Get Out and Play - Healthy Play for Alexandria, Virginia

We recently completed a city-wide study of playspaces throughout Alexandria, Virginia. This video encouraging people to provide children with healthy play was one of the items we produced as part of the project. Although we're located in Lafayette, CO we love working for people and municipalities across the country.

We have created a video for Alexandria, Virginia to promote healthy play for kids. It's called Get Out and Play

A couple of announcements

If you're not following us on

Facebook, you probably missed these two speaking announcements at



First, Trish will be speaking on "

The Landscape of Play

" on 2/10 at 8:30am Rm 501.

Second, Rob will be speaking with Teresa (from


 on "

Landscapes and Community Health

" on 2/10 at 1:30pm Rm 501.

Now go follow us so you're not left in the dark any longer. 

Swingsets and Apple Pie - Two Great American Icons

Following up on something I ran across today, I searched the internet for stories about the removal of swings from school playgrounds in a county in West Virginia. Sure enough, there is plenty of buzz about it. One good source of information was today's West Virgina Record, an online legal journal.

Turns out the county schools safety manager has decided the cost of maintaining the required safety surfacing under all of the swingsets in the school system is too expensive, as is the cost of the lawsuits filed against Cabell County Schools (two in the past year) for injuries sustained on swingsets. So he's having swings removed from all of the county's elementary schools.

As someone who has designed plenty of playgrounds, I can understand his problem. Swings require a very large area of safety surfacing compared to other elements on a playground, which takes time and money to install and maintain properly.

This situation brings up a lot of questions. Like, what is the value of play, relative to other things the school has to pay for? Are swings more valuable than other play elements, enough so to justify the extra expense of providing them? And is depriving kids of the opportunity to swing on the school playground just plain "un-American"? Some people seem to think so.

I have my own thoughts on these questions, but the fact is, it's hard to point to reliable sources for definitive answers. Yet these are turning out to be important questions. Important enough that a state senator has gotten involved. Senator Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell has asked the Cabell County Schools Superintendent to suspend the removal of swings from playgrounds until the matter can be looked at more fully. Jenkins is asking interesting questions, like what the history of injuries from swingsets really is in Cabell and statewide; and how much removing swingsets from school playgrounds will save the county on its insurance premiums.

If nothing else, this story points out that child's play is a lot more complicated than people think, and a lot more important, too, in today's complicated world. That makes what we do here at Design Concepts just a little more worthwhile, I think.
Rob Layton

Playgrounds of London

My recent trip to London was great fun, with the added bonus of incredible weather: long days of sunshine and warm temperatures. Perfect for enjoying the many fine parks found there. Fortunately, my two young traveling companions, aged seven and eleven, shared my own personal interest in parks and especially playgrounds. We visited every playground we could find, and what we found was that London offers some great places to play. The large and well-known Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground in Kensington Gardens lived up to it's reputation, with a sand beach and water play, huge pirate ship and a variety of nooks and crannies to explore. The playground is not only fun for the kids, it's also a pleasant place for parents, with places to relax in a garden-like setting.

The girls also had a great time at the Holland Park Adventure Playground, which has a wide variety of moving elements, including several different types of swings and spinners, and platforms suspended on cables that all bounce and jiggle when kids (and their parents) jump on them. It also has one of the long zip-lines that we found in many of London's parks. With so many interactive things to do, the girls couldn't help but make friends among the children of many nationalities who visit the park. It was interesting to see how the kids all quickly figured out how to cooperate to make things spin faster and go farther, even when they didn't speak the same language.

In Kew Gardens we found a number of fantastic interpretive playgrounds, including one inside a greenhouse (especially popular in the wet weather London is famous for, I'm sure) and several natural play areas built around  the concepts of photosynthesis, the food chain, and other natural processes. Lots of great ideas for combining play, learning, and nature can be found at Kew Gardens.

London's playgrounds were among the highlights of our trip, offering the girls a way to burn off some youthful energy, interact with people their own age, and maybe even learn a little about the environment while we  grownups enjoyed a shady spot to take a break from the rigors of sightseeing. They make a great city even better.
Rob Layton
July 16th, 2010

Q&A on Playgrounds

We're excited to be featured in the April issue of Colorado Parent. Carol and Shanen did a Q&A session on building better playgrounds, and how to incorporate activities for adults as well as kids. Parents are the ones bringing kids to playgrounds, why not give them something to do too? The online version can be found here.