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.

Encouraging play and communication on the playground

Playground design has been evolving to become more inclusive and inviting for children and their caregivers of all abilities. Play is not only fun, but it’s also an essential part of a child’s development and critical for the successful growth of both the brain and the body.

That’s why we’ve drawn on the expertise of child development professionals to help us explore new avenues that allow for all children to fully participate in play together. Our work doesn’t just focus on playstructures and activities that are accessible to children with physical disabilities, but also those who may have sight or hearing impairment, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities.

Symbol Communication Sign

For individuals who are non-verbal, speech-challenged or early-learners—or perhaps are non-English speaking—their inability to share ideas, feelings and needs can be frustrating and may keep them from socializing with others at the playground. That’s why we’ve introduced the new Symbol Communication Sign to be placed at the entrance to play areas, which will ensure every child, family member and caregiver is allowed to further their expression, interaction and communication.

With guidance from experts in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Inclusive Design, we developed the Symbol Communication Sign to include pictures representing nouns/pronouns, verbs, feelings, activities, and playground events as well as letters and numbers. The graphics are universally understandable and easy to use, arranged left-to-right as one would build a sentence and use industry-standard colors representing different types of words. The DigiFuse® graphics are printed on both sides of the Symbol Communication Sign.

We’re committed to providing play experiences for children of all abilities. Our inclusive play design philosophy, which addresses the accessibility, age and developmental appropriateness, and sensory-stimulating activity, and other inclusive play product innovations like the We-Go-Swing®, We-Go-Round®, We-saw™, OmniSpin® spinner and Sway Fun® glider, we’re helping bring children with and without special needs together to play, learn and grow on the playground. Learn more at playlsi.com.

Scale the Smart Play® Summit™

Smart Play® Summit™

Summit™ is the newest addition to the Smart Play® family of adventure-inspiring designs. Kids ages 5 to 12 will search for hidden animal tracks and camping gear as they trek across the laser-cut climbing decks and three-dimensional nets. Plus, the cool color gradation matches kids’ ascents. Bring the mountains to your play area with this condensed-footprint, giant-play-value playstructure that welcomes crowds of all abilities for fun, imaginative play.

Our Smart Play playstructures offer social play and challenging adventures for kids ages 5 to 12. See below for even more innovative themes and concepts available:

  • Billows® – From the Alpine® Slide to the twists of the Flex Climber and Mobius® Climber, kids will find a plethora of ways to bounce, climb and slide.
  • BeachComber® – Kids will love creating seaworthy adventures as they sail across the Tidal Wave Climber and wind their way down curvy slides.
  • Tree Tops® – With wiggly bridges, an O-Zone® 3-ring climber and two different slides, kids will love navigating through this abstract playstructure.

Don’t forget about the toddlers and preschoolers of your community. Our pre-designed Smart Play structures are developmentally appropriate for each age group. See the coordinating options for kids ages 2 to 5 below, and browse all the designs at playlsi.com/smart-play:

  • Breeze™ – Kids can crawl, walk and climb their way up to the whimsical hot-air balloon ride among the clouds.
  • Motion – Kids ages 2 to 5 will find 16 activities including a race track, inclined tunnel and more to keep them entertained.
  • Sprig™ – This playstructure delivers a foliage-themed Marble Panel® and leaf slider all beneath a canopy of SkyWays® shade.
Smart Play Digital Catalog

Learn all about our Smart Play family of playstructures in the Smart Play digital catalog. In addition to detailed information and designer-curated color combinations, this digital publication shows these compact playstructures in action. Experience it all in the 2022 Smart Play Digital Catalog, then contact us to get started on your next playground design.

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.

Deliver maximum impact with Quantis™

Quantis™ A.3

Meet the newest members of the Quantis™ family of playground net climbers! Quantis A.2 + Quantis A.3 deliver an open format playscape for kids ages 5 to 12, which encourages them to navigate to the Oodle® seat at the structure’s core, balance across the SwiggleKnots™ Bridge or tackle the overhead netting and molecular-style belting. Best of all, the preconfigured, ADA-compliant Quantis A.2 + A.3 are loaded with dynamic play in a compact design.

Quantis™ A.2

In addition to the new Quantis playground designs mentioned above, we have pulled together a sampling of design ideas and custom concepts. You’ll find the original Quantis playground design, Quantis 8.1, which delivers net climbers, belting, swings, gliders and so much more for an infinite play experience. A variety of net structure concepts, tower structure concepts, topography concepts and nature-inspired concepts are sure to help inspire your upcoming playground projects. Browse all the custom concepts here.

When you’re ready to get started on your playground design or want more custom playground ideas, contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.

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.

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.