Delivering adventure with playground towers

PlayOdyssey® Tower and Alpha® Tower

Playgrounds and outdoor play do so much more than expend a child’s excess energy. Playing on a playground teaches children self-regulation, how to handle stressful situations, and increase self-confidence and self-esteem. Including exciting and interesting playground elements that test and challenge children of all ages and abilities increases these benefits.

We are aware of the importance of designing challenge into our playground products as well as overall playground environments. Our team of playground designers, conceptors, sculptors and artists work with clients to create playgrounds that offer exciting and challenging play activities to not only entice children to participate and be active but help them to fully develop a wide array of skills.

The best way to create adventure-filled play experiences for kids of all ages and abilities is to look for playground designs that encourage the progression of the play experience. Playground towers like the Alpha® Tower and Alpha Link® Towers, Super Netplex®, PlayOdyssey® Tower or custom options like the Hedra® Towers all offer a variety of ground-level play components, plus deliver multiple climbing opportunities that take kids as high as they’d like as well as slide options along the way. Each of these playground towers help kids gain confidence through repeated and slow exposure to new challenges.

Additionally, the Super Netplex provides an inclusive play experience with an easy way to transfer and an accessible route to the top of the highest tower via its center spiral belting. Kids of all abilities can enjoy the view, hang out with friends and take whooshy rides down one of the playground slides.

Hedra® Towers

The research shows that if children are not provided with challenging play opportunities they may be more prone to problems such as mental health concerns, a lack of independence, and a decrease in learning, perception and judgement skills. Learn more about how to create adventure-filled playground designs using our various playground towers at playlsi.com. And learn more about balancing safety and challenge in playground design by requesting our whitepaper.

Welcoming and supporting all with Universal Design

Our design philosophy at Landscape Structures is heavily influenced by the tenets of Universal Design, a theory of design that strives to make environments more usable, safer and healthier for all. This philosophy has been part of our commitment to inclusion since co-founder, Steve King, was appointed to the Federal Access Board’s Recreation Access Advisory Committee in 1993.

Universal Design sets us up for equity, which is a step above equality. ​Equality is giving everyone the same treatment whereas equity is what we use to provide success and opportunity to all. ​So Universal Design goes beyond providing everyone the access to an even playing field… it delivers a chance to thrive in it.

Universal design simply means that it’s for everyone. Young, old, all levels of ability status, parents with a stroller, individuals that refuse to make two trips carrying the groceries inside… everyone. In theory, it should just be called design.

Our team of designers, engineers and inclusive play experts follow the Seven Principles of Universal Design:

  • Equitable Use. The design is useful to people with diverse abilities.

This is about as many people as possible being able to use a product in a really similar way. This is stuff like poured-in-place surfacing or turf with seamless transitions. People using mobility devices could roll on it as smoothly as non-users could walk on it. The We-Go-Round®, We-Go-Swing® and Sway Fun® glider are examples of playground components that fit this category.

  •  Flexibility in Use. The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities giving users a choice in how they engage each activity.

Flexibility in use offers choice to users, and a great example of this is the We-Go-Round. Individuals in wheelchairs can roll on and stay in their chairs or choose to transfer to the seat—they have and choice and can participate in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Other examples include the elevated sand table at different heights and multiple types of playground swings with unitary surfacing paths. It also includes having seating, sinks, hand dryers, adult-sized changing tables, etc. throughout the park and playground available for a variety of body heights and types to give people the option to find their flexible fit.

  • Simple and Intuitive Use. Use of the design is easy to understand regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills or current concentration level.

If an individual sees a drum, they know what to do with it. If they see the OmniSpin® Spinner, they know where to push it to make it go and where to sit to ride. It doesn’t cause stress or complications trying to figure it out. Obviously, there is a desire to provide challenge to kids on a play space with events that aren’t immediately intuitive, but in this case if the intent of the component is to spin, we want everyone to be able to figure that out quickly.

  • Perceptible Information. The design communicates necessary information effectively to the user regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.

Symbol communication signs are a great tool to help all users communicate effectively while visiting parks and playgrounds. If there’s information people need to know or be able to communicate, it falls under this category. Think of a splash pad sign with all the rules—lots of words used to communicate “no eating” could easily be understood with a little circle crossing out food. It’s a more universal method of communication that more people can understand. Additionally, using color contrast and textures provide cues on changes in elevation, alert individuals to busier areas and much more.

  • Tolerance for Error. The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.

With this design principal, planners discuss adding a fence to a play space to help keep kids that may wander or run away stay safe and contained. Another example of this is incorporating barriers on a commercial playground structure, which is meant to reduce the chances of a child accidentally backing up and falling off it. Additionally, when there is mixed safety surfacing such as engineered wood fiber (EWF) with rubber, the EWF must stay maintained so that there aren’t any major drop-offs to create hazards. If there have a sand table or something a wheelchair is supposed to roll underneath, the surfacing should extend underneath the front wheels to avoid having those users tip forward.

  • Low Physical Effort. The design can be used efficiently and comfortably.

Anything that keeps user more comfortable for longer, is considered low physical effort. Commercial shade structures, and gradual, low grade are two big topics to consider. Additionally, consider swing seat choices as well as those for the ZipKrooz®. Think of the kid who fatigues a bit quicker, with the Molded Bucket Seat they can still get that zooming sensation, but in a reclined position that’s less demanding on them.

  • Size and Space for Approach and Use. Appropriate size and space are provided for approach, reach, manipulation and use regardless of user’s body size, posture or mobility.

This principal gives people the chance to move around comfortably. If a standard sidewalk is 36-inches wide and a wheelchair is 26 of those inches, there’s no size or space for anyone to move through the space alongside the wheelchair user. Going extra wide with paths allow not only users with mobility devices a more comfortable experience but so too someone with a service dog or cane, or someone deaf or hard of hearing. The same theory goes for double-wide ramps and activity panels on the playground. Is there room for someone to push up to and play with it? Or if a wheelchair user is engaging with something, is there enough room for others to get around the chair?

Through Universal Design, we increase access, safety, comfort and social participation within all our play environments. This process creates a strong foundation for inclusive playground design that ultimately results in a place where all can play, learn and grow together. Learn more about our commitment to inclusive play at playlsi.com, or by contacting your local playground consultant.

Encouraging play and communication on the playground

Playground design has been evolving to become more inclusive and inviting for children and their caregivers of all abilities. Play is not only fun, but it’s also an essential part of a child’s development and critical for the successful growth of both the brain and the body.

That’s why we’ve drawn on the expertise of child development professionals to help us explore new avenues that allow for all children to fully participate in play together. Our work doesn’t just focus on playstructures and activities that are accessible to children with physical disabilities, but also those who may have sight or hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities.

Symbol Communication Sign

For individuals who are non-verbal, speech-challenged or early-learners—or perhaps are non-English speaking—their inability to share ideas, feelings and needs can be frustrating and may keep them from socializing with others at the playground. That’s why we’ve introduced the new Symbol Communication Sign to be placed at the entrance to play areas, which will ensure every child, family member and caregiver is allowed to further their expression, interaction and communication.

With guidance from experts in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Inclusive Design, we developed the Symbol Communication Sign to include pictures representing nouns/pronouns, verbs, feelings, activities, and playground events as well as letters and numbers. The graphics are universally understandable and easy to use, arranged left-to-right as one would build a sentence and use industry-standard colors representing different types of words. The DigiFuse® graphics are printed on both sides of the Symbol Communication Sign.

We’re committed to providing play experiences for children of all abilities. Our inclusive play design philosophy, which addresses the accessibility, age and developmental appropriateness, and sensory-stimulating activity, and other inclusive play product innovations like the We-Go-Swing®, We-Go-Round®, We-saw™, OmniSpin® spinner and Sway Fun® glider, we’re helping bring children with and without special needs together to play, learn and grow on the playground. Learn more at playlsi.com.

Introducing endless thrills with Revi™ Products

We’re excited to introduce the Revi™ products, which includes the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner. Each of these products, explained below, were created using a single sculptural form to deliver three different and thrilling play experiences.

The ReviRock Bouncer for ages 2 to 12 position on a large center spring bounces and rocks in all directions.

Designed for ages 5 to 12, the center wheel of the ReviWheel Spinner allows kids to spin themselves around and around.

Deliver an adventure in physics for kids ages 5 to 12 with the the ReviWhirl Spinner by offering spinning through perpetual motion or a push from the outside.

The Revi products were designed with inclusion in mind. All three products are designed at transfer height, offer multiple ways to hang on, and provide plenty of room for kids of all abilities to lay down, sit, kneel or stand as they experiment with the motion. Even more, the ReviWheel and ReviWhirl spinners include a proprietary dynamic speed control to keep spinning at a fun yet controllable speed.

Adding freestanding play components is a great way to expand existing play spaces and freshen up the play experience. Placing one or all the Revi products together with other freestanding spinners, the ZipKrooz® or a selection of playground swings creates a play zone filled with thrilling experiences great for kids of all ages and abilities.

See the new Revi products in action and learn more about each one at playlsi.com/revi-play/.

Prepare for the dizzying opportunities of new products

We’re excited to share all our new product innovations for 2022 with you. They lead the way in encouraging kids to play outdoors, engaging their imaginations and bringing children of all abilities together to play. Check them out below, and comment to tell us your favorite.

Smart Play® Summit™

Summit™ is the newest addition to the Smart Play® family of adventure-inspiring designs. Kids ages 5 to 12 will search for hidden animal tracks and camping gear as they trek across the laser-cut climbing decks and three-dimensional nets. Plus, the cool color gradation matches kids’ ascents. Bring the mountains to your play area with this condensed-footprint, giant-play-value playstructure that welcomes crowds of all abilities for fun, imaginative play.

Our Revi™ products are an adventure in physics offering spinning, bouncing and rocking through perpetual or self-propelled motion. The ReviWheel™ Spinner, ReviWhirl™ Spinner and ReviRock™ Bouncer (pictured above) were all designed with inclusion in mind and can be used by one or many kids for endless thrills.

Symbol Communication Sign

Pictures and symbols are an effective way for non-verbal, speech-challenged, and early-learning individuals to communicate with friends and caregivers. Placing a Symbol Communication Sign at the entrance to a play area ensures that everyone can express themselves.

From subtle statements to bold impacts, we have new colors to suit your space! With the addition of four new Permalene® colors and two polyethylene colors, all inspired by nature, we’re continuing to change the world of playground design.

Learn more about all our product innovations for 2022 at playlsi.com or by contacting your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.

Army veteran brings the benefits of play to people of all abilities

In the U.S., we don’t always grasp that most of us will experience aging and varying abilities. The design of our public spaces often reflects that lack of understanding. Not everyone can easily navigate and use these spaces, including the veterans who serve our country and return home with a disability or change in ability.

Ingrid Kanics

However, there are bold minds who do consider the full range of ability in our society—and how we can build environments where everyone thrives. Army veteran Ingrid Kanics is one of these people.

Ingrid uses the World Health Organization’s definition of disability: “the interaction between individuals with a health condition and personal and environmental factors (e.g. negative attitudes, inaccessible transportation and public buildings, and limited social supports).”

In other words, disability is not an individual’s problem—it’s about how they are supported as they engage with the world. Ingrid helps people of all ages and abilities transcend barriers and build healthier lives by creating inclusive indoor and outdoor spaces where everyone can play.

The founder and owner of Kanics Inclusive Design Services, LLC, Ingrid is a powerhouse who combines a wide range of personal experiences and interests: a Master of Occupational Therapy and Master of Interior Architecture; a deep understanding of sensory play; a never-waning sense of wonder and curiosity.

At 29, however, Ingrid was on a different path, joining the Army with plans to train as a physical therapist and help soldiers rehabilitate. Everything changed when she sustained a profound injury to her spinal cord during basic training.

After emergency surgery and 18 months in rehab, Ingrid learned to walk again, but when she shifted her professional focus to occupational therapy, she truly found her stride. She decided to go “bimobile,” using a wheelchair part-time to manage her energy more efficiently. She became more active and started playing sports again.

During this time, Ingrid was working in maintenance at a sensory integration clinic. As she cleaned and organized the clinic, she got to know the children and families in treatment and developed a deep empathy for them. Her conversations and observations helped build a foundation for her future.

Ingrid earned her first master’s and worked with Pittsburgh’s Center for Creative Play before founding her consulting business in 2010. One of her first consultant roles came with Landscape Structures.

We-Go-Swing™

On projects with Landscape Structures, Ingrid collaborates throughout the product development process with everyone from engineers to the sales team. She prioritizes several factors. First, are they meeting an unfilled need? Before the team developed the We-Go Swing™, for example, there were extremely limited swing options that allow children and adults of all abilities to join and actively contribute to the play experience.

She also considers inclusivity and how products support different populations. In her occupational therapy role, Ingrid has worked with kids with a variety of health conditions and sensory needs. She thinks about how each kid would benefit from a new product, along with other kids of varying abilities, with a consistent goal of creating inclusive play spaces where kids of all abilities can interact face-to-face.

At Landscape Structures, Ingrid has been involved from the ground up with what she calls the “We” Collection, which includes the We-Go-Swing as well as an inclusive see-saw (the We-Saw™) that is easier to access and offers space in the middle for kids who want less movement. It also includes the We-Go-Round™, a modern take on a merry-go-round, that has room for kids and adults using mobility devices and allows them to help support motion.

All three elements are about cooperation, socialization and working together to have fun. And, all allow parents, grandparents and other adults with disabilities to play with their children. That’s important to Ingrid, who’s always thinking about Wounded Warriors who come home and want to remain vital members of their communities. Her life and experiences give her a firsthand understanding of the desire to stay involved and the vitality we all have to offer—and her work helps people live more fully, one play experience at a time.

Tap into Ingrid’s experiences and expertise! She’s available to present sessions about inclusion, inclusive play space design, multigenerational design and evidence-based playground design to your community or organization. Browse our education offerings, and schedule one today.

The benefits of commercial shade sails

Positive Tomorrows, Oklahoma

We all know the physical and emotional benefits to getting outdoors. Adding shade structures to outdoor spaces can increase visitors to your community parks, playgrounds, sports and recreation complexes, and more. With the added protection of shade, play sessions can be extended making the benefits of play and outdoor activity even greater. We can help you add commercial shade sails to your outdoor areas with SkyWays® shade structures, which offers flexible and stylish options to make everywhere that people gather outside more comfortable.

To appreciate the benefits of shade, it’s important to understand the risks and long-term effects of UV radiation and sun exposure. Evidence from the Skin Cancer Foundation shows that sun exposure and sunburns during childhood multiply the risk of developing skin cancer. And according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes—even when days are cool and cloudy. SkyWays commercial shade sails provide critical protection, blocking up to 97 percent of the sun’s UV rays while making temperatures underneath up to 30-degrees cooler.

When adequate shade is added to playgrounds and surrounding areas, kids are protected from UV exposure, and parents and caregivers are more likely to extend play sessions. Families may be more likely to extend their picnic or family outing if they’re keeping cool and protected under a shade. Additionally, schools are utilizing shade sails and structures to extend their classroom space to the great outdoors. By adding SkyWays shade sails to existing courtyards or a new outdoor classroom space, schools can embrace the benefits of nature for outdoor learning and not worry about sun exposure or inclement weather.

Outdoor classroom concepts

Even more, commercial shade sails can help protect your investment. Integrating SkyWays shade into your playground design or adding it after your outdoor space has been completed will shield it from the intense rays of the sun and protect it from harsh winter weather. Shade structures help to prevent premature fading and deterioration by keeping the color of equipment vibrant and preventing cracking that happens over time from sun exposure.

Learn more about SkyWays commercial shade structures, and contact your local Landscape Structures consultant to get started on a shade project for your park, playground, outdoor classroom, sports and recreation complex, or wherever you need shade today.

Jump start your playground with the Legacy of Play Contest

2021 Legacy of Play Contest

We are excited to launch the 2021 Legacy of Play Contest in partnership with Kiwanis International. This annual contest awards one Kiwanis club US$25,000 in playground equipment to be used toward a Landscape Structures playground project completed by October 2022.

The Legacy of Play Contest, now in its eighth year, helps Kiwanis clubs achieve their goal of bringing play to all children. See the timeline below, and review questions, read the official contest rules and submit your entry at kiwanis.org:

  • Entry Period. Connect with your local Kiwanis club and have them submit an entry now until Thursday, Sept. 10.
  • Voting Period. All eligible entries will be open to public vote beginning Sept. 15. Encourage your community to vote!
  • Selection Period. The top 10 finalists from the public vote will be reviewed by a jury of past winners, members and more.
  • Winner Announcement. We, along with Kiwanis International, will announce the winner of this year’s contest on or around Oct. 13.
OmniSpin® Spinner

Everyone’s a winner with Landscape Structures! We’re happy to offer all 2021 Legacy of Play Contest entrants a certificate to receive a complimentary OminSpin® Spinner with a playground purchase. Stay tuned for more details post-entry period.

Partner with the Kiwanis club in your community to apply for the 2021 Legacy of Play Contest and make your playground project a reality! Use the Club Finder at kiwanis.org/clubs to connect with local Kiwanis members, or contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant to help introduce you.

Deliver maximum impact with Quantis™

Quantis™ A.3

Meet the newest members of the Quantis™ family of playground net climbers! Quantis A.2 + Quantis A.3 deliver an open format playscape for kids ages 5 to 12, which encourages them to navigate to the Oodle® seat at the structure’s core, balance across the SwiggleKnots™ Bridge or tackle the overhead netting and molecular-style belting. Best of all, the preconfigured, ADA-compliant Quantis A.2 + A.3 are loaded with dynamic play in a compact design.

Quantis™ A.2

In addition to the new Quantis playground designs mentioned above, we have pulled together a sampling of design ideas and custom concepts. You’ll find the original Quantis playground design, Quantis 8.1, which delivers net climbers, belting, swings, gliders and so much more for an infinite play experience. A variety of net structure concepts, tower structure concepts, topography concepts and nature-inspired concepts are sure to help inspire your upcoming playground projects. Browse all the custom concepts here.

When you’re ready to get started on your playground design or want more custom playground ideas, contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.

Supporting state parks and recreation associations with 13 years of scholarships

We are excited to announce the 13th Annual State Speaker Scholarship Program has launched! The 2021-2022 program will support the appearances of keynote speakers at state parks and recreation associations’ annual or regional conferences. State associations that are chosen will receive a scholarship of $2,500. Applications are being accepted through June 30, 2022; submit your application today!

Recipients of the 2021-2022 scholarship will receive $2,500 to support conference speakers whose messages are focused on topics related to play, inclusion, equity, urban parks planning or other professional development. In addition to the $2,500 scholarship, Landscape Structures will provide one complimentary Play Healthy™ Hand Sanitizer Station to each state association awarded a scholarship to raffle off, donate or share with a member.

Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2009, Landscape Structures has awarded nearly 300 scholarships to state associations and more than $720,000 to support the appearances of speakers at park and recreation conferences throughout the nation.

Learn more about the 2021-2022 State Association Speaker Scholarship here, or contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.