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Sensory Play

The "Sensory Play Center" is a configurable system with up to nine interactive play activities using marbles, gears, mazes, kaleidoscopes and more.
Photos Courtesy of Landscape Structures Inc.

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Designers of inclusive playgrounds strive to allow children of all abilities to enjoy the play equipment. Playground designs have largely focused on accessibility and developmental appropriateness.

Landscape Structures Inc., a Delano, Minn.-based commercial playground manufacturer since 1971, has introduced what it is calling a "higher level of inclusive play," playground design intended to "provide new sensory play experiences for children of all abilities," in particular to "include children with autism and sensory disorders and lead the creation of a new generation of inclusive playgrounds."


The playground manufacturer has launched five new products designed for "tactile, proprioceptive, vestibular, visual and auditory experiences." Proprioception (from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own" ) is essentially feedback from the body's movements to the brain, which allows the body to make adjustments.

The "Multi-Sensory Discovery Wall" is an artfully designed sensory centerpiece to any inclusive playground that can be designed to match the playground theme or environment.


According to a December 2009 CDC report, in 2006 one in every 110 children was on the "autism spectrum"--an increase of 57 percent in just five years. Among boys the total was one in 70.
According to the Autism Society of America, autism is a "complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person's ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a 'spectrum disorder' that affects children differently and to varying degrees."

While it has long been recognized that autistic children often have difficulty playing and socializing, the playground manufacturer says little attention has been devoted to addressing this condition on the playground.

Sensory Design Criteria

The company's team of in-house playground designers has developed, with the help of industry experts, sensory design criteria to guide all-inclusive playground designs.

"Throughout 2009, our designers and engineers worked closely with experts in the fields of play and occupational therapy, autism spectrum disorders, adaptive recreation and accessibility to understand the sensory development of children and develop an entirely new class of sensory play products for the playground," explains Pat Faust, president of Landscape Structures. "We believe that this is only the beginning of the transformation of
inclusive play."

Mr. Faust notes that thousands of inclusive playgrounds will be designed and installed in North America in 2010. The hope is these designers will embrace a three-prong model of inclusive play: accessible, developmentally appropriate and sensory.

The Cozy Dome offers various sensory experiences, but can also be a quiet space where children can "escape" by themselves or with a friend or two. The outside dome is also an opportunity to climb.

The Equipment

In addition to the new pictured play elements (Sensory Play Center, Cozy Dome and Multi-Sensory Discovery Wall), the manufactuer took one of its slides and turned it horizontal to create the Roller Table. The company says kids receive proprioceptive stimulation and all-over deep muscle pressure as they push and pull themselves along the TenderTuff-coated steel rollers for an upper-body strength challenge.

The fifth new product is the custom Wide Ramp. The ramp meets ADA guidelines for two wheelchairs to pass or travel together.

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October 20, 2019, 6:10 pm PDT

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