Case Study: Honoring a life cut short

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Client: Madison Claire Foundation, Woodbury, Minn.

Designers: Gabriel Cotten, Landscape Structures playground designer

Goal: After the loss of their daughter, Madison, Dana and Dave Millington wanted to create an inclusive playground to honor Madison’s short life while also delivering a space for families of all abilities to gather and experience “normal” activities.

Solution: After getting input from the rehabilitation team at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital and talking to parents of children with disabilities, Dana and the Madison Claire Foundation’s Board of Directors broadened their idea of inclusive play to account for as many different situations as possible.

The inclusive playground design is fully ramped and includes many sensory-stimulating activities including a double ZipKrooz®, Sway Fun® glider, Cozy Dome®, We-saw™, Sensory Play Center®, OmniSpin® spinner, Roller Table and Oodle® Swing. Even more, there is a custom sensory tunnel, which is the highlight of the inclusive play design. The plum tunnel, with its star cutouts and marbles, invites intrigued visitors to step inside. Once inside, it’s a kaleidoscope of light and colors as the movement of the sun casts colorful stars on the opposite wall.

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Read more about how Madison’s Place has created a space for families to create lasting and happy memories.

Case Study: Smart playground design

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Client: Birchview Elementary School, Plymouth, Minn.

Designers: Tory Roff and Tom Keller, concept designers at Landscape Structures

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Goal: Create a modern design aesthetic on the playground to match the recently updated school building

Solution: Birchview Elementary School’s Principal Sam Fredrickson chose to install the Smart Play®: Venti® playstructure because of its modern aesthetic and the fact that it would accommodate an entire classroom. Smart Play: Venti packs 20 activities—from nets and slides to belts and climbers—into its design, and its compact size requires less space and surfacing material than typical playgrounds. Even more, the playground is designed using a smart use of materials, and provides challenges that promote physical development and strategic thinking among students.

Read more about how Birchview Elementary School brought play and design into the 21st Century with the installation of their new school playground equipment.

Make Your Mark with Playground Design

Whether realized or not, the design of our surrounding environment influences how we engage, learn and develop. A playground is a social space, and every child is different. That’s why we design playgrounds that honor each child’s pathway, while offering fun and exciting new challenges.

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It’s possible to create unique playground designs at an affordable price tag. Incorporate Smart Play®: Venti® along with freestanding play components like our Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments to create a unique space with a variety of play experiences.

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Playgrounds come in all shapes, sizes and styles. You can bring a fantasy world to life by incorporating customized playground components into your design. Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Md., based its design on the story of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Or use custom playground design to celebrate the heritage of your community. The Wabun Picnic Area at Minnehaha Regional Park in Minneapolis, Minn., steps back in time with a thematic nod to its origins as an auto tourist camp.

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Bring children and families of all abilities together for play with an inclusive playground design. By keeping the needs of all users in mind during the design process, you can create a play environment like the Jonesboro Miracle League Park in Jonesboro, Ark., that increases access, safety, comfort and social participation.

Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park

The great outdoors is the number one spot where kids can play naturally—making up their own games while freely exploring the world around them. The playground on Tom Sawyer Island at Amelia Earhart Park in Hialeah, Fla., helps promote outdoor adventure with its recycled wood-grain panels, woodsy color scheme, and nature-inspired climbers that mimic rocks, mushrooms and logs.

Learn more about how you can #MakeYourMark in playground design by viewing our infographic, then contact your local playground consultant to get started on your next playground project.

Guest Blog: Exploration through music

In 2015, we collaborated with St. David’s Center in Minnetonka, Minn., to design an inclusive playground complete with an area dedicated to the new Rhapsody™ Outdoor Musical Instruments. Today, we’re happy to have Jackie Hanson, assistant teacher and children’s group piano instructor, as our guest blogger discussing how the music play equipment is helping students learn.

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In the distance I hear a “Bang! Bang!” and a “Ding, Dong, Brrring” sounding out in mismatched pitches and uneven rhythms. I turn my head to see grins lighting up small faces and bodies in motion as children swing their arms back and forth, hitting the drums as hard as they can. One child tilts his head at the base of the hollow metal tubes of the Grandioso™ Chimes as another bounces the mallets off the bars, creating sounds of different pitch and timbre. What some might see as an annoyance or an incorrect attempt at playing music, I see as the purest form of artistic enjoyment and cognitive exploration.

St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development has been fortunate enough to install a brand new all-inclusive playground, which includes a new area filled with the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments ready and waiting for creative discovery. Music is an art form that humans were creating before the dawn of the written language. Therefore, it can be reasoned that it is one of the most natural ways in which a developing child can learn. The musical instruments at St. David’s Center including the Chimes, Vivo™ and Animato™ Metallophones, and three drums create the opportunity for children to foster fine and gross motor abilities, observe and explore scientific relationships, nurture creative imagination, and grow social interaction skills in a joyous, engaging and natural way.

When a child is playing a drum, fine and gross motor abilities are being developed. In the repeated motion of lifting each arm to hit the drum, gross motor strength is being built. Control is being developed in all the muscles of the arm as the child has to aim his/her hand toward the center of the drum, rather than letting it fall randomly on any area of the drum. Finally, the core is in constant use because it is being used to stabilize the body while the arms move quickly and the lower body stays still.

Scientific exploration is another wonderful educational opportunity these musical instruments can create. Once, a boy slammed the drum with all his force while another rested his cheek on the drum head feeling the vibrations. Another time, a little girl brought me over to tell me something to the effect of, “Look… this big one makes this really scary sound…” when pointing to the pipes of the wind chimes. Most recently, two friends were hitting the Grandioso Chimes as hard as they could and counting how long the sounds lasted. These are just a few examples of the observed scientific exploration, which are the building blocks of more complex discoveries in the future.

Music also fosters creative imagination and growth. While it’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of using an instrument for its “defined” use we forget that music is meant to be creative and a gateway for new ideas. While on the playground, I have seen children hitting the drums with sticks instead of their hands, riding the drums like horses, knocking on the Chimes pretending it’s a doorbell and using their fingers to try to play. Not all of these uses create music. But the children are using the Rhapsody Outdoor Musical Instruments to think outside of the box. They are not only fostering creative ideas for ways in which to play music, but also in how to use the musical instruments for completely different things.

These instruments have created countless moments of social interaction and growth. Music creates community; it is joyful and fun, and on more than one occasion I see two or three friends banging on the drums together with nothing but smiles and laughs on their faces. Playing the musical instruments together on the playground creates opportunities for social interaction skills. If two friends disagree on how to play, they learn how to resolve the conflict. Assuming the latter occurs, they then learn how to use each other to think of new creative ideas and work together. Having music on the playground creates one more outlet for these opportunities for social growth to occur.

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Music is a unique tool in that it is an artistic activity that can extend its educational impact to numerous other areas of development. Furthermore, it is one of the most natural ways to feel and express emotion as well as create a joyful sense of community. It has been wonderful to see children growing and further developing their skills using the instruments on St. David’s Center’s new inclusive playground, and I can’t wait to see the new discoveries and experiences that will continue to occur in the future years.

Video Case Study: Community playground builds

There’s something particularly satisfying about watching kids run, jump and climb on a playground built by a community. As you begin the playground planning process, consider making your project a community build. Not only can it help save costs, but it also brings neighbors and communities closer together. Watch the video below to see how Annandale Elementary School in Annandale, Minn., and their local Lions Club worked together to build new school playgrounds.

Learn more about community playground builds at playlsi.com, and contact your local playground consultant to request our Guide to Community Build Playgrounds.

From prison yard to Grammy’s Garden

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A former prison might seem an odd place for a childcare center. But places change over time, as do the people who inhabit those places. And when those people are between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, they experience a lot of change in a short amount of time.

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Read about the metamorphosis of the play area at Prince George’s County Employee’s Childcare Center below, and get the full story at playlsi.com.

Client: Prince George’s County Employee’s Childcare Center

Designers: Brenda Iraola, landscape architect, and Sparks@Play

Goal: Develop a fresh narrative for the existing play environment around the theme of transformation

Solution: Drawing on the memories of her Grandmother Freda’s farm in Minnesota, Brenda divided the courtyard into four play areas where kids can follow the journey of a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. A larger-than-life caterpillar welcomes explorers into an enormous, interactive garden. Play structures are outfitted with flowers, ladybugs, bees, ants, mushrooms and leaves to create an immersive storybook experience.

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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, director of design, says nature-themed playground equipment is so popular because community leaders are looking for ways to reconnect kids to the natural world around them.

Desert Arroyo Park, Mesa, Ariz.

Desert Arroyo Park, Mesa, Ariz.

We’re doing what we can to connect kids to nature with nature-inspired playgrounds. Earlier this year, we introduced the Canyon Collection™. The realistic rock panels integrate with PlayBooster® play structures so that the natural climbing structures are no longer set apart from the rest of the playground. In addition to the climbing rocks, the Canyon Collection offers nets and a deck to create challenging and exciting play experiences for 5- to 12-year-olds.

The Canyon Collection™

We sculpted the Canyon Collection rocks based on molds from the Gneiss (pronounced “nice”) Outcrops in Southwestern Minnesota. The result? Incredibly realistic texture and rock shapes for truly natural looking playground equipment. Kids can climb on both the outside and insides of the rock panels as well as find lifelike frogs, mice, bats and insects sculpted into the rock faces. Best of all, the Canyon Collection is available in a variety of configurations to satisfy a range of budgets and footprints.

Nature-inspired playground collection

Tell us what you’re looking for in natural outdoor play equipment below, then visit playlsi.com to learn more about the Canyon Collection and our collection of other nature-inspired products.