Play during social distancing

“Play never told me you can’t.”

Those are the words that open the second chapter of our Shaped by Play video. And now, more than ever, they ring loud and clear. While we’re all practicing social distancing and many playgrounds across the world have been closed down during the pandemic, children, families, friends and teachers are showing us that play is an invitation to be creative.

New and innovative ways to play are being created by our partners, friends and even celebrities. Check out these fun ideas to encourage play that we’ve seen throughout the world:

  1. Teach your children about landscape architecture through drawing and doodling; the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has created a free activity book for download.
  2. Think field trips are out of the question? Think again. Browse the virtual events from Discovery Education for a chance to visit amazing places for remarkable experiences. And for a learning break, take a virtual field trip to playgrounds around the world!
  3. We’re all inside with our children and families. Luckily, Too Small to Fail has curated resources to help you talk, read, sing and play your way through the day. Pick and choose the ideas that work best for your child’s age and interests, and follow his or her lead.
  4. Inclusion Matters by Shane’s Inspiration has been sharing fun ideas to stay playful throughout April; check out their #30daysofplay on Twitter and Facebook.
  5. Check out Storyline Online, made available by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation, and hear your favorite actors read your favorite children’s stories.
  6. Grab your paper, pencils and crayons and join Mo Willems at the Kennedy Center to explore new ways of writing and making together. All 15 episodes and downloadable activities are now available on-demand.
  7. Get creative with your environment! Design your own ninja warrior course in your backyard or see seven steps to create one inside your home.
  8. Read! In addition to reading your favorite books, check out our On the Playground digital publication that is sure to help strengthen your mind and body.
  9. Scavenger hunts are a great activity to challenge your mind while being active. And best of all, there are so many options available from Primary Playground! Browse scavenger hunts that you can do in your backyard, while you’re reading books or even one inside!
  10. Play a game of bingo. There are so many timely game boards available—work from home bingo, social distancing bingo or reading bingo. Find one that will be the most fun for your family and get playing!

During this time of quarantine, remember that imagination will never fail us, words will never hurt us and play will always shape us. Keep playing, and share your quarantine play tips with us using #shapedbyplay. Bonus points for photos or video!

Bringing literacy to the playground

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We’re excited to expand the Smart Play® line of playstructures with designs especially for toddlers and preschoolers. Introduced in 2017, Loft delivers interactive elements to engage developing minds and bodies. And now, the Loft family has grown to include the Fire Station and Market Cafe to further encourage social and imaginative play for 2- to 5-year-olds.

With the Fire Station, kids can take control at the wheel, pet Sparky the friendly fire dog or slide down to their next adventure. There’s plenty more to keep them busy including an object find game, a bell and a gear shift, and a fun mirror that shows them how they’d look in uniform.

 

The Market Cafe lets little ones take turns placing meal orders, dining with friends and talking about healthy food choices. Among lots of activities, kids can make pictures in the image panel, bing-bong the apple bell and chat about food colors and tastes.

Double the fun by connecting any two of these Smart Play playstructures–Loft, Fire Station or Market Cafe–with an elevated crawl tunnel to enhance the imaginative fun and physical activity levels. Or connect all three to create the Centre for kids to explore and stay active.

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Best of all, with guidance from the National Head Start Association and Too Small to Fail, developmentally appropriate activities including literacy prompts were incorporated throughout the designs to engage children and adults in language-rich conversations.

See Centre in action below, and go to playlsi.com for more details about the Smart Play line.

Promoting language-rich interaction on the playground

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There is a general notion that there is a gap between the number of words that lower-income children hear compared with their higher income peers, and that this gap leads to a gap in early vocabulary and kindergarten readiness. But even more importantly, research shows us that the more parents meaningfully engage with their young children, the more their child’s brain will grow and develop. And that is an amazing opportunity.

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That’s where Too Small to Fail, a joint initiative of the Clinton Foundation and The Opportunity Institute, comes in. Their goal is to make early brain and language development a part of communities. And to do this, they’ve created the “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign, which brings visually engaging and colorful signs to supermarkets, laundromats, bus stops and playgrounds to encourage talking, reading and singing between parents and young children. The signage is intended to provide families with reminders about the importance of engaging with their young children, as well as provide specific ideas for things to talk about.

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We’re proud to partner with Too Small to Fail on the “Talking is Teaching” campaign. By incorporating these interactive play panels, we’re meeting parents where they already are with their children and helping them boost their children’s early brain and language development through play. The panels are strategically positioned throughout the playground design so that children and their caregivers can sit near each other, and use the language prompts to interact with each other. Even better, there is a seamless theme of play and education in these language-rich playground designs, so parents and caregivers are helping their children get ready for kindergarten and set them up for success in school.

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To date, Too Small to Fail has partnered with Landscape Structures to open 20 “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” themed playgrounds across the country. Learn more about our partnership with Too Small to Fail by contacting your local playground consultant.

Connecting play and learning at Greater & Greener 2017

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More than 1,000 park leaders, city planners, design professionals, and urban park advocates came to Minneapolis and Saint Paul from around the world for Greater & Greener 2017: Parks Connecting Cities, Cultures, & Generations. The five-day indoor and outdoor conference focused on the role of urban parks in creating healthy, resilient and economically competitive cities.

In addition to being a Gold Sponsor of the Conference, we hosted two events throughout the week. On Sunday, July 30, we welcomed 40 volunteers from around the world to construct a playground at Central Village Park in St. Paul. The volunteer’s finished building commercial playground equipment for kids ages 5 to 12, a Clubhouse for kids ages 2 to 5 and playground panels, which featured Too Small to Fail‘s Talking is Teaching creative content with parent-child conversation prompts to foster healthy language-rich interactions.

 

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, we hosted a mobile workshop that showcased the most imaginative playgrounds in Minneapolis. Attendees heard from the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and community members about how the city encourages healthy outdoor activity, brings families together and builds community. Even more, Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges joined the group at Powderhorn Park to share her commitment to cradle-to-K development and how the city is using the Talking is Teaching campaign to support early literacy in the city.

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Encouraging whole-child development with toddler playgrounds

Toddlers and preschoolers always find new, but not always safe, ways to play. That’s why we make playground safety a top priority by creating age- and developmentally appropriate products like our Smart Play® playstructures.  The Smart Play designs specifically for toddlers and preschoolers are packed with play activities to help build their senses, and motor and cognitive skills. See below for more details about these designs:

  • Nook: Designed for kids ages 6 to 23 months, its 20 interactive components prompt adult-child conversations and support whole-child learning across key developmental domains.
  • Loft: Handrails lead 2- to 5-year-olds up into a world of imaginary play, with a built-in find-it game, learning activities, lower level clubhouse and so many more interactive elements.
  • Cube: Plenty of activities in this modern, compact playground design means plenty of fun for little explorers ages 2 to 5.
  • Motion: Packing 16 activities into a compact space, the whimsical Motion playstructure keeps kids ages 2 to 5 entertained in a safe, developmentally appropriate way.

Even more, we’ve partnered with Too Small to Fail to create language-rich playgrounds using their Talking is Teaching creative content on panels and signage throughout the playground. These literacy panels will encourage parent-child conversations to help prepare children for success in school and beyond.

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Learn more about how to create a dream playground for toddlers and preschoolers at playlsi.com, and get started on an early childhood playground design by contacting us here.

The smartest duo in play

We introduced the Smart Play concept in 2014, and the newest additions to the family take the smart to a whole new level. Smart Play: Nook was designed for kids ages 6 to 23 months and Smart Play: Loft is for kids ages 2 to 5 years. Together, they span a critical period of childhood development.

The Nook and Loft activities and messaging were developed with guidance from the National Head Start Association and Too Small to Fail. They encourage adult-child conversations to support language development and literacy as well as support whole-child learning.

Best of all, the Nook and Loft playstructures take kids from early crawling exploration on up to active climbing and social play in a fun, whimsical environment. Whether playing inside or outside the Nook, the intentional sight lines let you keep your eye on little crawlers and early walkers at all times. And with 20 play activities, the Loft encourages imaginative play while helping to develop both large and small motor skills as well as strategic thinking.

Learn more about this duo of smart playstructures at playlsi.com, and use #shapedbyplay to tell us how your kids are developing through play and playgrounds.

Promoting literacy through inclusive playground designs

Thanks to the collaboration of some very hard-working organizations, there is a new inclusive playground ready to welcome children and families of all abilities. On Saturday, July 11, Shane’s Inspiration along with First 5 LA, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Too Small to Fail and the Exceptional Children’s Foundation hosted a grand opening to celebrate the new Landscape Structures inclusive playground at Sepulveda Recreation Center in Panorama City, Calif.

Sepulveda Recreation Center is home to the first playground with the Talking is Teaching campaign.

The playground offers a train theme with custom play structures that mimic a train depot and train cars, and all of the structures are designed to welcome children of varying abilities. Even more, this playground is the first in the country to highlight Too Small to Fail’s “Talking is Teaching: Talk, Read, Sing” campaign to boost children’s early language development. The playground at Sepulveda Recreation Center incorporated the Talking is Teaching materials into playground signage to prompt fun conversations, stories and songs while parents and children play together.

The playground design at Sepulveda Recreation Center welcomes children and families of all abilities.

We’re proud to collaborate with Shane’s Inspiration and Too Small to Fail to support families build a foundation of early literacy skills and help close the word gap. Learn more about our commitment to the Too Small to Fail initiative.