Problem Solver - August 2009
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Customizing Your Playground

Whether your community has one playground or 10 playgrounds for kids to interact and have fun, you can really boost the play value when you avoid a cookie-cutter approach and offer something unique. A themed playground or component can highlight aspects of your community's history, can draw attention to nearby landmarks or can simply highlight the natural surroundings of your parks and natural areas.

It is simpler than you may realize to provide a playground that's beyond the ordinary. When you work with playground manufacturers that employ designers, engineers, landscape architects, artists and other creative types who are interested in making your playground dream a reality, you'll end up with a playground that is unique, safe and offers something kids—and their parents—will remember forever.

Q: What kinds of themes can we find?

A: Whether you want a playground that looks like a castle, a farm or a ship at sea, you can find products that will fit your theme. Themed structures allow you to quickly and easily create a playground with its own look and feel. Whether it's a big playground with separate areas for multiple age groups or a smaller component added alongside an existing playground, you can easily add just the right touch—perhaps a nautical themed playground near the beach, a natural theme near a nature trail, a farm theme for your farming community playground or anything else you can dream.

Q: Our community has some unique history. We've got great ideas about highlighting its history with a new playground, but can't find components that fit in.

A: If your community has a unique character all its own, you can design a playground that will highlight that theme.

For example, who doesn't think of aliens and UFOs when they hear "Roswell, New Mexico"? With its reputation as a city friendly to extraterrestrial life, Roswell added a completely custom playground to its Cielo Grande Recreation Area. What was just a fun idea and a few sketches is now a playground featuring aliens and UFO elements that local kids and visitors will never forget.

Does your park host the local Little League tournament? How about a playground customized to highlight this baseball connection? No matter what feature of your community you want to highlight, you'll be able to find a playground team that will make your dream a reality.

Q: How do we get started?

A: The whole process is easier—and faster—than you might think. Depending on how complex your concept is, you can go from idea to design in as little as a month.

You start by meeting with a local playground consultant who can help you nail down your budget, theme and the desired time frame to get your playground installed. That consultant will take your ideas to the manufacturer, whose team will work with your theme to produce artists sketches and a computer-generated design. You'll get to review these designs and make changes if you want to or approve their execution of your vision. Finally, the sketches are turned into 3-D designs, you place your order, and your customized playground is engineered, manufactured, delivered and installed.

Q: Can we find a themed playground that is also accessible to children of varying abilities?

A: Whether they're 2 or 12, in a wheelchair or using a walker, you can customize a playground where all children will be able to play. Adding accessible ramps makes play more accessible to children using mobility devices. In addition, poured-in-pace safety surfacing will also improve accessibility, and can be designed with your theme in mind.

Q: What else should we consider?

A: In addition to customizing your playground and components, manufacturers can help you create customized signs. These might provide directions, recognize donors or simply feature a logo of a local business or organization. They can be made of different materials, in different colors and in many sizes.

Landscape Structures Inc.:
888-4FUNLSI (438-6574)