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.

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.

Innovative designs deliver a whimsical play experience

If you’re looking for innovative playground designs at affordable price points, you’ve come to the right place. Our design experts have curated a collection of preconfigured playground structures that are perfect for your community park or school playground! Our Smart Play® family of playstructures not only fit in a compact space, but they are packed with activities to help kids develop key sensory, motor, cognitive and social skills. Choose one or pair the Smart Play playstructures together to create a whimsical play experience.

Smart Play Billows

Smart Play Billows™ Imaginations will soar as kids ages 5 to 12 float across the sky on bridges, climbers and down two sensory-rich slides.

Smart Play Breeze™ Kids ages 2 to 5 will find plenty of airy insights to explore as they crawl, walk and climb up to the hot-air balloon basket.

Smart Play Tree Tops

Smart Play Tree Tops™ Give kids the sense of playing in the treetops as they navigate wiggly bridges, the 3-ring climber, roar down two slides and much more.

Smart Play Sprig™ Encourage kids ages 2 to 5 to explore leafy pods and flower blossoms while they flex their emerging skills on this fresh-as-spring playstructure.

Smart Play BeachComber™ Young imaginations are encouraged to go with the watery flow as they surge forth to explore oceans of activity.

Help create memories for kids in your community to look back on with these value-packed Smart Play playstructures. Learn more about this family of playstructures and contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant to get started on your playground design today.

Celebrating Sensory Awareness Month 2020

The disruption of the coronavirus pandemic has been tough on everyone including kids. As children safely resume outdoor play, each child will experience the playground differently. For kids with sensory processing challenges—5 to 16% of school-aged children—regulating their bodies and emotions through play is especially critical.

For Sensory Awareness Month, which is in October, we’re sharing the importance of creating inclusive playground environments.

According to Virginia Spielmann, executive director at the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, for many kids with sensory processing difficulties, a traditional playground doesn’t offer the same opportunities to master physical challenges, gain social confidence or hone fine motor skills.

To highly sensitive children, the intense experiences of a playground like the spin of a merry-go-round or the tussle of kids on the monkey bars can feel like an assault on their senses. In other cases, children may seek out external stimulation.

“Kids may react strongly and with enthusiasm to this external simuli, or they may retreat,” explained Spielmann. “And often, they can’t match the motor skills of other children, which makes them feel even more different and isolated—especially on a traditional playground.”

The right play equipment can make all the difference. And today’s thoughtfully designed playgrounds have evolved into places that foster all-sensory experiences for every child.

At Landscape Structures, our product and playground designers are educated and interested in how kids with special needs experience the world, which informs their approach and designs—and makes an enormous difference in the final product.

That insight translates to subtle equipment details in materials, shapes, movement or orientation. For example, a playstructure with built-in tactile elements invites children to explore a variety of textures and shapes and helps them to integrate multiple tactile experiences.

We can also design playstructures to offer a variety of interactive panels in a variety of positions—including musical or auditory components. Our inclusive playgrounds also incorporate quiet, cozy spaces where overstimulated kids can go for a calming escape to regain their equilibrium and recharge.

There are many other ways that playground design can invite children of all abilities to play, explore and learn with confidence. Learn more about designing inclusive playgrounds to meet the needs of your community at playlsi.com. And learn more about sensory processing and how to help spread awareness for it at spdstar.org.

Great designs for great communities

Earlier this year, we introduced a collection of dynamic playground designs that meet budgets of every size. Curated by our playground designers, this collection delivers innovative and iconic choices at an affordable price point. The lead designs in this collection are the new BeachComber structure as well as the Tree Tops structure.

BeachComber structure

BeachComber
Grab your best beach buddy and ride the wild surf on this wavy playstructure. Kids ages 5 to 12 will love creating seaworthy adventures as they sail across the new Tidal Wave Climber, wind their way down curvy slides and hop-hop-hop over the Pod Climber®.

A cool color palette accentuates this flowy design that honors the graceful motion of ocean waves. Young imaginations are encouraged to go with the flow as they surge forth to encounter marine life, discover buried treasure and explore the oceans of activity built into the BeachComber. Introduce this seaside attraction to any playground for hours of nautical fun—no sand required!

Tree Tops structure

Tree Tops
This wondrously abstract playstructure gives kids the sense of playing in the treetops, exploring a forest canopy branch by branch. But beyond the normal ups and downs of traditional tree-climbing, here kids ages 5 to 12 can also navigate their way across wiggly bridges, crawl through the O-Zone® 3-ring climber, roar down two different slides, plus so much more.

Such a great range of interconnected activities at multiple levels will spark hours of imaginative and energetic play, all protected by plenty of built-in shade. Whether it’s a tree fort, a forest city or an agility race in the sky, it will always be a beacon for your playground.

In addition to the BeachComber and Tree Tops structures, there are more than 40 budget-friendly designs available for all age ranges. Browse our Great Designs brochure to see them all.

A winning booth design: How it’s made

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Last week, we were in Baltimore for the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference. We had a great time connecting with everyone in the exhibit hall, and were honored to have our booth space awarded Best in Show. So how does a tradeshow booth get designed? We talked with Scott Roschi, creative director, and Allison Koeckeritz, custom playground designer, about how their vision for the space came together.

The overall design idea for the tradeshow booth was a contemporary coffee shop. “We wanted to take our past idea of hospitality to the next level, and created the feeling of a coffee shop overlooking a park with a great playground,” explained Scott. Plus, they aimed to create cozy spaces where visitors to the booth could come together for semi-private meetings.

The goal was to create a warm and inviting space, and Scott and Allison achieved that with a unique palette of materials and colors. “The trend is moving from rose gold into warmer, earthy colors like the copper we used throughout the space,” said Scott.

“The inspiration for the copper elements came from the lights we used over the coffee bar and in the cozy spaces,” said Allison.

Industrial aspects were integrated into the design including raw wood table tops and accents, pipes and strategically placed copper pieces. “It was truly about creating a sensory-rich experience with great coffee and good conversation,” added Scott. A special thanks to nParallel, our production partner, in helping bring this vision to life.

The pair also incorporated interactive elements, which is where the wall of chalk art popped up. The idea was to create an Instagram-worthy photo opp for visitors. To keep the design authentic, we commissioned chalk artist, Jeff Nelson or @jephemera, to help. Check out the timelapse of his process below.

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.

Barron_Design

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.

The Value of Inclusive Sensory Play

A well-rounded playground is not complete without the addition of sensory play elements. Sensory play adds valuable play experiences to a playground through beneficial opportunities for learning and socializing. Proper sensory play can help children develop problem solving skills, express emotion, promote empathy, and instills lasting confidence. Not all sensory play is created equally- playground planners should ensure that their sensory play equipment is inclusive to children of all abilities, both physical and mental.

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Many children living with sensory processing disorders or autism may find socializing, communication, and imaginative play challenging without the proper support. Through sensory play, these children can feel included to explore and discover new experiences without fear or exclusion.

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Landscape Structures Inc. offers a variety of sensory play equipment for every project:

Sensory Play Center

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Pulse

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Rhapsody® Outdoor Musical Instruments

Vibra™ Chimes

Fossil Digs

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And much more!

Visit playlsi.com to learn more about planning your playground project.