Continuing Education

We are proud to present engaging, informative Continuing Education (CE) that provides a deeper understanding of play and design. Playworld offers courses for free, with automated credit reporting. If you are an architect, landscape architect, or other construction professional, you can depend on Playworld to help maintain your accreditation.

Playworld is an approved CE provider through the ASLA–Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES). These courses are approved for LA CES 1.0 PDH. Learn more about our courses below!

Previous Courses

Designing Social and Engaging Playgrounds

Social and engaging elements are critical components of an inclusive playground. Some children are capable of playing with other children without any prompting. But some children need assistance with socialization because of a disability or situation. The design of a playground can be beneficial in facilitating a social learning environment.   In this workshop, we will demonstrate the need to select and place equipment with a deliberate goal of engaging children with one another. We will take you on a tour of an existing playground discussing the different decisions that went into the playground's design. We will also show you how a few simple changes can promote social play. Finally, we will share resources on the role of adults in facilitating social play.


1.      Define what social play is and why it is essential to plan for it

2.      Understand how zoning a playground can help with socialization

3.      Identify where in a playground different types of social play occur

4.      Understand the role of adults in social play

Community Engagement, A Case Study

Kids Cove in Marquette, Mi, had been a beloved playground for two generations. When it needed to be replaced, many people in the community were disappointed to see it go away. A group of volunteers identified the need for an inclusive playground in the community. The city agreed to the plan if the volunteers led the fundraising and planning. In less than 20 months, the group hired a landscape architecture team, brought the community around to the idea of a new playground, created a design with input from many constituency groups, and raised over $1 million.

In this course, Mara Kaplan will interview three community members to learn how a group of volunteers in the upper peninsula of Michigan was able to accomplish what they did, how they used crowdfunding to finish their campaign, and how the strong partnership between the architecture team and the volunteers was crucial to the success of their project. Participants will be encouraged to ask questions.

At the end of the course, participants will be able to:

1. Describe how an architecture team can help the community solicit input from different constituency groups.
2. Understand the pros and cons of undertaking a project in a small community with a 26% poverty rate.
3. Identify apps, programs, and ideas that can assist in getting the community involved in the project.

Increasing Play Value with Playground Surfacing

Safety and accessibility surfacing is required in all playgrounds.  The surfacing uses a significant portion of the playground budget.  So the question is, "how do you get more bang for your buck?"  It is easy to increase the play value of the playground by adding designs, games, and undulations with the surfacing.  Surfacing can help tell the story of your playground as well as provide important wayfinding details. In this session, we will explore how unitary surfacing can be used to transform an ordinary playground into one that the entire community is talking about.

Instructor: Mara Kaplan


At the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:

1. List strategies to use surfacing to create more play value.
2. Use surfacing to complement a wayfinding system and communicate about safety.
3. Identify the pros and cons of detailed surfacing designs

Creating Extraordinary Playgrounds

What does it take to create an extraordinary playground?  What strategies should you put into place so that your newest playground is visited by families from the neighborhood and from the next county over?  In this webinar, we will show a variety of built playgrounds.  We will see how playgrounds fit into bigger settings; how theming makes a statement; how surfacing or one or two pieces of unique equipment can make something ordinary, or extraordinary; and how creating multi-generational and/or inclusive playgrounds draws families from all over.


At the end of this presentation, participants will be able to 

1. Discuss how water play, height, and unique equipment can help create an extraordinary playground.  

2. Identify small details that can take an ordinary playground to an extraordinary one.  

3. Explain how playgrounds that reach the widest audience can often be extraordinary ones. 

4. Understand the importance of child development when designing a playground

Fundraising and the Landscape Architect

Your customer can’t build their playground without money. Lots of it! This session will enable you to provide ongoing advice and direction to customers who are undertaking the complex and time-consuming task of raising funds for their playground project. It will show you how successful charities and non-profits identify prospective donors, communicate effectively with those prospects, and sustain interest and engagement in their playground fundraising campaigns over time.
The webinar will be taught by Jason Rodham who is a fundraising consultant who helps playground leaders secure the money they need to realize their vision.  Over the last 20 years, he has worked with more than 150 charities, non-profits and social ventures in the United States and Canada. As both a fundraising consultant and in-house major gifts officer, Jason has raised more than $37 million in new funding from individuals, foundations, corporations, and government.  He has significant hands-on experience in all aspects of fund development, including campaign management, prospect identification, grant writing, and donor relationship development.
At the conclusion of this presentation, the Landscape Architect will be able to:

1. Support their customer’s efforts to launch and sustain a successful fundraising campaign.

2. Help customers develop the resources they need to engage effectively with all levels of the donor.

3. Play an ongoing role as a contributing member of their customer’s campaign team.

Swings in a 21st Century Playground

Swings take a lot of space in a playground design. Are they worth it? Swings stimulate a child's sensory system and help with brain development. In this workshop, we will discuss the child development benefits to swinging. We will also explore the many different types of swings that are now available, looking at the advantages of each one.

At the end of the course a participant will be able to:
1. Discuss how swinging can stimulate the sensory system and help with brain development
2. Explore how children use gross motor skills, fine motor skills, and motor planning when using swings
3. Explain the social benefits of having swings on the playground
4. Identify the different types of swings available and the advantages of each type
5. Explore how a combination of swings can promote inclusion.

Instructor: Mara Kaplan

Creating Intriguing Outdoor Playground Spaces

The design of outdoor space influences how children use their environments for play, exploration, and learning. Outdoor spaces and places that children have access to require examination from a variety of perspectives to determine what the space “says” to children. 

The course will be taught by Dr. Beverlie Dietze who is a lead researcher on a number of projects focused on examining strategies to advance children's outdoor play through space design.  She is the author of seven textbooks, several peer-reviewed articles, and is the publisher of the Play Outdoors magazine.   

Her textbooks include: 

Empowering Pedagogy for Early Childhood Education, Playing and Learning in Early Childhood Education, Second Edition, Outdoor and Nature Play in Early Childhood Education, Playing and Learning in Early Childhood Education


At the conclusion of the webinar, participants will be able to:

- Examine space designs that support outdoor pedagogy and influence playground design. 
- Discuss why playground designs are examined from multiple lens.   
- Highlight how environmental attributes such as surfacing, topography and paths and wayfinding contribute to triggering children’s ideas and decisions about how to play in the space. 

Designing a Nature Playground

Nature play has been a hot topic for many years. You have probably seen some wonderful natural play spaces and some that make you wonder how safe or maintainable they really are. Developing a connection to nature and even just being outside playing has tremendous benefits for children from lowered stress to increased attention span to increased nature stewardship. In this course, we will look at the benefits of nature and playing in nature. Then we will look more closely at where to use nature in a playground. These quick rules of thumb will be based on Learning Landscapes Design’s 10 years of experience designing natural play areas. They take into account liability, maintenance, longevity, and play value.

Learning Landscapes Design is a landscape architecture firm specializing in inspiring places for learning and play. Michele Mathis principal designer at Learning Landscape Design has been designing spaces for nature connection, play, and learning for almost 20 years. It was a field that combined her passions of design, environment, and nature connection. She started the Oregon Natural Play Initiative as a place for Oregon park and designers leaders to come together and share our attempts at offering more natural places for play.  Since then she has earned a Masters in Education and become a parent (which is its own crash course that may never be ‘mastered’). LLD’s work has focused on how playgrounds and spaces for learning affect the growth and development of children. Our design team has learned a lot along the way. The path to quality nature play has been a curving and dynamic road. In this presentation, we will focus on creating high-quality and inclusive play spaces that combine playground equipment and natural materials. We will look at some of the decisions that need to be made by the owner and design team and how those decisions affect the resulting space for overall fun, sense of place, maintenance, and liability.

Creating a Unique Playground Using Hill Slides

More and more landscape architects are exploring using hills and mounds to create height on a playground, but it isn't always simple.  While there are many advantages to hills slides, there are many things to consider: the existing topography, the budget for bringing in fill, what slopes are required so that the slide works, and more.   In this webinar, learn when it is appropriate to use this technique, what questions to ask about your site, and how to select the right equipment.  We will also explore the play value of Hill Slides and what the impact is when designing an inclusive playground.

Presenters: Jeff Barber, Mara Kaplan

Combatting Trauma with Playful Spaces

All children deserve to grow, play and thrive in a safe environment. Unfortunately, the society within which we all live is filled with places, conditions, emotional stresses, and even pandemics like Covid 19, that attack our safe places. Children who have experienced trauma and toxic stress require sensitively designed play/recreational environments to minimize the impacts of the attacks from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Trauma-informed design is an emerging field focused on supporting the environmental and psychological needs of trauma victims and survivors. This presentation will focus on the aspects of design that can help this demographic thrive despite the challenges they face.

The presenter is Chad Kennedy, a Principal and Landscape Architect for O’Dell Engineering. He holds a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture has a deep interest in design-oriented childhood development and psychologically healthy play environments. This interest originates from a yearlong interdisciplinary disability course he participated in at the Center for Persons with Disabilities at Utah State University more than 16 years ago. His experience there made a lasting impression that has guided his passion for creating outdoor environments that are, sensitive to all forms of children’s development needs, that promote wellness and completeness, and that provides unimpeded access to all who wish to participate. Under his direction as a partner, his firm has focused on healthcare gardens and recreational environments that meet those criteria.


- Describe the breadth, nature, and impact of trauma on children in our current society.
- Discuss trauma-informed principles for outdoor play/recreation space design that help combat and minimize negative impacts of trauma.
- Show real world examples of design that supports physical, psychological, cognitive, and social development for children who have or are experiencing trauma.

Piaget and the Playground: Adding learning to the playground

The benefits of playing on a playground are well known.  Children can get exercise, building up their core gross muscles, and practicing balancing as well as other physical play skills.  Children make friends, practice cooperative play, and other social play skills.  The playground is full of sensory play experiences from spinning to touching to jumping to hearing to seeing.  What hasn’t been explored as much as physical, sensory, and social play, are Piaget’s forms of cognitive play.  Just as it is important to ensure a variety of physical play events, so is it important to ensure that there are opportunities for functional play, constructive play, symbolic play, and games with rules.  In this webinar, we will explore the benefits of these types of play and how to implement them on the playground.

Speaker: Mara Kaplan.  Mara Kaplan is an educator, an advocate for inclusive play, and a parent of a child with disabilities.   Ms. Kaplan is nationally and internationally recognized for her expertise in inclusive play design for more than two decades. Ms. Kaplan is the editor of the Inclusive Play Design Guide and helps inform the designs for many of our inclusive products.  She provides third-party certification for playground designs. She speaks around the country about her journey as a parent of a child with disabilities as well as on topics of universal design, inclusive playgrounds, and including social and cognitive play.  

10 Steps to a Playground for Children on the Autism Spectrum

1 in 54 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum. 3.5 million people in the United States live with an autism spectrum disorder. This workshop will explore the autism spectrum disorder, the implications for families bringing their child to a playground, and 10 strategies to incorporate in playground designs that address those needs.

Instructor: Mara Kaplan


Developing Physical Literacy in Children: Why Early Exposure is the Key to an Active and Healthy Life

What’s that saying about riding a bike? If you learned once, you’ll never forget? But, what if you never learned how to ride a bike or kick a soccer ball or how to skip? This presentation will look at how physical literacy is developed in children and why early exposure is crucial for a healthy and active lifestyle.  We will specifically look into why children are more receptive to developing movement skills at different ages and how we can help them achieve physical literacy in developmentally appropriate ways. We identify barriers to movement that certain populations face and why our children are moving less than ever before. Finally, we will explore how your school playground can be designed to support children to develop fundamental movement skills.

This webinar will be presented by Nic Castona, an elementary physical education teacher and Washington State Coach of the Year award recipient. In his 10 years as a physical education teacher, Nic has taught Pre-K to 12th grade and seen firsthand the challenges and barriers children face when it comes to achieving physical literacy. As a Track & Field and Cross Country coach, he saw the role that early exposure and access to movement had on his athlete’s success. Sparked by a presentation he attended years ago about child development Nic has had an avid interest in the early childhood movement and its effect on living an active and healthy life. His passion is teaching others how children acquire movement skills, the brain science behind this, and how we can help them find ways to be active by understanding why physical literacy really is.

At the end of the session, participants will be able to:
1. Describe physical literacy and give an example from their own experience.
2. Identify the main elements in the continuum of motor skills (0-12 years).
3. Explain how playgrounds can help develop fundamental movement skills. 
4. Describe barriers children face when it comes to accessing movement opportunities. 

Inclusive Play--Designing Outdoor Play Environments for Everyone

Every child who comes to the playground should be able to play on developmentally and age-appropriate equipment. This presentation provides an overview of inclusive playground design, led by PlayPower's inclusive play consultant, Mara Kaplan. She will discuss the importance of the planning process, and how the design process needs to focus on the child before any playground equipment is selected.


  1. Discuss the terms “accessible” and “inclusive” as they relate to playground design
  2. Discuss the tradeoffs and consequences of playground design decisions and the impact individual decisions make on the entire playground experience
  3. Discuss why the layout is the biggest single factor between only typically-developing children playing and everyone playing, and
  4. Identify how playground design can move beyond basic compliance to create outdoor play environments for everyone.

Surfacing Secrets

Loose fill vs. Synthetic. Accessibility and Safety. Cost and Maintenance. Every playground requires safety surfacing, yet what to purchase is one of the hardest decisions to make.  In reality, there is no perfect surfacing, but in this course we will  explore all of the different options and discuss the benefits of each type.  The goal of this course is to give you all of the information so that you can educate your customers.  Together you will be able to make the best decision for a particular playground’s size, budget, use, and maintenance plan.`

Playground Fundraising and You

You can’t build a playground without money. Organizations that understand the fundraising landscape – and have a strategy for meeting their objectives – are typically more successful. In this session, we will explore how to identify and communicate effectively with potential donors and review the strategies you can employ to execute a winning fundraising campaign. As part of this session, we’ll also discuss the realities of fundraising in a post-Covid world, including the future of online fundraising and in-person events.

Instructor: Jason Rodham


Making Magic Happen: Creating Outdoor Environments for Young Children

Magic happens on a well-designed early childhood playground.   An outside space that is well designed allows for stimulating and challenging play experiences that meet children’s ongoing developmental needs.  The first five years of life are an especially critical time for brain development and forming the foundation for future learning and behavior. In this webinar, Dr. Angela Searcy will take you on a journey of discovery.  Explore the importance of gross motor, pretend, and social-emotional play.  Learn how to look at playground equipment with a critical eye and combine manufactured equipment with loose parts and nature play.  

Speaker: Angela Searcy holds a B.A. degree in English and secondary education, a M.S. degree in early childhood development from Erikson Institute and a Doctorate in Education. Her research revolves around brain-based learning as assessed by The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (or CLASS) and its’ correlation to aggressive behaviors in Head Start Preschool Classrooms. An educator since 1990, Angela has experience as a teaceher at all levels of education, as a development therapist through the early intervention system of Illinois, and is currently the owner and founder of Simple Solutions Educational Services a professional development company. Angela is also adjunct faculty teaching family and culture and seminar leader at Erikson Institute, a professional development provider for Kaplan Early Learning Company,Teaching Strategies, LLC, an affiliate trainer for Teachstone, and the Author of “Push Past-It! A Positive Approach to Challenging Classroom Behaviors” A former neuro-developmental specialist, Angela has specialized training in neuroscience and is a candidate in Erikson Institute's Infant Mental Health Program.

Urban Playground: How Child-Friendly Planning and Design Can Save Cities

What type of cities do we want our children to grow up in? Car-dominated, noisy, polluted and devoid of nature? Or walkable, welcoming, and green? As the climate crisis and urbanization escalate, cities urgently need to become more inclusive and sustainable. This session taught by Tim Gill, scholar, advocate and consultant on childhood, reveals how seeing cities through the eyes of children strengthens the case for planning and transportation policies that work for people of all ages, and for the planet. Gill will show how urban designers and city planners can incorporate child friendly insights and ideas into their master plans, public spaces, and streetscapes.

Meaningful Placemaking for Outdoor Spaces: Best Practices for Design and Specification of Fabric

Never before have human beings been so sedentary, nor spent so much time indoors. One obstacle to being outdoors is sun exposure – healthy in small doses but dangerous in large ones. This course offers shade creation techniques for designers, landscape architects, urban planners and park and recreation professionals. Tensile fabric structures elevate the value of outdoor space to a high degree. They can be purely functional or wildly imaginative. The designer’s imagination is the key. This course discusses the value of tensile fabric structures and the variety of applications for this exciting form of architecture. The factors that make up tensile fabric structures are discussed, including framing, fabric, connections, and foundations. The process of bringing a fabric structure from idea to implementation is thoroughly discussed. And case studies are inserted throughout to show these innovative structures in action.

The Land & Water Conservation Fund

Passed into law in the summer of 2020, the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) is a landmark piece of environmental legislation for the United States. One of its key outcomes is to guarantee full funding and allocation of the 1965 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Historically, the LWCF has been dogged by underfunding, diversion of resources and uncertainty about its long-term future. The GAOA establishes a permanent, minimum-level of funding for the LWCF at $900-million annually. This presentation will discuss the LWCF’s ongoing operation and the scale and scope of its investment in outdoor recreation over the past 55 years.


1 LU from LA/CES