Playground Planning for All Ages

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One of the initial hurdles of planning a playground is deciding on an approach to designing an area that will be used by children of a variety of ages and abilities. Infants and toddlers, pre-school, and school-age children all differ greatly in both physical size and ability, as well as cognitive and social skill level. Age-appropriate equipment should be able to accommodate these differences. In The Handbook for Public Playground Safety, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) divides these age groups as 0-2, 2-5, and 5-12 years.

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Infants and toddlers age 0-2 years have varying mobility, whether they are crawling, scooting, or walking. Most of their activity is a sensory exploration of seeing, feeling and tasting their surroundings. This age group requires space to explore cognitive-rich surroundings while being closely monitored by a caretaker.

Appropriate activities and equipment for this age range are:

-tunnel mazes and activity panels with “pull up” handles for infants

-small multi-level play structures for toddlers with crawl tunnels and slides of an appropriate height

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Preschoolers age 2-5 years have a limited attention span and tend to focus on activities involving climbing over, under and around things coupled with building fine motor skills. Around 3, older preschoolers take part in dramatic play and imitation. Social skills develop as they seek to imitate older peers. Conflict and risk-taking can happen at this age and requires heavy supervision.

Appropriate activities and equipment for this age range are:

-linked play structures that are scaled to smaller children’s dimensions with age appropriate play such as crawl tunnels, small slides, enclosed play spaces, activity panels for fine motor skill development.

-Independent play events such as spring riders, talk tubes, and themed climbers that promote active and fantasy play

-A sandbox with play tables for manipulative play

-Learning wall clusters at ground level for young children of all abilities

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School-aged children age 5-12 years learn and build skills rapidly, working on their fine and gross motor skills, coordination, strength, and balance. Social skills evolve with elaborate games and competitions amongst peers. Older children closer to 12 years can be nearly double the size of children on the younger end of this range with nearly 8 times the grip strength. High spirits and peer pressure influence this age and can lead to aggression or vandalism. These displays of energy can be a liability to children on the younger end of the spectrum. Sufficient challenge is needed to keep older children occupied both mentally and physically. They can work on their spacial skills, hand/eye coordination, motor planning and using imagination to create games.

Appropriate activities and equipment for this age range are:

-linked play structures with decks and play activities geared to the body dimensions and play needs of older children.

-swings, climbers, fitness clusters, spinners and other independent play events designed to provide challenge.

-sports equipment such as basketball or tether ball

Each age-specific area should be separated by a buffer zone. This can include benches, picnic tables, a pedestrian path, decorative fence, or landscaping. Play areas should be visible from the others for safety reasons, as well as being equipped with seating and drinking fountains in view if possible.

Th general budget guideline is to spend about 60 percent of your budget on equipment for older children and 40 percent for toddlers and preschoolers, but this can be varied on a case by case basis.

For more information about planning your playground, visit our website

Inclusivity Versus Accessibility

Though inclusivity and accessibility are concepts used interchangeably, there are in fact many differences between the two ideas. Landscape Structures proudly boasts of inclusive design in their products- but what is the difference?

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Understanding what makes accessibility and inclusivity different comes down to considering the user of the design.

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Accessibility matches the need of a user in a singular context. Accessible design is specific in that it considers a single context, problem, user, and experience. A resource may be inaccessible to one group in the way that it is accessible to another. It removes a roadblock from one group’s path.

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Inclusivity creates an environment or experience designed so that it is usable by people of a variety of abilities, in many scenarios, alongside differently abled people. Inclusivity provides the tools for a user to choose the experience that best fits their situation and ability.

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Landscape Structures believes in creating play experiences for children of all physical and mental abilities, in all aspects of physical, social and sensory play. Inclusive play is an open invitation for children to learn alongside those both similar and different from them- shaping the next generation of leaders and thinkers for the better.

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To learn more about inclusive design or find an inclusive playground near you, visit our website.

Case Study: Blending the Old and New at French Regional Park

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Case Study: Blending the Old and New at French Regional Park

Client: Three Rivers Park District

Goal: Revitalize the 30 year old playground area at French Regional Park by creating a signature look to the design while retaining some distinctive features of the original structure.

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Solution: Incorporate community feedback into the park’s plans to ensure the residences’ confidence in the project. A third grade Kid Task Force was created to give input on the final design so everyone could feel included. Between the feedback, color schemes and and some components were incorporated into designs that focused on fun and accessibility. Sensory play at the lower levels, sand and water features, interactive panels, and wheelchair access throughout made for a park that invites all community members to have fun.

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Click to read the full story about French Regional Park

Introducing: The Crab Trap®!

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Introducing: The Crab Trap™!  The Crab Trap™ invites children to take part in endless climbing options. Climbing experiences vary based on whether players are inside or outside the structure while a variety of components add an additional layer of interest and experiences. Between the outside climbing capabilities and inside options, play is endless in the Crab Trap™.

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The open ended play set-up excites a kid’s creativity and encourages the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Maneuvering from challenge to challenge retains interest with even players older in age. The Crab Trap aids in the development in a variety of areas: sensory, motor skills, cognitive skills, and social/emotional skills.

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Available in Hot Galvanized Steel for coastal environments as well as having steel enforced cables, the Crab Trap™ is resistant to vandalism, sun, and other environmental damage for a longer life and more pleasing visual aesthetics for years to come!


Case Study: Honoring Paco Sanchez Through Play

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Case Study: Honoring Paco Sanchez Through Play


Client:  Denver Parks and Recreation

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Goal: Engage with citizens to find the right design to honor the community and local heroes while revitalizing the underutilized space into an  eye-catching destination to be used for years to come.

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Solution: Community members, Denver parks and Recreation, and Landscape Structures Inc communicated and collaborated to come up with the design of Paco Sanchez park featuring a custom microphone component to pay homage to local DJ Paco Sanchez while promoting health and wellness within the community through play. An elevated bridge to the tower allows children and adults of all abilities to experience structure. This created a park environment where locals and people outside the area would be drawn to its unique design and functionality. The success of the park has become an example for other areas to take note of for how to keep communities active.

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Click to read the full story of Paco Sanchez Park

Barb’s Day of Honor 2019


Barb’s Day of Honor is celebrated at Landscape Structures Inc. every year on March 4th since losing the day’s namesake and Landscape Structures co founder, Barb King in 2008. Her legacy lives on through her many lifetime accomplishments and the way she impacted those around her. This positive influence is evident in the many stories and anecdotes shared by friends, family, and coworkers on this day.

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“Our highest purpose is to make a difference in the world – create a better place for children and families.”

Barb King
One of Barb’s personal passions was advocating for healthier lifestyles for children and sparking an appreciation of nature in them. Barb founded the non profit Säjai® Foundation in honor of this commitment. Their mission is focused on teaching children the value of healthy living and encouraging an exploration  of the outdoors. This legacy continues through the merging of the Säjai® Foundation with Camp Fire in May 2013. Camp Fire serves more than 250,000 youths and families through outdoor activities with an emphasis on camping.
Search our hashtag #HonoringBarbKing on Instagram or Twitter to read more about Barb King’s personal impact on others (or to add your own story!) or check out our Barb King Day post on Facebook.
Barb’s Inspiration Park (Delano, MN)

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.


Public pools, however, have some inherent limitations. Members of the community most likely vary widely in age, from very young toddlers to teens and their parents, grandparents, and caregivers. As a result, the interests of these different ages are varied and require a more complex play experience. Younger children are able to be more adventurous at a splash pad than at a pool as they aren’t required to know how to swim or be a certain height in order to maintain a level of safety. Children of all abilities would have the opportunity to engage with splash pads, especially those from Aquatix® by Landscape Structures which are designed specifically to cater to different abilities. This is not always true for pools. Gentler water experiences like misting and bubbling water may entertain young guests while jets and waterfalls keep older children and teens busy and cool.

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Splash pads can also be beneficial when considering the cost and maintenance of the area compared to a pool. Adding a splash pad to a community area undoubtedly brings value to that area. They can be visually exciting and are more visible than the traditional swimming pool, attracting families to come and explore the community. They can be added to already existing facilities like parks to revitalize an area and create a destination location for repeat visitors.

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Generally, the initial investment of a splash pad is less than a swimming pool. Since they do not generate standing water, there is far less risk for drowning, negating the need for fencing, signage, and lifeguards which are both initial and ongoing costs to consider.


For cities where public pools are not a viable option, splash pads from Aquatix® by Landscape Structures can bring fun, value, and interest to an area that may otherwise have no water play. Children of all abilities and many ages are able to enjoy the benefits of water play while architects and designers are able to take more creative liberty in designing an area that is just as visually interesting as it is fun.

Introducing: The We-Go-Round®!

Movement and socialization are both important aspects of play, which is why we decided to put them together with the creation of the We-Go-Round! Our new, inclusive We-Go-Round allows for children of all abilities to experience all the fun of a classic merry go round with none of the restrictions. The design features strategic seating that accommodates wheelchairs (even those without a wheel-locking mechanism) as well as  your choice of two or three benches and room to stand!

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The center handhold lets riders control their own spinning speed while teaching them about their own movement and speed limitations. Its circular shape is perfect for socializing with everyone inside! Built in resistance mechanisms maintain a reasonable speed when being turned from the outside.

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Rides like the We-Go-Round allow for children to learn valuable information about their play experiences. The spinning motion develops balance and motor planning while engaging their visual and vestibular systems. Learning about the way their body moves through space advances their sensory experience- and this physical education is open to children of all abilities through the We-Go-Round™!


What Play Means to Us

Play isn’t a static idea, which is why we chose to portray our story as a video in Play Will Always Shape Us. There is no right or wrong way to approach play, and the structures we choose to incorporate into play should reflect that. A child’s imagination is limitless, regardless of what their physical selves are able to do. This is what makes inclusion during play so important.

“Play never said, “Be careful, you’re not strong enough, you’re not big enough, you’re not brave enough.”


Play is all around us if we choose to look around and see it. Play is everything. It asks us to learn together from one another as we grow. The spirit of play lives inside all of us, if only we choose to listen to it.

 “Play begs of us, “Learn together. Grow together. Be together. Know together.”


No matter what the world comes at us with, keeping a child-like outlook reminds us that our imagination will never fail us. We are limitless in play.


And play will always shape us.