Is There Room for Music on the Playground?

 “Music enhances the education of our children by helping them to make connections and broadening the depth with which they think and feel. If we are to hope for a society of culturally literate people, music must be a vital part of our children’s education.”  —Yo-Yo Ma 

“Music has a power of forming the character, and should therefore be introduced into the education of the young.”  — Aristotle

Music has been with us since the earliest civilizations. There is reason to believe that every culture throughout history embraced some kind of music, just as we can safely bet children have been playing since the earliest days.

Music is called the “universal language” for a reason. It can be a uniting force for people, and children are no exception.

No Fault Sport Group’s blogs are usually about playground design and trends in safety surfacing. We are also interested in new studies on childhood development and find it fascinating how modern playground architects and equipment suppliers are incorporating music performance and education on the playground.

More than outdoor singalongs or instrumental lessons happening in the park instead of indoors, we are referencing built-in musical features that become part of a playground’s design, meant to be played with as much as everything else in a playscape for toddlers and grade-school children.

 

Of course, you probably don’t want a grand piano standing between the swing set and the merry-go-round on your outdoor playscape. We are talking about bright, colorful and engaging play equipment that incorporates sound and movement. Here are a few examples of some playground equipment manufacturers who provide outdoor musical equipment:

  • Little Tikes supplies a musical line called “Concerto” that incorporates drums and xylophones.
  • Miracle Recreation also has a “Concerto” musical line of equipment.
  • Playworld has a product called “Rhythm Spinner”.  Children can spin the dial to hear cool music, reverse directions to change the song, and hit the drum pads to play along with the music.
  • Landscape Structures also incorporates musical products in their play equipment with the “Rhapsody Line”.

Playground-friendly musical features (like the ones listed above) are made to withstand the heavy impact that tiny “Beethovens” seem capable of heaping upon them. They are also built to last through years of exposure to sun and rain (not to mention strawberry jam-smeared fingers).

Music Complements Physical Activity

Playgrounds, for the most part, are all about giving children an opportunity to work off the boundless resources of energy they seem to have. They are also a place for children to grow mentally; having musical features in play areas enhances sensory play and aids in this growth. For example, when children play music together, they are learning to work together as a team and develop their sense of empathy. They are learning ways to express themselves.

Sure the “music” being made may not sound perfectly harmonious to the moms and dads listening nearby, but young children start to understand basic emotions and how to express them constructively by using expression through music. That does not mean they will not continue to cry, throw temper tantrums, or have meltdowns from time-to-time – they are children after all. However, there is no denying that children who have been introduced to music performance demonstrate enhanced communication and reasoning skills as they age.

According to a recent article in Playground Professionals,music and play are very effective ways for children to learn about and explore feelings, and then practice how to express and manage them.”  We agree, and this article is one of many we have read that says music education helps children develop social skills, emotional skills, and more. 

Music and Special Needs

Everyone likes playing music! As inclusivity is increasingly becoming a major goal for today’s playground designers, music is a great way to incorporate playground aspects for children of all ages and abilities. Music has been used as therapy for children who do not communicate well with others.  As for children with developmental disabilities, such as autism and Asperger’s syndrome, this kind of music therapy can be an engaging way to help develop their social skills.

You’ve heard about “left brain” and “right brain” thinking, right? Playing musical instruments engages the entire brain, stimulating both the analytical and the artistic halves. One characteristic of autistic children is that the left and right hemispheres are often “out of sync.” Playing a musical instrument can make new neural connections for these children. Sometimes, the effects can be profound. Plus, it makes them happy in a way other activities simply can’t!

Integrating music on the playground can help children with physical disabilities, too. For example, you may be surprised to learn that deaf children can enjoy musical features on the playground! Many deaf people play instruments. As percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie (who herself is deaf) says:

“When I’m asked if I hear the percussion instruments I am playing or other instruments playing alongside me, my response is that I feel the music through my body–my hands, arms, cheekbones, scalp, everywhere.”

No Fault Sport Group partners with equipment suppliers and playground designers across the country. We specialize in safety surfacing materials such as our poured-in-place rubber surfacing and synthetic play turf, but we may be able to steer you in the right direction if you’re looking for unique playground features like musical instruments and percussive features. Contact us today, and we’ll talk about your vision and your goals!

No Fault Project Spotlight – Caribou CommUNITY Playground, Soda Springs, Idaho

No Fault partnered with Leathers & Associates to provide and install our No Fault Safety Surface for Caribou CommUNITY Playground in Soda Springs, Idaho.  Laura Lind and Georgia Brown with Friends of the Soda Springs City Park are exemplar roles models for mothers with disabled children.  They worked tirelessly for several years to raise funds for this 9,000 square foot “all-inclusive play area” for children of all ages and abilities!

We asked Georgia Brown to give us more information about this amazing project.  Georgia stated,

“Laura and I met at a gymnastic lesson, and we both commented on how Soda Springs needed a playground that was appropriate for all ages and abilities. At the time, we both had babies that were almost two years old that couldn’t play on the playgrounds here because they were not appropriate. We had both observed a child in our community who had prosthetic legs, and had to have surgery right before the summer two years in a row.  He was wheelchair bound for most of the summer, not able to play on the playgrounds, and sat on the side while his siblings and cousins played. This tugged on my heart strings.

Children with special needs have always been an important part of my life. My mom was a special education teacher for all of my elementary school grades. She taught me at a very young age how special everyone is regardless of their abilities. As a parent, you never know if you will need an all abilities playground. Something could happen at any moment to anyone in your family, and a playground for all ages and abilities would be invaluable.”

Both Georgia and Laura were on a mission to build an all-inclusive playground in their community, but they had a long way to go.  They tried for five months to get umbrellaed under numerous organizations, but because of the large budget required for this project, no one wanted to take them on.  Thankfully, Laura was able to get a “501c3” (approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt, charitable organization) fairly quickly.  At that point, tons of fundraisers fell into their laps, and they remained busy raising money for two full years!  Georgia said,

Laura Lind did a wonderful job writing grants, and secured almost all of them! The amount of support from our 3,000 population community was amazing.  There were very few households that didn’t support our project monetarily in one way or another. It truly brought our community together to accomplish something positive. Most of our city council and other prominent members of the community came out to help during the build, as well as many prominent business owners.

When designing the playground, our dream was always to have poured-in-place rubber because…..honestly without it, the playground would not be completely accessible for those in wheelchairs. No Fault made it possible for us to afford it! We are very grateful and relieved that this project is complete and available for all the children who are from this area, or pass through our community.  The No Fault flooring is incredible!  Out of all the stress that our build and equipment brought, No Fault was very kind, flexible, and understanding of our situation. I think if you asked anyone on our committee if they would recommend No Fault, it would be an immediate ‘yes’!

Laura Lind was also very appreciative of our work and mentioned, “Thank you so much for all your effort on our behalf! Your crew did a fantastic job! Each one was very friendly and professional at the same time. Each time I stopped by, the crew always greeted me with a smile and a hello and answered my questions. They kept the site very clean and provided an overall good experience for us, and the surfacing looks wonderful!  We have had absolutely wonderful customer service from everyone at No Fault, and will recommend them to other playground builds!

The Mayor for the City of Soda Springs, Austin Robinson, was very happy with how this playground project turned out. He mentioned that the project has been well received by the public, and he was pleased with the finished surfacing which was very comfortable under his feet.  He is grateful for the quality surfacing installed by No Fault.

For more information on how No Fault can help you design an all-inclusive playground with our rubber safety surfacing, contact one of our friendly sales associates at 1- 866-NFSPORT (637-7678), or visit our website at https://nofault.com/sales-associates/.

Why Theme Your Playground?

Everyone wants a playground that is truly one-of-a-kind; one that stands out from all the others. You want children to enjoy a unique and memorable experience they can’t find anywhere else.

But let’s face it: It’s getting harder to create a “unique and memorable experience” in today’s world of short attention spans and competition from computer-generated special effects on small and large screens.

Children crave physical and mental stimulation. That’s why the creative designs you find in “themed” playgrounds can capture their imagination and encourage them and their families to keep coming back for years to come.

 

In a recent article featured in Playground Professionals, Lisa Annis wrote: “Themed playgrounds bring excitement as they offer added challenges and take kids to that ‘next level’. They’re engaging and keep kids coming back throughout their learning years.

Themed playgrounds inspire creativity, which in turn builds confidence. For example, a playground with a military theme lets kids play soldier and go on “missions” with their friends. If you live in a community with a military connection, this helps them feel connected to the “grown-up” world around them.

Themed playgrounds can even inspire cognitive development in ways other playgrounds don’t. A police or fire department theme encourages role playing; it also helps kids imagine helping others, racing to an emergency, and collaborating with the rest of a team to get the job done.

 

No Fault partnered with All Inclusive Rec to create a “farm theme” for Adventureland Resort in Altoona, Iowa. We provided our No Fault PlaySafe 50 Synthetic Turf System to build out the playground areas.

How did Adventureland’s administration decide on the “farm” theme?

We had an existing barn structure near where the area was being built, so it was a natural fit,” says Adventureland marketing director and part owner, Molly Vincent. “Plus, we are located in Iowa—farm country!

Molly says the farm theme, which includes a giant tractor and sky-high sunflower installations, has been a huge hit with the kids. It gives them something fun to do while waiting for the roller coasters and other rides elsewhere in the park.

 

Theme parks always have lines, so it’s great to have an area to run around and do things,” Molly adds. “This is great for kids aged 2-12, so there really is something for everyone. Families have loved it.

 

If you own a business, school, or church, you can use custom playgrounds to match your brand or your message. Aside from our synthetic turf, No Fault Safety Surface is perfect for themed playgrounds since it can include built-in designs and school colors.

Woodfield Park in Lathrop, California used No Fault Safety Surfacing to create an underwater sea adventure with bright colors combined with large shark decals to suggest movement and fluidity throughout the park.

 

With custom playground designs, the opportunities are endless! Some themed playgrounds are visually stunning, drawing kids in with colors and shapes they usually only see on TV, in computer games, and in movies. Stockholm’s “Fruit and Scent Park” (Fruktlekparken), for example, is a place where kids can slide down banana peels, spin around on strawberries, and swing on cherries. There’s also the Dinosaur Island play area in West Sussex’s Southwater Country Park, sparking imaginations and inspiring kids to learn more about their favorite Jurassic-era creatures.

Of course, these are “go big” designs from world-class parks and playgrounds. Don’t feel the need to “go big or go home” with your playground design. Even a single feature is enough to inspire children. You never have to take an “all or nothing” approach!

 

You can add imaginative, educational art to existing panels or playground equipment.  Even a mural depicting well-known scenes from fictional stories or scientific facts about the natural world can inspire parents and children to engage in learning and imaginative play.

When building out your themed play space, you’ll work with engineers and fabricators to create custom sculptures and other features to give your playground just the right touch. Indeed, a good design team can create a custom concept for a theme playground to fit any footprint and budget. Your imagination is the only limiting factor.

Finally, whatever designs your imagination (and budget) allow, make sure you build an inclusive playground where the equipment can be used by children of all ages and abilities! Make sure your equipment uses quality materials and that it meets or exceeds all industry safety standards. Poured-in-place rubber and synthetic turf are popular safety surfacing options in modern playgrounds. Safety standards regarding playground surfacing can be found in ASTM F1292. For manufactured playground equipment, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) offers third-party certification.

What theme are you considering? Contact us today, and we’ll help make your vision a reality! No Fault is a leader in the sports and recreational industry, developing remarkable playground safety surfacing with a strong commitment to playground safety and durability. No Fault understands what weather, sun, and thousands of happy kids can do to a playground. Our custom products bring color and protection to themed playgrounds and parks nationwide.