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

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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.

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

Case Study: Creating lasting relationships with play and recreation

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Client: City of Jonesboro Parks & Recreation Department

Designers: Sheri Seminary, playground designer at Landscape Structures Inc.

Goal: Create a Miracle League recreation complex that could act as a showcase for all other Miracle Leagues

Solution: Their vision came to life as a 20-acre recreation complex complete with a rubberized ball field for children and adults with special needs, an inclusive playground, a concession stand, restrooms and a quiet room designed especially for children with autism. The inclusive playground focuses on access and offering sensory-stimulating activities including the Sensory Play Center®, OmniSpin® spinner, Roller Table, We-Saw™ and Sway Fun® glider. Even more, the playground integrates lots of shade right into the playstructure.

Read more about how the City of Jonesboro brought their community together through inclusive recreation at the Jonesboro Miracle League Park.

Guest Blog: Inspiring imaginative play through reading

In 2015, we collaborated with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC) in Prince George’s County, Md., to design a storybook-themed playground that encourages fun and learning. Today, we’re happy to have Brenda Iraola, landscape architect supervisor with MNCPPC, as our guest blogger discussing how she and her team created the literacy playground.

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The idea for creating a literacy playground at Watkins Regional Park was genius because the theme was already based on the original storybook, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum written in 1899.  Throughout the design, I promote reading the book as much as possible. We used actual pages from the storybook and put them on sign posts at each of the six design areas within the playground—Dorothy’s Farm House, Munchkin Land, the Emerald Forest, the Emerald City of Oz, the Balloon Escape and the Ruby Red Shoes. Another designer on my team, Chris Colvin, had the idea to add language to the book-page signs that states “Read the story to find out what happens next.” We continually used this concept to encourage children to read the story so they could relate to the playground and find the fun in reading.

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We inspired children to understand the original storybook by using real graphics from the book for the characters of Dorothy, Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman, Scarecrow and Toto. The images were reproduced onto play panels where holes were cut out to allow children to actually become the characters and create a photo opportunity. This is just one way we help bring the storybook to life for children. Additionally, the entry has a long Yellow Brick Road, which passes under a rainbow archway where children begin their play experience. The colors from the rainbow archway filter down onto the children on sunny days, and we hear them saying things like, “Look I am green and now I am red. I’m a rainbow!”

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One of the other designers, Rene Albacete, decided to add some funny reading opportunities throughout the play environment. Kids and their families find surprise text on Toto’s Doghouse that reads “Dear Dorothy, I took the shoes. Find your own way home.” We added names to the balloon escape play equipment to identify which balloon was from the Kansas State Fair. We even designed “OZ” into the rubber safety surfacing outside of the Emerald City of Oz castle. I also added educational reading opportunities like the Word Search game in which children can find all kinds of words relating to the Oz storybook. Some other reading opportunities include Aunt Em’s mailbox, Toto’s Doghouse, the Chicken Coop and the directional sign at the entrance that points visitors to the Yellow Brick Road or Ruby Red Shoes.

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A lot of parents and children who visit the playground say they are so excited about the space, and talked about going to the library to check out the book to read the full story. Parents say they are going to enjoy teaching their children that reading a book is fun in a day when so much information is prepared electronically.

Case Study: Teaching kids as they play

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Client: Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC), Upper Marlboro, Md.

Designers: Brenda Iraola, landscape architect supervisor; Chris Colvin, landscape architect; and Rene Albacete, landscape architect

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Goal: Create a storybook playground design for Watkins Regional Park based on the original Oz storybook to encourage learning through play

Solution: Kids and families can experience Auntie Em and Uncle Henry’s Kansas farm, Dorothy’s house, Munchkin Land, the poppy field, the Emerald City and Dorothy’s attempt to get home via hot air balloon. Even more, Dorothy’s ruby slippers were adapted to be playground slides! The design also includes a unique experience for the children to become the characters of the storybook. Brenda and her team used play panels containing graphics of the drawn storybook characters—Dorothy and Toto, the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow—with cut-outs for children’s faces to allow them to become a part of the story.

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Read more about how the Wizard of Oz-themed playground at Watkins Regional Park has become the main attraction for visitors all over Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

Explore the power of outdoor musical instruments

We’re so excited about the new Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments! Not only because the chimes, metallophones and playground drums bring people of all ages and abilities together for jam sessions, but because our musical instruments are the perfect addition to any space.

Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments are a great addition to any new or existing school playgrounds. The instruments can be placed together to encourage musical ensembles or spread about individually for solo performances. Best of all, these outdoor musical instruments for schools will deliver a unique way for students to express themselves.

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Adding outdoor musical instruments to your park playground is another great option. Kids and their families will come together to create their own music or sound out familiar tunes together. And with the highest quality materials used to make the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments, your playground instruments will be great sounding, beautiful looking and long lasting.

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Because outdoor music play is a multigenerational activity, the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments fit more environments than just parks and school playgrounds. The outdoor music instruments can be installed at community and senior centers, museums and many other public spaces. These inclusive play activities are sure to encourage individuals of all ages and abilities to explore the power of music.

Choosing the right outdoor fitness equipment for your community

Create an active community by including the HealthBeat® outdoor fitness system into your playground design.

Everyone seems to be talking about the importance of community wellness lately. The good news is that your park can do something to help improve it. Offering outdoor fitness equipment is a great way to increase park usage while also increasing the health of your community. Keep in mind these four considerations when purchasing outdoor fitness equipment:

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  1. Create an inclusive environment. Welcome teens and adults of all abilities to workout together with fitness equipment that is accessible and easily understood by first-time users.
  2. Meet the needs of all fitness levels. Look for outdoor fitness equipment that will meet users at their level—whether that’s beginner or advanced.
  3. Offer a variety of workouts. Provide equipment that targets various fitness areas such as muscle strength, cardiovascular health and balance/flexibility.
  4. Design to fit your environment. Consider where your outdoor fitness equipment will get the most use—along a walking trail, next to the playground or ball field, or at a senior living community—and make sure the equipment’s size and aesthetic will fit the environment.

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Check out the refreshed, contemporary design of the HealthBeat® outdoor fitness system, which fits the above criteria. Our resistance technology delivers a better workout, and signage includes links to instructional videos that can be viewed on a smart device while at each fitness station. Learn more at playlsi.com.