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Showing posts from 2010

Special Needs Students Benefit from "Sensory Playgrounds"

Bourgeoning playground designs focused on sensory activities offer social interaction as well as therapeutic learning time. While all children benefit from stimulating play, research shows that those with special needs progress considerably when such play environments are integrated with their school routine.

Common playground activities such as swings and trampolines inherently encourage socializing, concentration skills and physical awareness, which the steadily increasing number of children with autism and other attention-deficit conditions lack. However, parents, caregivers and educators of special needs children should note the recent advent of KidSense "sensory playgrounds," as the industry lexicon now describes them.
LeAnne Cantrell, an oil drilling engineer turned sensory playground pioneer, has established the KidSense Pilot Yard on the shared campus of Pontchartrain Elementary and Tcherfuncte Middle schools in Mandeville, La. where her autistic son is a student.

Special Needs Playgrounds Gaining Ground

As playgrounds grow and evolve with increasing attention paid to safety and equipment durability, it's important to note that kids with physical limitations need adequate places to play just as much, if not more, than kids without disabilities.

Children who must contend with limited mobility and dexterity need much more carefully designed equipment and facilities. In recent years, awareness of making parts of everyday life more "handicapped accessible" is now commonplace in many areas of everyday life.
And in the wake of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, through which Congress made accessible public facilities the law of the land, focus on accessible playgrounds has naturally followed suit. Creating recreational facilities accessible to all, however still remains an uphill battle in many instances.
Parents of children with disabilities often have to go out of their way to make local accessible playgrounds a reality. The St. Tammany Kids Konnection Boundless Playgro…

Playground Security Goes High-Tech with Sound Barriers, Motion Detectors, Infrared Video

While playgrounds provide good times and an ideal place for exercise, they're also magnets for senseless vandalism and after-hours loitering. Destruction or theft of playground equipment is an enduring problem for any community, costing property owners and municipalities millions every year.

Social decline factors aside, this is mainly due to the very public, easily accessible locations that recreational facilities occupy. Standard security measures such as fencing and lighting can only go so far in deterring those bent on doing damage. And because all it really takes are some tools and misguided motivation, playground crimes often prove relatively easy to perpetrate and difficult for police to solve, let alone deter.

In response, the technology and strategy behind playground security has really come a long way. An elaborate, though quite pricy new system illuminates, photographs and even bombards would-be vandals or after-hours loiterers with an ultrasonic "sound barrier.&q…

Playground Crime Common, Mostly Untracked

It's amazingly unfortunate how far some people will go to do damage to a playground. Police blotters in communities all over the world, affluent and underprivileged alike, tell the tale.

Countless horror stories fill the record with news blurbs that frame playgrounds as crime scenes, such as this Aug. 2 report by WOKV television in Jacksonville, Fla. in which a 20-year-old man was found with a "life-threatening" gunshot wound and "the playground was closed off with crime scene tape as investigators searched for clues."

In line with the absence of solid, enforceable playground design and equipment standards, crime statistics on schoolyards and public recreation facilities simply aren't kept by any level of government. So the research is scattered and purely anecdotal, except for a recent "experimental" attempt by the U.K.

The children's British Crime Survey published in June recorded more than 2 million incidents of theft and violence against …

Profiles in Fitness: Head Start Body Start

Within the last generation, youth physical fitness has gained significant ground in the political sphere. It's a given that promoting healthy living and physical activity is an important function of children's education.

But only until fairly recently, there wasn't much of a support structure in government or elsewhere to actually fund and implement effective policies.

So as childhood obesity rates steadily increase disproportionately in low-income communities, fueling demands for government action from the public and press, enter a big bowl of federal and non-governmental alphabet soup -- HHS, ACF, OHS, AAPAR, NASPE, and most notably, an eclectic organization with a name that's even too long for a complete acronym.

Head Start Body Start National Center for Physical Development and Outdoor Play, or HSBS in the interest of breath-saving, "aims to increase physical activity, outdoor play, and healthy eating among Head Start and Early Head Start children, families,…

The Health Angle: More Quality Playgrounds, Less Childhood Obesity

The news these days is full of accounts based on alarming statistics regarding American kids' sinking levels of physical fitness and correspondingly skyrocketing obesity rates. The best are the CDC figures -- exponentially increasing numbers of kids are obese; annual health costs resulting from obesity total billions of dollars and shorter life expectancies.

"Childhood Obesity" is now a common form of medical speak for the at least pudgy, if not downright health-threatening condition that continues to scream for awareness from parents, educators and anyone who cares about young people.

One very notable person who fits that description is the First Lady. In April Michelle Obama debuted the "Let's Move" campaign to challenge poor diet and lack of exercise.

On the dietary front, the World Health Organization has taken aim at junk food. The United Nations' health advocate comprised of 193 member states points to the global gain in cases of childhood obe…

Fundraising: Thoughts, Tips Toward Funding Better Playgrounds

Because good playgrounds are costly, those interested in building new or improving existing locations should take note of successful fundraising techniques.

As the recession crimps municipal and non-profit budgets, times like these call for privately organized fundraising committees to lead the way toward playground improvement and development.

Despite the economic downturn, there are still significant government grants available to make playgrounds newer, better and safer. In addition to the feds and states, corporations and private foundations are a great source of grant funding for community development projects.

In the last two decades, the Fortune 500 has stepped up significantly. Companies such as Nike, Home Depot and many others have contributed hundreds of millions of tax-deductible dollars and product donations to many youth-oriented causes.

This is because in addition to community development and recreation grants, the educational and physical activity aspects of playgrou…

A Quick Primer on American Playground History

Since colonial times parks have been a staple feature of American cities, following European urban planning traditions. But it wasn't until the early-20th century that playgrounds, and America's urban landscape in general, began to shift into what's recognizable to present-day city dwellers.

As eastern cities teemed with immigrants and a surging youth population, the need for designated public play spaces became more and more apparent. Private philanthropic organizations such as the Outdoor Recreation League of New York City and the National Playground Association took the lead in establishing the first public recreation areas on public park land.
New York City parks were the first to incorporate the first generation of modern playground equipment, with Seward Park in 1903 accounting for the first American playground built by a city government. The Manhattan park's design, complete with slides, seesaws and other now familiar amenities, serves as a flagship model for t…

Only Equipment Built for Heavy Use Lasts -- Short-Term Savings = Long-Term Replacement Costs and Safety Concerns

Durable equipment is the most important thing to consider when designing and putting together a playground, whether it’s for a backyard or a large municipal park. Lesser quality slides, swing sets and any other contraptions tempt with lower costs, but why risk the safety risks and very possible mechanical breakdowns that are all too common?

Here are some recommendations for properly designed playground structures that will last and prove to be a wise long-term investment:

Residential: Small wooden structures

Day Care: Small structures made entirely of plastic

Churches or Small Schools: 3.5-inch extruded steel posts, lighter gauge side panels, or more substantial wooden structures

Public Use - Small Towns: Smaller size play units using 5-inch extruded steel posts, or more substantial sized play units using 3.5-inch extruded steel posts

Public Use - Urban Areas: 5-inch extruded steel post, or 5-inch pipe, heavier gauge side panels

Since heavy use will really put playground equipment to the t…