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!

Splashing for the whole community

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It is easy to be overwhelmed in the variety of design options offered by Aquatix by Landscape Structures. The best practice is to design your splash pad for variability and play value. Start by answering the following questions:

  • Who will use the spray park?
  • What types of spray features should you include?
  • Where is your water playground located?
  • When will the splash pad be used?

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Create areas that cater to specific age groups. Typically, younger players enjoy a gentler water experience than older kids, while older kids prefer highly interactive features with high volumes of water. It’s also important to choose equipment at various heights so children of all abilities can reach the spray elements and engage with their peers. Overlap for different ages and abilities should be considered to provide opportunity for children to participate and play together rather than just alongside each other. All these factors help create a fully inclusive environment to welcome all children and families.

Splash pads are highly interactive facilities. Simple ground sprayers can add plenty of interactivity that meets a variety of sensory inputs. Structures like the HydraHub2 combine traditional playground structures, and all their fun with water elements. Dynamic play components provide endless aqua play excitement with dumping and splashing that provides a big payload of water plus an element of suspense. Interactive play products like the JetStream encourage kids to experience water in novel ways through game-based events and innovative cause-and effect activities. Users of all ages can experience a variety of water flows, sprays or mists to run through with water products like the RippleRun.

Splash pads are fun play environments. However, designers can maximize the play experience through color, spray patterns and interactive elements. Through thoughtful design, a fun and colorful splash pad can tell a story and guide users through the environment. Spray parks can incorporate the history and culture of the surrounding neighborhood with themes. And even better, themed spray parks may encourage imaginative play among children as they interact with the splash play products.

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Lights can be added to components to create accents that transform the splash pad space into a visual experience at night. Some parks have set their splash pads to become water and light shows during evening hours to maintain interest in the space.

Learn more about designing a fun and safe water playground for everyone.

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.

Planning a Community Splash Pad: Goals and Development

Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on how to create a community splash pad! The last post focused on items to be accomplished in the pre-planning stage. This week we will be focusing on the goals of the splash pad and its development.

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Goals

By creating a list of goals, planners and decision makers can refer to the objectives they set in the beginning to re-evaluate their choices to ensure they meet the goals they originally set out with. The goal of a Master Plan is to provide community residents exceptional open space, park land, facilities and programs to splash pad users.

The following goals and objectives are intended to provide an operational framework for future decisions related to provision of parks and recreation.

  • Create a Sense of Community and Belonging
  • Offer programming that is targeted to families and those residents without support services.
  • Celebrate the community through participation in festivals, community functions and events.
  • Support and encourage new developments to include areas for active and passive recreation.
  • Provide parks and recreation facilities that are of the highest quality, that preserve open space and history, are well maintained and that are accessible to all residents of the community.
  • To create a community of healthy residents by providing opportunities that promote and encourage active lifestyles.
  • Provide recreation programming and facility opportunities that meet the needs and interests of the entire community.
  • To use existing community resources efficiently and to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
  • To build a city-wide system of parks connected by trails and greenways to provide both active and passive recreation opportunities.
  • To enhance the landscape character and aesthetics of parks to heighten the experience of the spray park user.
  • To increase the accessory services and facilities available to the park system use in the way of adequate restrooms, water fountains, concessions, shades areas, playgrounds, and other accessory services or facilities.

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Development

  • Clearly define the goals of the project (i.e. public health, revenue generation, community asset, etc.) and frame public discussions, budget numbers and designs in terms of stated goals.
  • Design the splash pad so that capacity aligns with projected use and revenue goals. Don’t cap users at a much lower number than the official capacity of their splash pad for safety.
  • Ensure access issues such as parking are considered early in the design process.
  • Plan for expansion and new features (i.e. install more ground sprays than will initially be used and buy water features that can be replaced or exchanged).
  • Explore opportunities to develop splash pads near other public amenities such as parks, pools, picnic areas and community centers.
  • Ensure adequate seating in shaded areas for adults supervising splash pad users.
  • Install mechanical and electrical equipment on concrete surfaces and insulated from dust and dirt.

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Important considerations during the planning process:

1.Physical Location

  • Within Community
  • Within Park or Recreation District
  • Proximity to similar neighboring facilities

2. Location and Availability of Parking

  • Is there sufficient parking?
  • Is there van or bus parking?
  • Is the parking shared with other activities?

3. Location and Availability of Restrooms and Concessions

  • Are restrooms included?
  • Are changing areas included?

4. Existing Utility Services (Water, Sanitary, Storm and Electrical)

  • Are existing utilities on site or nearby?

5. Nearby Amenities and Facilities (Playground, Athletic Fields, Mini Golf, Courts, etc.)

  • Are there nearby facilities that will complement the sprayground? Or negatively impact the sprayground?

6. Neighborhood Connectivity, Bicycle Routes

  • Connectivity to nearby regional bicycle or multi-use trail systems.

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To learn more about Aquatix splash pad and water play products, visit their website.

The Power of Play

We believe in the power of play and what it means to us, regardless of age or ability.

“Play never said be careful, you’re not strong enough, you’re not big enough you’re not brave enough.”

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Play isn’t a simple idea that can be packaged neatly, succinctly.

“Play doesn’t care what a body can or cannot do.”

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Play doesn’t just teach us one thing- it teaches us everything. It shapes who we are and who we become. Play itself is a powerful part of everyone, which is why a playground should be for everyone.

“…play lives inside us.”

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Play is limitless, and we too are also limitless.

Play invites us to grab a hold of the rope and take a leap of faith into the world because play is everything.

To learn more about the infinite power of play, visit us at playlsi.com and watch our video here.

National Water Safety Month 2019

May 1st kicks off National Water Safety Month 2019! As temperatures climb in many parts of the world, participation in water play increases exponentially. Splash pads, water parks, and pools are a great option to cool down while developing key skills through play. In order to partake in these activities safely, check out these tips from the American Red Cross:

  • Swim in designated areas supervised by lifeguards
  • Always swim with a buddy
  • If you go boating, wear a life jacket
  • Install and use barriers around your home pool or hot tub
  • Actively supervise children whenever around the water
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of young children and avoid distractions
  • Keep toys not in use away from the water and out of sight
  • Reach or throw aid to distressed swimmers; don’t go

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Additional resources for water safety learning can be found through

The International Swimming Hall of Fame

Simple Steps Save Lives

The National Water Safety Month campaign is a joint effort of the American Red Cross, The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, the National Recreation and Park Association and the World Waterpark Association.

The annual event, which has been in existence for ten years, is designed to help prevent drowning and water-related illness and injuries.

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Commit to safety in water play with the “I’m a Safe Swimmer” pledge.

Go here for more details about National Water Safety Month.

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!