Meeting the needs of toddlers and preschoolers on the playground

Centre

It’s important to keep the developmental needs of toddlers and preschoolers in mind when you’re designing playgrounds for your childcare facility or school. Playgrounds for young kids not only help them build their senses, and motor and cognitive skills, but they also teach them about cooperation and social imaginative play.

Keep the following five considerations in mind when designing early childhood playgrounds:

  1. Interaction Interactive playground features allow kids to get firsthand experience of the principle of cause-and-effect.
  2. Sensory Playgrounds should provide children a wealth of different tactile experiences, which can come from play with textured surfaces and by incorporating natural materials like sand and water.
  3. Challenge Play environments with developmentally appropriate challenges and puzzle-like features can help instill critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
  4. Imagination Children should be able to use various components of the playground to express their creativity and to invent imaginative scenarios.
  5. Independence Playground structures should allow kids to feel independent through solo play, which fosters confidence and creativity without sacrificing safety.

Find more resources for your daycare of preschool playground including ways to keep your playground safe, information on fundraising and playground grants, and some of our key partnerships at playlsi.com.

Guest Blog: Inspiring creative play among kids

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In 2016, we introduced Smart Play®: Venti™, a smartly designed playstructure that packs 20 exciting activities into its compact size. Today, we’re happy to have Tory Roff, concept designer at Landscape Structures, as our guest blogger discussing how he and the product development team created the newest addition to our Smart Play line of playstructures.

The idea for the Smart Play line of playstructures was more an ethos about playgrounds as a whole… about creating a cohesive play environment. The criteria for this playground solution was a small footprint and budget, but a desire to serve a large population. So, we started with a blank slate without any rules, and asked ourselves how to design an environment that invites a dynamic play experience.

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The design started with the Cargo Net and strategically set the height of it so there is room for play underneath, allowing it to work as a trampoline above and it also acts as a hub for the rest of the play space. We built out from there in respect to circuits and routes so there are different ways to engage the whole of the system. Graduated challenge is built into Smart Play: Venti so that kids with a higher skill level can find challenges and still have a way to invent from it.

We spent a lot of time in the model space—virtual and scale models—working out the dimensions of the structure to really understand how every piece could be doing more. In modular playgrounds, a fire pole is always a fire pole. But good design considers what programming is happening around the fire pole so that kids can create another route and link two events as a cohesive experience rather than a series of segmented happenings. And that’s what’s happening with Smart Play: Venti. The Cabin Climber is an interior club house and an exterior ladder. The pods on the Cargo Net are a way-finding option through the structure, but also a place to stop and hang out. The Belt Hammock is a space for lounging, but also an escape route—it’s not big, it’s not obvious, but it is there.

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I was able to talk with students at Birchview Elementary School while they played, and they talked about their friend, Michael, who uses a mobility device. They were excited that he can actually use this equipment, and how it’s his favorite on the playground. Because the design is less scripted, there’s less expectation of how a user actually engages it. Smart Play: Venti allows for more natural inclusion through the addition of many access points and a centralized hangout location, which was one of our primary goals during the design process.

There is enough variety of activities in the playstructure so that kids feel like they can fill in the blank however they want. As designers, we had ideas and hopes of how everything would play out. But you have to engage it from a place of humility and know that there isn’t such a thing as intended use. Kids are infinitely more creative than we are, so it’s important that we give them a platform to express that.

Collaborating to improve playgrounds citywide

Work is underway at playgrounds all around Washington, D.C. The more than 30 playground renovations are part of an initiative of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) known as Play DC. Washington D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has allocated $35 million to the playground improvement project.

Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE)

Rosedale Recreation Center (1701 Gales Street NE)

The first of the completed playgrounds, located at Rosedale Recreation Center, celebrated its grand opening in late May. The playground offers a fully inclusive play experience for children and families, and it was designed to mimic many of the monuments located near the National Mall. Façades of the White House, U.S. Capitol, Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument give the playground a truly signature look.

Palisades Recreation Center (5200 Sherrier Place NW)

Palisades Recreation Center (5200 Sherrier Place NW)

Another amazing project that’s part of Play DC is at the Palisades Recreation Center. The playground offers a Native American-themed play structure that pays tribute to the Potomac River settlement. And keeping in mind the whole community, planners included the HealthBeat® Outdoor Fitness System for ages 13+. “We opened that playground on July 4,” said Bridget Stesney, chief operating officer at DPR, “and it has been packed every day since!”

Noyes Recreation Center (Franklin Street NE & 10th Street NE)

Noyes Recreation Center (Franklin Street NE & 10th Street NE)

In July, DPR celebrated playground grand openings at Noyes Recreation Center and Fort Stanton Recreation Center on July 19 and 20, respectively. The Noyes playground was inspired by nature and includes lots of climbing rocks, while two play structures at Fort Stanton offer a fort theme for lots of imaginative play.

Fort Stanton Recreation Center (1812 Erie Street SE)

Fort Stanton Recreation Center (1812 Erie Street SE)

DPR is hosting grand openings regularly—the next one is happening Monday, Aug. 12, at the Raymond Recreation Center. And when they’re not celebrating grand openings, they’re celebrating ground breakings. The entire DPR team is excited to be able to renovate the playgrounds citywide, and hope that they will become spaces where all generations can come together to be active, have fun and play.

Supporting inclusive play

As many of you are aware, all of us at Landscape Structures are focused on providing playgrounds where all children and families can play together. While we’ve always created play experiences that are accessible and age appropriate, in 2010, we began focusing on providing a higher level of inclusive play. That includes providing sensory-stimulating playground components.
 
To continue our efforts in supporting truly inclusive playgrounds, we’ve introduced three new products–the Color Splash Panel™, Rain Sound Wheel Panel™ and Roller Table™. These products will welcome children of all abilities while developing gross motor skills, encouraging imaginative play and giving them a “just right” amount of sensory stimulation.
 

L to R: Rain Wheel Sound Panel, Roller Table and Color Splash Panel