The best of 2022

2022 has been an amazing year… filled with great people, designs and products. See the best of 2022 in the form of our most-read blog posts.

1. Congratulations to Penchura, our 2021 Rep of the Year
Penchura, our playground consultant covering Michigan and Ohio, was chosen as Landscape Structures’ 2021 Rep Organization of the Year.

2. All Together: Design Matters. Play Matters More
We’ll collaborate with you to create a well-designed playground that brings everyone together. Find inspiration in our 2023 PLAY Book.

3. A cost-effective, simple approach to building community splash pads
Our AquaSmart™ Packages are self-contained splash pads that are powered by HydroLogix®, which eliminates the need for costly electrical installation and allows you to install one just about anywhere.

4. Delivering adventure with playground towers
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.

5. 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.

Thank you for tuning in to Together We Play in 2022. We’re looking forward to an exciting year of play; tell us below what you’d like to see more of in 2023 and we’ll do our best to share it here.

Deliver social and cooperative play opportunities with playground spinners

Modern day merry-go-rounds attract kids of all ages and abilities. But why are kids so fascinated with spinning activities? Because it’s one of the core movements that engages the vestibular system. When a child twists and turns on playground spinners their brain receives signals to help control movement and balance. Even more, playground spinners deliver opportunities for social and cooperative play.

We understand that kids discover their world and how to be successful in it through sensory play. And the more sensory-rich play experiences kids are presented with, the more they can fully develop a wide array of skills necessary to engage, change and impact the world around them.

Adding multi-user spinners to playground designs is a great way to expand play spaces and freshen up the play experience. Best of all, while kids whirl and twirl their day away, they’re developing an array of motor, cognitive and social/emotional skills.

Try placing one spinner or multiple together to create a play zone filled with thrilling experiences that are great for kids of all ages and abilities. The Revi™ products including the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner are a great option for this. Designed with inclusion in mind, all three Revi products are designed at transfer height, offer multiple ways to hang on, and provide plenty of room for kids of all abilities to lay down, sit, kneel or stand as they experiment with the motion.

When children play together, they develop in ways that they couldn’t alone. That’s why we develop multi-user spinners that combine the sensory input of spinning and social interaction among peers. Even better, many of these products like the We-Go-Round®, OmniSpin® Spinner and WhirlyQ® Spinner are inclusive to individuals of all ages and abilities.

Learn more about how certain types of play may shape children’s development by requesting our whitepaper, Shaped by Play: How Play Types Impact Development. Our observational research with the University of Minnesota examines whether certain types of developmentally significant play are best supported by certain playground components.

Two Kiwanis Clubs Named Co-Winners in the Legacy of Play Contest

Children of all abilities in Minnesota and Florida will soon have all-inclusive playgrounds at parks in their communities to play on thanks to their local Kiwanis clubs. The Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club in Albert Lea, Minn., and the Kiwanis Club of South Lake in Clermont, Fla., are co-winners of the ninth annual Legacy of Play contest, sponsored by Kiwanis International and Landscape Structures Inc. Each Kiwanis club will receive US$25,000 in inclusive playground equipment.

Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club’s inclusive playground design

Albert Lea, Minn., about 90-miles south of the Twin Cities, is home to nearly 20,000 people. And while the city has many great parks and playgrounds, none provided children of all abilities a place to play together. After learning of a parent group working to bring an inclusive playground to their community, the Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club committed to helping. The vision for the inclusive playground is for children of all abilities to play side-by-side with their peers, deliver a rich, sensory environment that encourages children to grow and learn at their own pace, and allow everyone to access every point of the space.

Kiwanis Club of South Lake’s inclusive playground design

The City of Clermont, Fla., a community just 22-miles west of Orlando, is known for being home to the United States Triathlon National Training Center. With the city motto being “Choice of Champions,” the Kiwanis Club of South Lake felt they needed to help children of all abilities feel like champions on the playground with an inclusive playground, which had been lacking in the community. Kiwanis and community members envision children of all abilities and their families easily accessing the playground as well as freestanding playground components like the We-Go-Round®, plus there will be activities that enhance sensory, cognitive, motor, social and emotional skills through sensory play panels and Rhapsody® Outdoor Musical Instruments.

Both clubs saw an outpouring of community support for the projects from the beginning, but particularly when it came time for the public vote on Facebook. Additionally, both clubs are working closely with the City of Albert Lea and City of Clermont, respectively, as well as have other strong partnerships with community organizations to ensure that the inclusive playground projects are installed and ready for children by 2024.

This year marks the ninth year of the contest sponsored by Kiwanis and Landscape Structures. The contest’s goal is to encourage Kiwanis clubs to bring play and playgrounds to their communities, providing a legacy of play for future generations.

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.