is a gap between the number of words that lower-income children hear compared with their higher income peers, and that this gap leads to a gap in early vocabulary and kindergarten readiness. But even more importantly, research shows us that the more parents meaningfully engage with their young children, the more their child’s brain will grow and develop. And that is an amazing opportunity.

Too Small to Fail_Food

That’s where Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and The Opportunity Institute, comes in. Their goal is to make early brain and language development a part of communities. And to do this, they’ve created the “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign, which brings visually engaging and colorful signs to supermarkets, laundromats, bus stops and playgrounds to encourage talking, reading and singing between parents and young children. The signage is intended to provide families with reminders about the importance of engaging with their young children, as well as provide specific ideas for things to talk about.

Too Small to Fail_Feelings

We’re proud to partner with Too Small to Fail on the “Talking is Teaching” campaign. By incorporating these interactive play panels, we’re meeting parents where they already are with their children and helping them boost their children’s early brain and language development through play. The panels are strategically positioned throughout the playground design so that children and their caregivers can sit near each other, and use the language prompts to interact with each other. Even better, there is a seamless theme of play and education in these language-rich playground designs, so parents and caregivers are helping their children get ready for kindergarten and set them up for success in school.

Too Small to Fail_Night Sky

To date, Too Small to Fail has partnered with Landscape Structures to open 20 “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” themed playgrounds across the country. Learn more about our partnership with Too Small to Fail by contacting your local playground consultant.

Connecting play and learning at Greater & Greener 2017

BuildDay_05blog

More than 1,000 park leaders, city planners, design professionals, and urban park advocates came to Minneapolis and Saint Paul from around the world for Greater & Greener 2017: Parks Connecting Cities, Cultures, & Generations. The five-day indoor and outdoor conference focused on the role of urban parks in creating healthy, resilient and economically competitive cities.

In addition to being a Gold Sponsor of the Conference, we hosted two events throughout the week. On Sunday, July 30, we welcomed 40 volunteers from around the world to construct a playground at Central Village Park in St. Paul. The volunteer’s finished building commercial playground equipment for kids ages 5 to 12, a Clubhouse for kids ages 2 to 5 and playground panels, which featured Too Small to Fail‘s Talking is Teaching creative content with parent-child conversation prompts to foster healthy language-rich interactions.

 

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, we hosted a mobile workshop that showcased the most imaginative playgrounds in Minneapolis. Attendees heard from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and community members about how the city encourages healthy outdoor activity, brings families together and builds community. Even more, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined the group at Powderhorn Park to share her commitment to cradle-to-K development and how the city is using the Talking is Teaching campaign to support early literacy in the city.

TSTFgroup_blog

 

Guest Blog: City Parks Create Important Foundation for Youth

martin-luther-king-playground-banner

We are proud to be members of the City Parks Alliance, which supports the creation, revitalization and sustainability of urban parks and green spaces. Today, we’re happy to have Catherine Nagel, executive director at the City Parks Alliance, as our guest blogger discussing Greater & Greener 2017, which is being hosted in the Twin Cities July 29 through Aug. 2.

As more people are moving back to urban areas, the importance of close-to-home parks is increasing–perhaps most for children. For those who don’t have a backyard to play in, the local park serves myriad functions: a portal to experiencing the natural world, a community hub where families and neighbors get to know each other, and a place for outdoor learning to help build skills of all kinds through organized activities. But beyond their role in recreation and social well-being, city parks also help grow local economies, create new transportation options, combat crime, and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff. Urban planners, elected officials and community advocates recognize these benefits and are taking a fresh look at parks as an important part of civic infrastructure.

Print

Engaging youth in the outdoors can unleash their curiosity about nature, build confidence, and strengthen leadership skills, ultimately supporting careers in the sciences, recreation, conservation and elsewhere. Urban parks and park and recreation agencies are rich with opportunity to empower youth and help them succeed. At Greater & Greener 2017, our International Urban Parks Conference, we have created an entire track dedicated to the Parks and Youth Development. Speakers will focus on parks and programs that are providing close-to-home camping experiences, supporting new kinds of outdoor recreation, building literacy, strengthening advocacy around environmental and social change, and offering “green” job training and employment in the parks and recreation profession and related fields.

To help Greater & Greener, hosted by the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, have a lasting impact beyond the sessions and knowledge sharing, Landscape Structures is sponsoring a Playground Build Volunteer Day to help kick off the conference. The brand new playstructure will be built in Central Village Park in Saint Paul, Minn., giving the community a place to recreate, socialize, and for the youth in the community to be #shapedbyplay!

CPA_resizedLandscape Structures is also sponsoring The Mayors Forum at Greater & Greener, which will explore with city leaders what it means to create equitable cities and what role public spaces play in building inclusive, vibrant, and sustainable communities. Speakers include: Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. Next City’s President, CEO and Publisher Tom Dallessio will moderate. Check out the full agenda with tours, field trips and sessions on youth engagement and register now.

Urban parks are dynamic institutions that play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. The full benefits of parks in urban communities are only now being fully understood and measured. For most Americans, their closest park is a city park, and city parks provide an essential foundation that supports the next generation to grow and thrive–from childhood to adulthood.

Now welcoming preschoolers to join the band

WarbleGirl-blog

The joy of making music on the playground can now be enjoyed at any age. We’ve expanded the collection of Rhapsody® Outdoor Musical Instruments with six instruments that are a bit smaller and lower to the ground—sized just right for kids ages 2 to 5.

Rhapsody was originally introduced in January 2016, and has been a hit at playgrounds, community centers, schools, senior centers and more. That’s why we’ve added the junior Rhapsody instruments to the mix. This music playground activity is now ideal for
childcare centers, preschools and other early childhood facilities.

See below to learn more about the new junior-sized chimes, metallophones and drums:

Don’t forget… musical playgrounds welcome all ages and abilities! The original Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments are perfect for kids and adults ages 5 and up. Add all 12 instruments to your play space to encourage multigenerational play.

Rhapsody_5to12-blog

Summertime safety

ShadeBlog05

Summer is synonymous with outdoor fun. As the weather warms up and trips to the park and playground become more frequent, take steps to keep your children safe from the sun and heat.

Sunscreen in addition to lightweight clothing and a sun hat help protect against UVA and UVB rays. However, the best line of defense is by staying in the shade. When planning trips to the park, choose commercial playgrounds that integrate shade into the design. Our shade systems–SkyWays® and CoolToppers®–are designed to block up to 97 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays.

ShadeBlog02

During physical play at the playground, kids should have water available and should take a break regularly to stay hydrated. Our playground shade systems will also combat summer heat by keeping temperatures up to 30-degrees cooler. We even offer a shade option with a cool misting feature to help keep kids cool during the steamiest of play days.

In addition to providing protection from the summer sun and heat, the SkyWays and CoolToppers shade systems deliver a beautiful aesthetic to park, playground and recreation areas. Whether your goal is to shade a playground, dog park, pickleball courts or something entirely unique to your community, we have shade solutions to meet your needs. Contact us to learn more.

The smartest duo in play

We introduced the Smart Play concept in 2014, and the newest additions to the family take the smart to a whole new level. Smart Play: Nook was designed for kids ages 6 to 23 months and Smart Play: Loft is for kids ages 2 to 5 years. Together, they span a critical period of childhood development.

The Nook and Loft activities and messaging were developed with guidance from the National Head Start Association and Too Small to Fail. They encourage adult-child conversations to support language development and literacy as well as support whole-child learning.

Best of all, the Nook and Loft playstructures take kids from early crawling exploration on up to active climbing and social play in a fun, whimsical environment. Whether playing inside or outside the Nook, the intentional sight lines let you keep your eye on little crawlers and early walkers at all times. And with 20 play activities, the Loft encourages imaginative play while helping to develop both large and small motor skills as well as strategic thinking.

Learn more about this duo of smart playstructures at playlsi.com, and use #shapedbyplay to tell us how your kids are developing through play and playgrounds.

Case Study: Honoring a life cut short

madisonoverall

Client: Madison Claire Foundation, Woodbury, Minn.

Designers: Gabriel Cotten, Landscape Structures playground designer

Goal: After the loss of their daughter, Madison, Dana and Dave Millington wanted to create an inclusive playground to honor Madison’s short life while also delivering a space for families of all abilities to gather and experience “normal” activities.

Solution: After getting input from the rehabilitation team at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and talking to parents of children with disabilities, Dana and the Madison Claire Foundation’s Board of Directors broadened their idea of inclusive play to account for as many different situations as possible.

The inclusive playground design is fully ramped and includes many sensory-stimulating activities including a double ZipKrooz®, Sway Fun® glider, Cozy Dome®, We-saw™, Sensory Play Center®, OmniSpin® spinner, Roller Table and Oodle® Swing. Even more, there is a custom sensory tunnel, which is the highlight of the inclusive play design. The plum tunnel, with its star cutouts and marbles, invites intrigued visitors to step inside. Once inside, it’s a kaleidoscope of light and colors as the movement of the sun casts colorful stars on the opposite wall.

tunnel_inside

Read more about how Madison’s Place has created a space for families to create lasting and happy memories.