Parents are keen on finding playgrounds that offer fun activities for all of their kids. However, most playgrounds are designed for children aged 2 – 12, leaving infants and toddlers overlooked. Yet, their development can significantly benefit from outdoor play, gaining unique sensory experiences that they can’t find indoors. In addition, it also allows them to fully exercise their gross motor skills and contributes to their overall development.
In this workshop, we’ll delve into the developmental milestones for infants and toddlers, and pinpoint playground equipment that best promotes their growth. With the help of Head Start Body Start’s Infant and Toddler Outdoor Play Space Assessment, we’ll uncover the most effective ways to design a play space for this age group. This includes recommendations for schools, daycares, and public park settings.
By the end of this course, you’ll be able to:
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About this course
Outdoor play is essential for the development of infants and toddlers. Before they even enter a classroom, children are learning valuable skills like creativity, decision-making, and cooperation. Moreover, outdoor play also has many health benefits for children, including better sleep, vitamin D production, and strengthened heart and lungs.
In this course, Mara Kaplan of Let Kids Play will provide several best practices for designing a play space for 2-5 year-olds. In addition, she’ll outline the eight criteria of Head Start Body Start’s “Outdoor Play Space Assessment for Infants and Toddlers.”
- Welcoming Environment: Make families with infants and toddlers feel at home by including seating areas, shade structures, diaper-changing areas, and drinking fountains.
- Key Features: The play space features a variety of manufactured and natural materials that are developmentally appropriate for infants and toddlers.
- Intentional Design: The play space supports all domains of infant and toddler development, including physical, social/emotional, language/literacy, and cognition.
- Natural Features: Children are encouraged to connect with nature through natural materials like logs, stumps, boulders, planters, or water features.
- Movement and Motor Development: There are opportunities in the play space for infants and toddlers to practice their locomotion, balancing, manipulative, and fine motor skills.
- Flexibility and Individualization: The play space adapts to the needs of all children, including those with disabilities, and evolves over time to factor in new needs.
- Safety, Maintenance, Shade and Storage: The play space meets all applicable codes and regulations, including those for shade, maintenance, and storage of loose parts.
- Reasonable Risk and Challenge: Include equipment that provides a reasonable level of risk and challenge, such as trees, climbers, steps, and uneven walking paths.
Mara Kaplan is the Founder of Let Kids Play, a consulting firm that partners with manufacturers, communities, and parents to develop projects and strategies that provide optimal play opportunities for children.
Recognized nationally as an expert in designing play spaces, Mara is a committed advocate for inclusive play. As an educator and parent to a child with a disability, she holds a 25-year track record in designing, building, and managing both indoor and outdoor play environments. Her expertise also extends to play spaces and toys for children with and without disabilities.
In 1995, Mara, and five other parents raising children with disabilities, identified the significance of play in their children’s learning. They were determined to build a space where children of varying abilities could play together, leading to the founding of the Center for Creative Play. Mara served as its Executive Director for seven years before embarking on her journey with Let Kids Play.
Mara’s educational background includes a degree in elementary education and a minor in gifted education from Indiana University (Bloomington, IN). She later acquired her MBA, specializing in non-profit management, from Boston University.
Mara’s endeavors have earned her the Shore-Whitehill award for her efforts in enhancing the lives of people with special needs. Her work has been showcased in publications such as First30days.com, the Wall Street Journal, Be the Change, and the Social Enterprise Reporter.
The great thing about our courses is that they’re designed for all levels of experience. Whether you’re a parent on a PAC planning your first playground, or a landscape architect with decades of experience, there’s always something new to learn. Plus, our courses offer a quick way to stay up to date with the most recent trends in playground design.
Our courses take into account multiple groups and audiences, all of whom have different needs for their playground. A few groups that will benefit from taking our courses include:
- Parents: Parent volunteers will learn the most important aspects to consider when planning their playground project.
- Teachers: Teachers will learn about the educational benefits of play and how to incorporate them on the playground.
- Landscape Architects: Architects will learn innovative design ideas that they may use in their upcoming projects.
- Parks & Recreation: Parks professionals will learn about recent advances in safety, inclusion, and sustainability.
- Property Managers: Property managers will learn how playgrounds can attract families to live in their neighbourhood.
Mara Kaplan is a nationally recognized expert in inclusive play, with 25 years of experience designing outdoor environments. She is the driving force behind Let Kids Play, a consulting firm that works with parents and communities to create accessible play spaces.