Well-designed play brings everyone together. It’s why landscape architects and playground designers are constantly creating wildly original and wondrous kid-centric worlds. Like incorporating moments of landscape play that provide multiple options for a child’s next move, a key strategy for adding play value. Or featuring innovative playground designs that help play spaces blend into—or stand out from—their surroundings.
To us, innovative playground designs can only function in service to play. It’s a perspective that continues to influence our entire industry. And it’s why we are recognized for building the best playgrounds in the world. And why we appreciate partnering with landscape architects and communities to keep stretching design, and play. Contact your local Landscape Structures playground consultant to get started on your next playground design, and view all of the unique designs of the 2024 PLAY Book in the video below.
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.
The vision behind Albert Lea Noon Kiwanis Club’s winning project
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.
Helping children feel like champions with an all-inclusive playground project
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 their Cities as well as have other strong partnerships with community organizations to ensure that the all-inclusive playgrounds 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 aims to inspire Kiwanians to bring play and playgrounds to their communities, providing a legacy of play for future generations.
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.
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 excited to introduce the Revi™ products, which includes the ReviRock™ Bouncer, ReviWheel™ Spinner and ReviWhirl™ Spinner. Each of the Revi playground equipment 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 playground equipment 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.
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.
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.
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.
We’re excited to announce that the Early Risers Kiwanis Club of Worthington, Minnesota, is the winner in the 7th Annual Legacy of Play contest. The club, which will receive $25,000 in playground equipment, plans to build an all-inclusive playground at a local park—the only playground of its kind in the community of 13,000.
The club garnered community support for the project, including financial help from a local man who had polio as a child and remembered feeling left out while watching other children play. The club’s contest application noted the resident offered to transport the playground equipment at no cost to the club, using his personal trucking company equipment.
A local family whose son has Joubert Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, also supported the playground project. In a letter that accompanied the club’s contest entry, the family wrote, “Since three months old, Blaine has been in physical, occupational and speech therapy and has made some great strides in his coordination and strength. Play and peer relationships are also such important parts of development. What an all-inclusive playground will mean for us is that Blaine will be able to explore and wander the playground independently, he will have more opportunities to be engaged with other children and hopefully make a new friend.”
The family noted their child would be able to use the playground equipment independently and play with his siblings and others. “When we talk about the park with Blaine and show him pictures of what is coming, he gets excited and will give a shrieking shout of “Yay!” and then tap his chest and say, “Me too, I can do it, I can play.”
Plans call for the playground to be installed on Kiwanis One Day on Oct. 24, 2021. The club plans to begin construction on April 1 of next year, in tandem with the city’s construction of a new handicap accessible restroom facility.
Client: City of Jonesboro Parks & Recreation Department
Designers: Sheri Seminary, playground designer at Landscape Structures Inc.
Goal: Create a Miracle League recreation complex that could act as a showcase for all other Miracle Leagues
Solution: Their vision came to life as a 20-acre recreation complex complete with a rubberized ball field for children and adults with special needs, an inclusive playground, a concession stand, restrooms and a quiet room designed especially for children with autism. The inclusive playground focuses on access and offering sensory-stimulating activities including the Sensory Play Center®, OmniSpin® spinner, Roller Table, We-Saw™ and Sway Fun® glider. Even more, the playground integrates lots of shade right into the playstructure.
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.
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.
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.
Today marks the eighth annual World Autism Awareness Day. This day brings autism organizations around the world together to help raise awareness about the disorder affecting nearly 1 in 68 children. Because of these stats and the fact that there are one in seven children in the U.S. living with a disability, we took a close look at public playground requirements for children with disabilities by conducting a survey of nearly 900 parents of children 12-years-old and younger.
More than half (57 percent) of all parents asked about playground requirements for children with disabilities, mistakenly believe playgrounds are required to have elements designed for children with autism spectrum disorders, Down syndrome, and visual and hearing impairments. That means that people who think they’re designing an inclusive playground based upon ADA standards are really only designing to the minimum requirements and could be missing a huge need in their community.
Over the past few years, we’ve learned about a desire to include sensory play experiences and multigenerational opportunities for social interaction. Planners also want to make sure the community or school playground offers enough challenge for children who are typically developing as well so that there are opportunities for healthy interaction among children of all abilities. Our survey echoed that idea… nearly 75 percent of parents believe it is important that their children have an opportunity to play with a variety of children, including those with disabilities.
Overall, when planning an inclusive playground, inclusion should be used as a guiding principal—a checkpoint that you continue to question, “How are we fulfilling this need?” Learn more about inclusive play at playlsi.com, and see more results from our Inclusive Play survey.
This week marks the one year anniversary of the opening of the first inclusive playground in Russia. Together with our partner in inclusive play, Shane’s Inspiration, we designed the fully inclusive and accessible playground to deliver a nature-inspired play experience. The natural playground design in addition to the sensory-stimulating and developmentally appropriate activities will welcome children and families of all abilities.