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.
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.
During the global pandemic, children and families have been eagerly waiting to get outside and back to the playground. And as many communities reopen their parks and playgrounds, we’re here to support you in your efforts to Play Healthy™. That’s why we’ve pulled together resources from our partners, which provide guidance to ensure the reopening of play spaces is done safely and swiftly. Additionally, city leaders will find product offerings to support their efforts of keeping the community healthy.
There’s a lot of information out there about reopening playgrounds, so we’ve curated some of the key resources released by our partners including KABOOM!, NRPA and NAESP. Here you’ll find actionable guidelines for returning to play equitably, a webinar on safely reopening play spaces, as well as tips, best practices and professional resources for park and school professionals. And if you’re at home for distance learning or other reasons, we’ve pulled together innovative ideas for kids and families to stay active and playing.
In addition to the above resources for reopening playgrounds, we have product offerings to support your community’s health:
Return to play safely with the new Play Healthy Hand Sanitizer Station! With this ADA-compliant Sanitizer Station, all park and playground visitors will have access to hand sanitizer before and after play. In addition to holding up to one gallon of sanitizer to require less frequent reorders from your sanitizer supplier, the graphics on the container can be customized with your logo, tagline or your own pictorial instructions.
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 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 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.
Earlier this year, the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF) awarded more than $100,000 to 17 outstanding students for its 2020 scholarship season. The scholarships and fellowships support the next generation of designers by rewarding superior student performance, encouraging diversity, supporting original research and assisting students with unmet financial need.
One of those awards is the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship, which was created by Cofounder and Chairman of Landscape Structures, Steve King, FASLA, and the inventor of the continuous play concept.
The purpose of the scholarship is to recognize a student who has high potential in the design of play environments. This student must show an interest in the value of integrating playgrounds into parks, schools and other play environments and understand the significant social and educational value of play. Key qualities in the student receiving the Scholarship are creativity, openness to innovation, and a demonstrated interest in park and playground planning.
This year’s recipient of the Steven G. King Play Environments Scholarship is Allyson Fairweather. This past May, Allyson received a Master’s of Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and is working part-time at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects. We were happy to sit down with Allyson earlier this summer to hear more about her interest in landscape architecture, and the project she submitted as part of her scholarship application.
Last spring, Allyson took a research class and was interested in studying if there was a relationship between an adult affinity for nature and how much time that adult spent playing in nature as a child.
“I was excited to discover that there is evidence to suggest that children that play outdoors in nature exhibit more environmentally responsible behaviors, greater nature inquiry, great awareness of ecological process and greater environmental stewardship,” Allyson explained.
In her research, the term “nature playscape” popped up a lot. She learned that a nature playscape is an outdoor play space that is specifically designed to connect children to the natural environment and included elements such as water, plants, soil and incorporated wild life.
“As a child, I played outside all the time,” Allyson shared. “I was always on my hands and knees in the dirt playing with bugs, collecting flowers and leaves, and running around in my parents’ garden. I have more memories of that than I do hanging out on a swing set. And now as an adult, I love the outdoors. So that’s what sparked my interest in this subject.”
Through her connection to adjunct professor and Principal at Wright Ostermier Landscape Architects, Emily Wright, Allyson was made aware of a playground redesign project at The Bement School, a small, co-ed day and boarding school for kindergarten through grade 9 in historic Deerfield, Mass. The school, nestled below the Pocumtuck Range and flanked by the Deerfield River, has a beautiful, rural environment. Their existing playground was outdated and disconnected—scattered throughout campus. And upon further conversations, Allyson learned that the playground equipment wasn’t challenging enough for the range of students using it.
Allyson met with the playground committee—two school administrators and a teacher—a few different times. Initially, she visited the site to understand the space. Then she held two workshops—one for the playground committee and a second one for a small group of students in grades 3, 4, 5 and 7.
“The ultimate goal of these workshops was to understand how the play space was used, what the school community liked or didn’t like, and their vision of how it could be improved,” explained Allyson. “We prompted the adults with questions for discussion, but for the students we planned a more interactive exercise using a printed map of campus and inspirational photos. The students used stickers to vote for favorite pictures of nature play spaces.”
Allyson explained that the kids’ favorite photo was a playstructure embedded into a hillside because it appeared challenging and the students could imagine many creative ways to play there.
“A large part of this project was engaging with The Bement School community,” Allyson said. “They loved being a part of this project and kept asking when we were going to come back.”
After compiling all of the feedback into a report, Allyson started laying out the design of the nature playscape.
“One of the first things I did with this design was start with a continuous accessible path that circulated through the entire play space to create a boundary that unifies the play area. I tried to accommodate a range of ages and abilities in the play equipment. We imagined the playground would be created out of locally sourced black locusts because it’s really strong, sturdy wood that doesn’t splinter.”
Of course, they were tasked with blending the nature-inspired elements with more traditional playground features like foursquare and basketball courts, and swings. They included those elements but oriented them at angles that give different views of the soccer fields, the play area and the surrounding landscape.
“The committee wanted to include a tire swing as it helped demonstrate one of The Bement School’s core values, collaboration,” Allyson explained. “Older kids help younger kids up onto the tire swing so it presents an opportunity for different age groups to interact and build friendships. We really appreciated their observation and positioned the tire swing in the space between two different play zones so both age groups can meet in the middle.”
In addition, it was important to include quiet areas for older kids. Picnic tables and boulders were positioned throughout the play space to offer hangout spaces. Integrated plantings, boulders and rain gardens were woven throughout the play space to extend learning to the playground.
“We presented the nature playscape to The Bement School in January 2020, and they loved it,” said Allyson. “They hope to invest in the project in the future.”
We hope to see this project come to fruition, and to see what types of playscapes Allyson completes in her future career. Congratulations, Allyson, on your scholarship!
The school playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features playground slides, climbers, and activity panels in addition to overhead events and bridges. The playground is ADA compliant and designed to welcome children of all abilities. In addition to building the playground, principal volunteers participated in landscaping, painting and other beautification projects at the school.
What an awesome day of giving for @naesp and Adams Elementary. We had a great time building the new @PlayLSI playground. It was a bummer telling the kids they had to wait 72 hours to play on it. We could see how excited they were. Thanks @DrSGeis for the recommendation. So fun! pic.twitter.com/HiZI9OqADx
As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the build. This community service day marks the 11th anniversary of our partnership with NAESP to build a playground at a deserving elementary school.
KaBOOM! is the national non-profit dedicated to ensuring all kids have great, safe places to play, and will partner with us to provide playspaces throughout communities–schools, parks, housing and beyond–to enable kids and families, regardless of zip code, to make play the easy choice. As the Partner in Play, we will serve as the primary supplier of playground equipment and partner in building playspaces in communities in need across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Learn more about our partnership with KaBOOM! here.
If you’re in the Miami and San Diego viewing areas, you may have seen our FitCore™ Extreme equipment during the American Ninja Warrior season finale on Monday, Sept. 10. The equipment appeared in a 30-second commercial during the broadcast.
FitCore Extreme sets the stage to challenge kids ages 5 to 12, teens and even adults both physically and functionally so they reach their personal best. Design an innovative outdoor obstacle course of your own or consider one of our predesigned courses:
Course for ages 5 to 12; fitness warriors will build strength while also challenging their physical and mental agility.
Course for ages 13+; invite friendly competition among teens and adults in your park, school or neighborhood gathering area.
Go extreme! Contact us today to bring a FitCore Extreme challenge course to your community.
On Sunday, more than 100 of the nation’s elementary school principals came together to build a playground at Catalina Elementary School in Orlando, Fla. The playground build is part of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) Community Service Day, which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year.
The playground was designed for students ages 5 to 12, and features playground slides, climbers, and activity panels in addition to overhead events and bridges. The playground is ADA compliant and was designed to welcome children of all abilities. In addition to building the playground, principal volunteers will do landscaping, painting, and other beautification projects at the school.
As you can see from the tweets, principals had a blast during the 10th anniversary build. Other build locations throughout the years include Tampa, Seattle, Long Beach and Compton, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Prince George’s County, Md. Learn more about the NAESP Annual Conference and save the date: July 10-12, 20198 in Spokane, Wash.
Are you looking for resources on trends affecting the playground industry? We can help! We’ve created whitepapers to help generate discussion about the importance of play in early childhood development, outdoor play during school hours, and balancing safety and challenge, and serve as a reference during future playground projects. Get details below about each of our whitepapers, and request a download today.
Shaped by Play: The Formative Role of Play and Playgrounds
Child’s play, we are learning, is not just fun and games. Children’s play behavior appears to be essential preparation for a successful adult life. We partnered with the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development to understand how behavior on school and community playgrounds contributes to whole-child development. This meta-study aggregates and analyzes key findings from some of the most influential studies on children and play.
Balancing Safety & Challenge in Playground Design
Playgrounds are a place where children can learn and grow through exploration and social interaction. However, that development can’t take place without age and developmentally appropriate challenges. Parental concern along with standards that have decreased design freedom are contributors to the lack of challenging opportunities in today’s play equipment. Finding a balance between challenge and safety is important to childhood development, and society can help determine a healthy median.
The Importance of Outdoor Play & Physical Activity During School Hours
Both outdoor physical activity and indoor classroom time are important for kids’ growth and development. School provides students with the education they need to have a successful career, and physical activity gives them a chance to stay healthy. Unfortunately, not all kids get their daily 60 minutes outside. School is a place where kids can supplement the lack of physical activity they get at home, and help kids become smarter, healthier and stronger.
Find more playground education resources including continuing education sessions and infographics at playlsi.com.
Smart Play® playstructures pack a lot of activities into compact structures, taking kids from early crawling exploration on up to active climbing and social play to a challenging course for older children. This line helps span several critical periods of childhood development, making it ideal for childcare, early learning centers, neighborhood playgrounds and schools.
Motion – 2 to 5 years
Each Smart Play playstructure makes the most efficient use of materials to create a large number of activities. For example, cut-outs from panels are used to create activity components found elsewhere on the playstructure. And the compact size of these structures requires less space and surfacing materials than typical playgrounds resulting in a lower total investment. That means Smart Play playstructures are ideal for tight spaces and tight budgets, too.
Smart Play structures are preconfigured and designed with your choice of color. All at a smart price. Lots of Smart Play options are available for kids ages 6 months to 12 years:
Nook – 6 to 23 months
Nook – 6 to 23 months
Sized right for little crawlers and early walkers, this whimsical playstructures 20 colorful activities to capture young ones’ attentions.
Loft – 2 to 5 years
As young children grow, they become ready for Loft. With language prompts and learning activities connected to early childhood curriculum goals, you’ll find plenty of interactive elements.
Fire Station – 2 to 5 years
Kids will enjoy lots of activities that teach them about fire safety and helping others in this imagination encouraging playstructure.
Market Cafe – 2 to 5 years
This farmer’s market and cafe lets little ones take turns placing meal orders, dining with friends and learning about healthy food choices.
Centre – 2 to 5 years
Connect all three playstructures–Loft, Fire Station and Market Cafe–with elevated crawl tunnels to create Centre, and enhance the fun.
Motion – 2 to 5 years
This accessible playstructure packs 16 activities into its compact size, and encourages kids to engage in social and imaginative play.
Cube – 2 to 5 years
A curated collection of interactive play events help build cognitive and motor skills for toddlers and preschoolers while they play.
Venti® – 5 to 12 years
Nets, slides, belts and climbers provide challenges that promote physical development and strategic thinking while also creating hangouts.
Venti® – 5 to 12 years
See Centre in action below, and visit playlsi.com for more details.