Most of us have fond memories of the playgrounds where we played as children.
It is easy to be nostalgic for the playgrounds we grew up visiting. However, some of us may not have as fond of memories about our time on the playground. Many children experienced broken bones, sprains, strains, dislocations and even concussions on the playgrounds of the past. That is not to say that injuries are not possible on modern playgrounds, but many improvements have been made over the years to help reduce these risks.
The playground you knew and loved may not have been as great as you remember for several reasons. Some of the playground features and equipment that were common in traditional playgrounds are nowhere to be found on a modern playground.
Today we will look at some of the specific features that you may remember from your childhood playgrounds, which are no longer recommended for today’s playgrounds.
If you’re old enough to remember sky-high monkey bars, hot metal slides, and lightning-fast metal merry-go-rounds, you remember when playgrounds came with more risk than necessary. Recently, Playground Professionals published a list of playground features that have become extinct due to their associated unnecessary risk.
Sending our children outdoors to play always comes with an element of risk, but when designing today’s playgrounds it is recommended to use features and structures that help minimize the risk of major injury.
Today, old favorites like chain swings and metal slides have been modified to be safer for children to use. Climbing features and monkey bars are still around, but they aren’t as high and the ground below often has safety surfacing to minimize the risk of injury.
Noyes Elementary School Playground in Sudbury, Massachusetts is an example of a project that includes modern, colorful Little Tikes Commercial play equipment, as well as our No Fault Safety Surface to make it safer and attractive.
Materials That Aren’t Child-Friendly
Common playground construction materials once included galvanized steel pipes, chains, and metal ladders. See our article Historical Look at Playgrounds & Playground Safety to take a trip down memory lane and see how playground design has changed.
The risks were numerous: Burned skin from touching a hot metal slide in August; deep cuts where metal equipment was bent and separated; splinters when wooden beams got old and started to show their age; scraped knees or bruised heads from hitting the asphalt below the equipment.
The materials and construction of playgrounds changed with advances in technology and science. Today, molded plastic and composite materials make play equipment safer and able to retain structural integrity when exposed to the elements.
We partnered with Miracle Recreation to provide our No Fault Safety Surface for the playground at South Tama County Elementary School in Tama, Iowa. Miracle’s play equipment is made of materials that are safe and made to last.
Poorly-maintained playgrounds present additional opportunities for injuries from trash, rusty play equipment, or damaged surfaces. Thankfully, regular inspections and maintenance plans are helping school and park administrators provide the best possible play experience.
What should your maintenance plan include? The play area should be regularly inspected for hazards. Playground equipment and surfacing should also be assessed for general wear and tear. Learn to identify potentially dangerous equipment issues like sharp edges or improperly secured moving parts that could hurt or entangle children.
Long-term exposure to the elements can cause damage to the equipment, and all equipment deteriorates over time. Additionally, trash, broken glass, and other debris are hazardous to children, so keep an eye out!
Other problems to check for include vandalism or other signs of inappropriate use of the playground area.
No Fault partnered with Playworld on the John F. Kennedy Elementary School playground project in Kingsport, Tennessee. Playworld is another great source for modern, state-of-the-art play equipment. We partnered to provide our No Fault Safety Surface in a tan and black color blend to complete the job.
Clueless (Or Absent) Supervisors
Yep, that’s right. One of the biggest changes we’ve seen is that children once “left on their own” on the playground are now being properly supervised.
Today, teachers, parents, and caregivers understand that they play an important role in making the playground safer for children. This includes providing strong supervision, ensuring that equipment is free of potential hazards, and steering children to age-appropriate play areas.
An emphasis on child development and safety is behind the changes you’ll see in the modern playground design. Supervisors can facilitate inclusive play that promotes team-building, sharing, and collaboration. They can make sure children of all abilities and skill levels are getting the development they need.
That said, today’s close supervision can come with risks of its own. You want children to explore and gain confidence without being monitored too closely.
Close supervision can even create dangerous situations. As we wrote about, shinbone (tibia) fractures and young children going down a slide on the lap of an adult is a danger we don’t often think about. Adults should monitor from a safe distance and be aware of the hazards that playing with the children on equipment may cause, such as the leg injury from the velocity of the adult going down the slide while the child’s leg was stuck. Outside of safety, it is also important to remember to allow the children to free play and explore the world for themselves which aids in social and psychological development.
Lack of Safety Surfacing
Another big change you’ll see on the modern playground is the addition of rubber safety surfacing like our No Fault Safety Surface.
Despite the improvements discussed above, in the United States, more than 220,000 children under age 14 are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground injuries every year. These are often generated from slips and falls.
The type of playground surface material is the most important factor in reducing injuries due to falls. There are several types of surfacing available on today’s market. We highly recommend doing your research for which surfacing not only best suits your design needs but also your safety needs.
Rubber-surfaced playgrounds absorb impacts and helps prevent injuries, making play areas safer for children of all abilities. For more information on our best-in-class safety surfacing products, please check out our website. Or, contact No Fault today to learn what’s in store for the playgrounds of tomorrow. Perhaps we can help you with your next project!