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.

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.

Introducing endless thrills with Revi™ Products

We’re excited to introduce the Revi™ products, which includes the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner. Each of these products, explained below, were created using a single sculptural form to deliver three different and thrilling play experiences.

The ReviRock Bouncer for ages 2 to 12 position on a large center spring bounces and rocks in all directions.

Designed for ages 5 to 12, the center wheel of the ReviWheel Spinner allows kids to spin themselves around and around.

Deliver an adventure in physics for kids ages 5 to 12 with the the ReviWhirl Spinner by offering spinning through perpetual motion or a push from the outside.

The Revi products were designed with inclusion in mind. All three 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. Even more, the ReviWheel and ReviWhirl spinners include a proprietary dynamic speed control to keep spinning at a fun yet controllable speed.

Adding freestanding play components is a great way to expand existing play spaces and freshen up the play experience. Placing one or all the Revi products together with other freestanding spinners, the ZipKrooz® or a selection of playground swings creates a play zone filled with thrilling experiences great for kids of all ages and abilities.

See the new Revi products in action and learn more about each one at playlsi.com/revi-play/.

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.

Supporting state parks and recreation associations with 13 years of scholarships

We are excited to announce the 13th Annual State Speaker Scholarship Program has launched! The 2021-2022 program will support the appearances of keynote speakers at state parks and recreation associations’ annual or regional conferences. State associations that are chosen will receive a scholarship of $2,500. Applications are being accepted through June 30, 2022; submit your application today!

Recipients of the 2021-2022 scholarship will receive $2,500 to support conference speakers whose messages are focused on topics related to play, inclusion, equity, urban parks planning or other professional development. In addition to the $2,500 scholarship, Landscape Structures will provide one complimentary Play Healthy™ Hand Sanitizer Station to each state association awarded a scholarship to raffle off, donate or share with a member.

Since the scholarship program’s inception in 2009, Landscape Structures has awarded nearly 300 scholarships to state associations and more than $720,000 to support the appearances of speakers at park and recreation conferences throughout the nation.

Learn more about the 2021-2022 State Association Speaker Scholarship here, or contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant.

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.

Changing kids’ lives together

At this time of year, we all love to hear stories of people doing good for others. And that’s why we wanted to share this story of Rachel, a 9-year-old who built an inclusive playground for her community in Kentucky. Thanks to Rachel’s dad, Jeff, for sharing this amazing story with us.

When Rachel was in third grade she formed The Rachel’s Fun For Everyone project, an organization to raise funds for an all-accessible playground in Vine Grove, Ky. She came up with the idea for the playground after seeing children on a playground who couldn’t play like she could. She didn’t think it was fair that they couldn’t play just because of a disability, and wanted to make a change.

Over five years, Rachel and her family, along with the community, raised more than $500,000 to create a place for everyone–no matter their ability–to play. Rachel’s dream became a reality in August 2017, and Rachel is continuing to fight for the right of play and for inclusion for everyone.

Get more information about Rachel and Rachel’s Fun for Everyone Project on Facebook or by visiting her website.

Spreading the message of inclusion

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We are proud to partner with Shane’s Inspiration on a common goal of promoting play for children of all abilities. Together, we’ve created nearly 50 Universally Accessible Playgrounds including the first in Mexico and Ecuador.

Even more, we’re working with them to promote the animated short film, “Ian.” This powerful, Academy Award eligible film, aims to help children understand disability and spread the message of inclusion to every home. Tools to facilitate Q&A following the film can be found here.

Watch the film above, and please share it with the following message: Please watch and share the film “Ian” and help us create a more inclusive world! http://ow.ly/PyFR30mU6Di #InclusionRules_IanFilm @fundacionian @ShanesPlay #shapedbyplay

Celebrating the All Stars of the Miracle League

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Last weekend, the Miracle League, an organization whose mission is to provide opportunities for children with mental and/or physical challenges to play baseball, hosted its Inaugural Miracle League All-Star Celebration. Representatives from 26 states and a Canadian province made their way to Findlay, Ohio, for the event.

On Saturday, Sept. 15, 90 Miracle League players participated in four baseball games at the Blanchard Valley Health System Miracle Park. The celebration showcased the success and impact that the Miracle League has on children and families of all abilities. Miracle Leagues across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia are creating environments that encourage teamwork, competition and inclusion.

Read more about the inaugural event here.

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Celebrating Sensory Awareness Month

National Sensory Awareness Month | October 2015

October is National Sensory Awareness Month… a time for us to help spread awareness of sensory processing disorder (SPD). SPD, which affects both children and adults, is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. The causes of SPD are among the subjects that researchers at the SPD Foundation have been studying, and treatment often includes natural setting therapy like at home, school or the playground.

The benefits of sensory-stimulating playground activities—those that engage all their senses—affect children of all abilities. The more they engage all of their senses, the better they make sense of the world around them and their relationship to it. See our infographic below of five ways that children benefit from sensory play.

5 Key Benefits of Sensory Play | Landscape Structures Inc.