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.

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.

Limited editions

We’re excited to have Jill Moore, marketing specialist at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger today. Read on to learn a little more about this North Carolina native, and be sure to check back as Jill will be a regular contributor. In fact, you should subscribe so that you’ll receive notifications of all our new posts by email.

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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.

When people ask me what I’d rather be called, I typically just go with “Jill works just fine.” Otherwise, I think everything else carries a flimsy stigma to it. Disabled, handicapped, special needs—it’s boring and it sounds lesser. We’re all differently-abled. Every time I get called “handi-capable,” a part of me can’t help but cringe, and I’m certainly not bound to my wheelchair by any means. I used to giggle when little kids asked me if I sleep in my wheelchair, but I am astounded by the amount of people that I encounter who believe this is a permanent setup. A wheelchair is just another mobility aid. It’s closer to a pair of shoes or glasses than a permanent implant. That, however, is a rant for a different day.

I was born with Spina Bifida. Essentially, this means I was born with a hole in my spine, which caused the lower half of my body to develop differently than my peers. At age 7, I popped a squat into a manual wheelchair and I stuck with it from then on. I’ve learned, however, that using a wheelchair makes me appear different enough to make people want to throw a label on me. I’ve never thought much about what I’d prefer that label to be until recently, and it started with a playground.

Since starting my journey in the world of playgrounds two years ago, I’ve met some incredible people with incredible stories. They all have one thing in common—an astounding penchant for spreading play to every single child. These are parents, friends, grandparents, community advocates—people of all walks of life who are taking the time to teach all children that they matter. This story comes from Buffalo, N.Y.

It was a snowy day in November. I was beyond tired, totally not wearing a warm enough jacket, hadn’t had nearly enough snacks that day, and if you ask me—it’s not supposed to snow until midnight on Dec. 24, and not a moment sooner. A colleague and I were scoping out an inclusive playground in the area. We pulled in to see a man painstakingly removing snow from each of the shade structures on the playground. Those aren’t usually kept up during the winter due to snow weighing them down, so for someone to be religiously removing the snow seemed like a huge labor of love in itself. We pulled in and greeted the man, and I soon learned him to be the head and the heart behind the playground itself—Jason Evchich.

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Jason is one of those people that speaks with contagious enthusiasm. The first thing that he told us was that he hated the term “special needs.” I had to agree with him on that one, but I had to find out why that term irked him so much. Turns out, Jason has three kids. Two of which, Mason and Matthew, were born with an undiagnosed form of what I later learned to be known as Hypomyelinating Leukodystrophy. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry—I had to do some research of my own. It’s so rare that it doesn’t even formally have a name—just a number. This condition hindered their development to the point that they can’t walk, talk or join their older sister, McKenna, in play.

He hated the idea of his children being stuck with the “special needs” label just because they had to move differently—and even more, he hated the idea of them being left on the outskirts of play. With that, he introduced us to his preferred term, “limited edition.” When we hear something is limited edition, we don’t think it lesser. We think of it as unique, special, one of a kind, probably expensive, and any number of alternative cool titles before we hit the idea that it’s different in a negative way.

Jason was SO passionate about bringing play to his children that he was ready to build a public playground in his backyard for the whole neighborhood to enjoy. His wife wasn’t entirely on board with their backyard being the neighborhood hot spot, so they compromised and built Mason’s Mission just across the street. With the idea of an inclusive playground for all of his children to play together and make new friends in mind, Mason’s Mission was founded and a force was rallied to build an inclusive playground so that children of all abilities could join in play.

It’s safe to say that all of us are Limited Edition in some variety. Nobody fits into the perfect box of a “normal human.” We’re all unique. We’re all special. We’re all one-of-a-kind, and I have to say, Limited Edition was finally a label I was pretty excited to say I belonged to.

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 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.

Creating a Community Splash Pad: Benefits and Pre-Planning

Planning a community splash pad can be an intimidating process. There are many aspects to consider in order to make the investment a success. In this series, we will be offering guidance on what to expect, steps to take, and elements to consider during the planning process!

There are many benefits to investing in a community splash pad. One of the long-term benefits is the revenue that residents and non-residents bring into the community along with the added appeal of living in that area. Attracting people means attracting money and patronage to the community. Patrons eat at restaurants, go to movies, buy gas, and go shopping whether they are living there or visiting. Adding to inclusive play opportunities for children is another important benefit. People who are looking for inclusive areas that are built with their children in mind can appreciate design intended for their kids’ physical and mental needs. Inclusive water play may be one of the only public areas that caters to all ages and abilities. Overall, splash pads can benefit a community both socially and economically.

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Pre-Planning Steps

Progressive cities should develop a coordinated system of parks and open space to meet the recreation aspects of urban life. This system, when properly planned, will maintain a consistent ratio between the park system and the developing population. The system will also develop a program consistent with the specific needs of the population. Finally, the system will develop a plan for future development to meet the demands of a growing population.

During the planning and development phase public officials should have an in depth knowledge of the communities needs based on resources, age demographics, future community growth, maintenance capabilities, expansion, location and funding. This should be accomplished based on past history and future expectations.

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History of the Park & Recreation Department: The first section of a plan gives the community a historical context in which to view the department and provides details as to how and why city leaders determined the need and created the department. This section is relevant to the plan because it allows the plan user and community to discover the progress which has already been made in parks and recreation in the city.

Introduction to a Master Plan: This section briefly describes that many progressive cities adopt coordinated parks system plans and explains the purposes of the plan. The section provides a preview of the contents of the overall master plan. Plus, it will define the overall park system by type and size facility. It will then project future needs both in terms of land and physical fixtures. Finally, it will provide a basis for a long-range capital improvements program, and provide for flexibility in the design and construction of individual parks.

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Analysis of the City: A section detailing information on demographics, projected population, and observed needs of the city’s existing and future population. This is an important section of the plan because it details who will be utilizing the splash pad in the future and what their recreational needs may be.

Profile of the Existing Parks and Recreation System: This section details the size, location, and facilities of each park, and all programs currently sponsored by local sports associations as well as the parks department. This section is important to the plan in that it provides information in which a sort of “state of the system” or status of the parks system may be ascertained.

These sections provide a complete overview of the scope of a recreation facility project such as a splash pad and can be referenced by all those involved for a more cohesive understanding of the details of the project.

Stay tuned for the next installment of in our series about creating a community splash pad!

Inclusivity Versus Accessibility

Though inclusivity and accessibility are concepts used interchangeably, there are in fact many differences between the two ideas. Landscape Structures proudly boasts of inclusive design in their products- but what is the difference?

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Understanding what makes accessibility and inclusivity different comes down to considering the user of the design.

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Accessibility matches the need of a user in a singular context. Accessible design is specific in that it considers a single context, problem, user, and experience. A resource may be inaccessible to one group in the way that it is accessible to another. It removes a roadblock from one group’s path.

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Inclusivity creates an environment or experience designed so that it is usable by people of a variety of abilities, in many scenarios, alongside differently abled people. Inclusivity provides the tools for a user to choose the experience that best fits their situation and ability.

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Landscape Structures believes in creating play experiences for children of all physical and mental abilities, in all aspects of physical, social and sensory play. Inclusive play is an open invitation for children to learn alongside those both similar and different from them- shaping the next generation of leaders and thinkers for the better.

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To learn more about inclusive design or find an inclusive playground near you, visit our website.

Introducing: The We-Go-Round™!

Movement and socialization are both important aspects of play, which is why we decided to put them together with the creation of the We-Go-Round! Our new, inclusive We-Go-Round allows for children of all abilities to experience all the fun of a classic merry go round with none of the restrictions. The design features strategic seating that accommodates wheelchairs (even those without a wheel-locking mechanism) as well as  your choice of two or three benches and room to stand!

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The center handhold lets riders control their own spinning speed while teaching them about their own movement and speed limitations. Its circular shape is perfect for socializing with everyone inside! Built in resistance mechanisms maintain a reasonable speed when being turned from the outside.

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Rides like the We-Go-Round allow for children to learn valuable information about their play experiences. The spinning motion develops balance and motor planning while engaging their visual and vestibular systems. Learning about the way their body moves through space advances their sensory experience- and this physical education is open to children of all abilities through the We-Go-Round™!