Decline in children’s play time shown in new study

Do you think your kids get enough opportunity for play?

According to our recent poll, more than half of parents think that children today have fewer opportunities for play than children 20 years ago. And while nearly two-thirds of parents think the ideal amount of daily play time is between one and two hours, they reported that their children get one hour or less of unstructured play time each day.

Unstructured play time

Our survey, which took place in June 2017 and was conducted by ORC International, polled parents of children 12 years and under to understand their attitudes on the value of unstructured play. Topics ranged from important life skills gained on the playground to opportunities for free play.

Children's play opportunities

We recently commissioned a meta study in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development, which confirmed our culture’s growing infringement on children’s play opportunities. According to the study, a long list of daily distractions competes for children’s free time: hectic family lifestyles, organized activities, T.V. and electronic devices, and academically packed school schedules.

Learn more about our research and request a download of the full whitepaper at shapedbyplay.com.

Promoting language-rich interaction on the playground

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Principals Build Playground at Pennsylvania Elementary School

Last Saturday, nearly 150 principals representing the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) came together to build a playground at Stonehurst Hills Elementary School in Upper Darby, Penn. The community service day was part of the 2017 National Principals Conference held in Philadelphia.

The playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features the new GeoPlex™ climbing panels as well as various ground-level climbers, overhead ladders, and bridges and balancing activities. In addition to building the school playground, principals landscaped, painted and participated in other beautification projects at the school.

As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the build. This is the ninth year that we’ve partnered with NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school. Learn more about the NAESP Annual Conference and save the date: July 9-11, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.

Play shapes children into successful adults

Friendship

Children’s early experiences and the settings they inhabit play a powerful role in shaping the adults they will become. That’s according to a meta-study we recently commissioned in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development.

Our goal with the meta-study was to understand how children’s play behavior on school and community playgrounds contributes to whole-child health and development. The study aggregates and analyzes key findings from some of the most influential studies on children and play. Request a copy of the full research whitepaper at shapedbyplay.com.

We believe that play and playgrounds help children learn leadership, persistence, competition, bravery, support and empathy. And it’s play experiences that help shape kids into thinkers, dreamers and leaders. Watch our video below that brings the WHY
of what we do to life.

Now welcoming preschoolers to join the band

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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.

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Guest Blog: Inspiring creative play among kids

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In 2016, we introduced Smart Play®: Venti™, a smartly designed playstructure that packs 20 exciting activities into its compact size. Today, we’re happy to have Tory Roff, concept designer at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger discussing how he and the product development team created the newest addition to our Smart Play line of playstructures.

The idea for the Smart Play line of playstructures was more an ethos about playgrounds as a whole… about creating a cohesive play environment. The criteria for this playground solution was a small footprint and budget, but a desire to serve a large population. So, we started with a blank slate without any rules, and asked ourselves how to design an environment that invites a dynamic play experience.

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The design started with the Cargo Net and strategically set the height of it so there is room for play underneath, allowing it to work as a trampoline above and it also acts as a hub for the rest of the play space. We built out from there in respect to circuits and routes so there are different ways to engage the whole of the system. Graduated challenge is built into Smart Play: Venti so that kids with a higher skill level can find challenges and still have a way to invent from it.

We spent a lot of time in the model space—virtual and scale models—working out the dimensions of the structure to really understand how every piece could be doing more. In modular playgrounds, a fire pole is always a fire pole. But good design considers what programming is happening around the fire pole so that kids can create another route and link two events as a cohesive experience rather than a series of segmented happenings. And that’s what’s happening with Smart Play: Venti. The Cabin Climber is an interior club house and an exterior ladder. The pods on the Cargo Net are a way-finding option through the structure, but also a place to stop and hang out. The Belt Hammock is a space for lounging, but also an escape route—it’s not big, it’s not obvious, but it is there.

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I was able to talk with students at Birchview Elementary School while they played, and they talked about their friend, Michael, who uses a mobility device. They were excited that he can actually use this equipment, and how it’s his favorite on the playground. Because the design is less scripted, there’s less expectation of how a user actually engages it. Smart Play: Venti allows for more natural inclusion through the addition of many access points and a centralized hangout location, which was one of our primary goals during the design process.

There is enough variety of activities in the playstructure so that kids feel like they can fill in the blank however they want. As designers, we had ideas and hopes of how everything would play out. But you have to engage it from a place of humility and know that there isn’t such a thing as intended use. Kids are infinitely more creative than we are, so it’s important that we give them a platform to express that.

Case Study: Smart playground design

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Client: Birchview Elementary School, Plymouth, Minn.

Designers: Tory Roff and Tom Keller, concept designers at Landscape Structures

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Goal: Create a modern design aesthetic on the playground to match the recently updated school building

Solution: Birchview Elementary School’s Principal Sam Fredrickson chose to install the Smart Play®: Venti® playstructure because of its modern aesthetic and the fact that it would accommodate an entire classroom. Smart Play: Venti packs 20 activities—from nets and slides to belts and climbers—into its design, and its compact size requires less space and surfacing material than typical playgrounds. Even more, the playground is designed using a smart use of materials, and provides challenges that promote physical development and strategic thinking among students.

Read more about how Birchview Elementary School brought play and design into the 21st Century with the installation of their new school playground equipment.