50 Years at Play

Many people remember the days of freestanding slides, swings and monkey bars. But in 1967, that idea of playground design advanced to interconnected play components. The revolutionary idea of combining playground activities is known as the continuous play concept, which was created by our Cofounder Steve King. As his final thesis project at Iowa State University, Steve developed a system that linked play activities together to provide a continuous challenge for children. His premise was that if kids are together on one structure, they’ll learn things that they will use in real life like social and conflict-resolution skills.

While his thesis only scored him a C+ grade, Steve took his continuous play concept to his first job as a landscape architect specializing in park planning. In 1969, he was assigned a playground design project for the City of Minneapolis where he was able to put his approach in action. His first playground was a success, which lead to more interest. And in April 1971, Steve and Barb obtained a $1,000 loan and incorporated Landscape Structures to design and build playstructures. See our company timeline here.

In an effort to provide great play experiences for kids, Landscape Structures has always been committed to innovation. Hedra®, one of our more recent inventions, allows kids to safely navigate via their own intuition and curiosity, and invent routes, games and imaginary environments. Our long-standing commitment to inclusive play is breaking barriers with the new We-Go-Swing™, the first no-transfer inclusive swing that can be integrated directly into the playground setting. Even more, the use of innovative materials and the development of colors that are truly inspired by nature is changing the world of playgrounds.

As Landscape Structures moves into its 50th year of business, we’re taking time to reflect on the power of play. We know that play and recreation has far more value than just being fun; it is essential for the health and wellbeing of communities. And that’s why our team—nearly 500 employees and the network of more than 200 playground consultants worldwide—is proud to provide unique play opportunities for all ages, abilities and backgrounds. Because no matter what’s happening in the world, we will always come back to play.

Breaking barriers with a truly inclusive swing

We are excited to announce the expansion of our inclusive playground product offerings with the introduction of the We-Go-Swing™. Designed for true inclusion, the We-Go-Swing is the first no-transfer inclusive swing that can be integrated directly into the playground setting not segregated, fenced or locked.

“Our team has worked tirelessly to innovate and create a swing that breaks literal barriers,” said Jill Moore White, full-time wheelchair user and inclusive play specialist at Landscape Structures. “The We-Go-Swing delivers an accessible, no-transfer swing option to all wheelchair users that can be on the playground alongside everyone else, allowing us to swing with our friends and help not only propel, but actually control our own motion. This innovation truly gives individuals of all abilities a chance to participate, imagine and FINALLY enjoy one of the best parts of the playground—and get swinging however we move.”

The patent-pending We-Go-Swing is the perfect inclusive solution. The spacious entry deck can be connected to a ramp for easy roll-on access, and there’s no need to transfer from a mobility device to take part in the fun. Plus, there is plenty of room for children of all ages and their caregivers to sit and/or stand together and enjoy a ride. Because the handlebars help move the swing, all users can actively contribute to the motion. With all kids on board working together, it’s a collaborative effort that builds cooperation and creates fun for everyone.

Landscape Structures has always innovated with inclusion in mind. In addition to designing WITH people with disabilities and not for, the company addresses accessibility, age and developmental appropriateness, and sensory-stimulating activity in its design philosophy. That philosophy along with its other inclusive play product innovations like the We-Go-Round™, We-Saw™, OmniSpin® spinner and Sway Fun® glider, helps bring children with and without special needs together to play, learn and grow on the playground.

See the We-Go-Swing in action below and and learn how to bring this whole new way to play for all to your community at playlsi.com.

2020 Legacy of Play contest winner supporting all-inclusive play

We’re excited to announce that the Early Risers Kiwanis Club of Worthington, Minnesota, is the winner in the 7th Annual Legacy of Play contest. The club, which will receive $25,000 in playground equipment, plans to build an all-inclusive playground at a local park—the only playground of its kind in the community of 13,000.

The club garnered community support for the project, including financial help from a local man who had polio as a child and remembered feeling left out while watching other children play. The club’s contest application noted the resident offered to transport the playground equipment at no cost to the club, using his personal trucking company equipment.

A local family whose son has Joubert Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, also supported the playground project. In a letter that accompanied the club’s contest entry, the family wrote, “Since three months old, Blaine has been in physical, occupational and speech therapy and has made some great strides in his coordination and strength. Play and peer relationships are also such important parts of development. What an all-inclusive playground will mean for us is that Blaine will be able to explore and wander the playground independently, he will have more opportunities to be engaged with other children and hopefully make a new friend.”

The family noted their child would be able to use the playground equipment independently and play with his siblings and others. “When we talk about the park with Blaine and show him pictures of what is coming, he gets excited and will give a shrieking shout of “Yay!” and then tap his chest and say, “Me too, I can do it, I can play.”

Plans call for the playground to be installed on Kiwanis One Day on Oct. 24, 2021. The club plans to begin construction on April 1 of next year, in tandem with the city’s construction of a new handicap accessible restroom facility.

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.

Play during social distancing

“Play never told me you can’t.”

Those are the words that open the second chapter of our Shaped by Play video. And now, more than ever, they ring loud and clear. While we’re all practicing social distancing and many playgrounds across the world have been closed down during the pandemic, children, families, friends and teachers are showing us that play is an invitation to be creative.

New and innovative ways to play are being created by our partners, friends and even celebrities. Check out these fun ideas to encourage play that we’ve seen throughout the world:

  1. Teach your children about landscape architecture through drawing and doodling; the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has created a free activity book for download.
  2. Think field trips are out of the question? Think again. Browse the virtual events from Discovery Education for a chance to visit amazing places for remarkable experiences. And for a learning break, take a virtual field trip to playgrounds around the world!
  3. We’re all inside with our children and families. Luckily, Too Small to Fail has curated resources to help you talk, read, sing and play your way through the day. Pick and choose the ideas that work best for your child’s age and interests, and follow his or her lead.
  4. Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration has been sharing fun ideas to stay playful throughout April; check out their #30daysofplay on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Check out Storyline Online, made available by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, and hear your favorite actors read your favorite children’s stories.
  6. Grab your paper, pencils and crayons and join Mo Willems at the Kennedy Center to explore new ways of writing and making together. All 15 episodes and downloadable activities are now available on-demand.
  7. Get creative with your environment! Design your own ninja warrior course in your backyard or see seven steps to create one inside your home.
  8. Read! In addition to reading your favorite books, check out our On the Playground digital publication that is sure to help strengthen your mind and body.
  9. Scavenger hunts are a great activity to challenge your mind while being active. And best of all, there are so many options available from Primary Playground! Browse scavenger hunts that you can do in your backyard, while you’re reading books or even one inside!
  10. Play a game of bingo. There are so many timely game boards available—work from home bingo, social distancing bingo or reading bingo. Find one that will be the most fun for your family and get playing!

During this time of quarantine, remember that imagination will never fail us, words will never hurt us and play will always shape us. Keep playing, and share your quarantine play tips with us using #shapedbyplay. Bonus points for photos or video!

The best of the 2010s

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We are kicking off a new decade in 2020. But before we do, we wanted to reflect on the past one as it has been filled with play! See the best of the 2010s in the form of our most read blog posts.

1. Limited editions
I’m terrible at keeping up with current politically correct labels. It’s a real problem in my life because as a wheelchair user, you’d think I’d be an authority on it. However, I’m not sure what the term is this week. It moves from handicapped to wheelchair-bound, to disabled or special needs. Differently-abled. Handi-capable. I’ve heard it all.

2. Five considerations for your toddler and preschool playgrounds
To help you create a dream playground for your daycare or preschool that focuses on toddlers’ developmental needs in mind, we created a fun infographic.

3. Spreading the message of inclusion
We’re working with Shane’s Inspiration to promote the animated short film, “Ian,” which aims to help children understand disability and spread the message of inclusion.

4. How to design nature playground environments
Not many of us would disagree that technology is great—it provides convenience, fun and connection to everything. However, all of that technology has also changed the way children play. Kids are spending more time inside, in front of screens and they’re being less active.

5. Case study: Play reimagined
The giant 1950’s microphone-inspired tower heralds the horizon, but the built-in play value is what really makes this park honoring local radio DJ Paco Sanchez truly extraordinary. Brilliant colors and bold presence aside, it’s the imaginative use of the musical references that do the hard work of delivering dynamic play.

6. Imagine the possibilities of your splash pad
Looking for inspiration for your next spray park or splash pad design? Look no further. Aquatix by Landscape Structures has pulled together a sampling of featured projects that have been designed and installed throughout the country. The water park designs highlight new product innovations as well as classic water play activities that create remarkable aqua play environments.

7. Connecting kids to nature with natural playground designs
When it comes to themed playground designs, it’s all about natural playgrounds. At least that’s what experts are saying according to the article, “Let your Imagination Run Wild” in the February edition of Parks & Recreation magazine. Our very own Scott Roschi, creative director, says nature-themed playground equipment is so popular because community leaders are looking for ways to reconnect kids to the natural world around them.

8. First inclusive playground opens in Russia
On Monday, Feb. 10, we celebrated from afar the grand opening of the first inclusive playground in Russia. The inclusive playground was installed in association with the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.

9. Tell a story with your playground colors
You may have seen that we introduced eight new colors to make your playground designs pop, blend in or tell a unique story. But with all the infinite number of colors available, how did we choose peacock, buttercup, sky, grass, berry, lagoon, paprika and carbon?

10. Are splash pads the new public pool
Geographical areas that experience their version of “warm weather”, whether that be a few scorching months of summer, or relatively mild temperatures nearly year round, are most likely familiar with the concept of a nearby cool-off zone. For many decades, that has meant a community pool where families and nearby residents could gather to seek relief from the sun and expend warm-weather energy.

Thank you for tuning in to Together We Play over the past decade. We’re looking forward to an exciting year of play; tell us below what you’d like to see more of in 2020 and we’ll do our best to share it here.

Planning an Inclusive Splash Pad

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Splash pads are a great way to make aquatic play accessible. Even though splash pads may be accessible to those with differing abilities, this does not make them fully inclusive inherently. Designing bigger and more exciting splash pads does not necessarily make a splash pad more inclusive. In fact, bigger and more exciting often adds barriers for some individuals. Designing for inclusion requires extra consideration  in the design process, but typically very little consideration for extra budget or maintenance.

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Splash pads should be designed as an aquatic play environment comprised of features that maximize the sensory and cognitive stimulation for children of all physical and mental abilities and is designed to encourage all children to play together and with the same features. Play features that are wheelchair height accessible and adequate turn-around space between elements are important aspects to consider in design. Other considerations should be made for how children with autism or other sensory differences may approach such a space: is there a balance between intense and more gentle water play? How will the various sounds and sights affect those playing in this space?

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From the design of the splash pad feature, to the methods of accessing the site, be conscious of barriers to access and address them early in the design process. For instance, assure that there are adequate handicapped parking spaces and that the path from parking to the splash pad location does not contain any obstacles.

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All splash pads should be developed utilizing a rule of thumb for one child every 25 square feet of active water spray. Splash pads are an excellent opportunity for park agencies to develop safe play areas that encourage people of differing ages and abilities to experience water play.

To learn more about Splash Pad products, visit the Aquatix website.

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.

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.