Remember field trips? Remember how much fun they were?
Remember how much you learned?
You were learning, you know. When students leave the classroom, they start to see the connections between what they see in their textbooks and what can be found in the real world. They begin to understand that what they learn in the classroom can help them solve real problems.
That’s why getting outdoors is so important. Here at No Fault, we’re always talking about the importance of outdoor play. On the playground, outdoor play balances the education that goes on in the classroom. But outdoor learning is important, too! As we will see, a “place-based” learning experience is a new lens through which students see and understand the world.
Today we’re going to talk about how learning can take place outdoors and how playtime isn’t the only activity that can happen at recess. In fact, the playground (or nearly any outdoors area) can be used to “discover” mathematics and other academic subjects rather than being an “escape” from them!
Be Aware of Different Learning Styles
It all starts with understanding that children are all different. Many young students are “nontraditional learners;” for them, being outside provides an opportunity to engage through physical movement. Being outside also encourages independence and builds confidence. This growth is part of physical fitness, sure, but did you know that it’s also a part of intellectual development?
Effective teaching requires different ways of presenting concepts and skills to help students internalize new learning and retain knowledge. Playgrounds (and the great outdoors in general, even if we’re just talking about city streets) can create meaningful opportunities to learn or reinforce concepts and skills taught in the classroom.
Even youngsters who normally do well in the classroom find that spending time outside offers a fun change of pace from a classroom-based, teacher-directed, textbook-centered experience. If you are a teacher and you incorporate outdoor learning, you may find that some children who never responded in a traditional classroom will do very well outside. For these boys and girls, something “clicks” and they start to grasp the concepts from their textbooks.
Taking Math Outside
Math. Just the word itself is enough to make some of us nervous! When you think about learning mathematics, you usually picture classrooms, desks and thick, intimidating books, right?
Natural outdoor settings hold endless possibilities for learning about math. That’s why early childhood educators are starting to teach their students about numbers and spatial relationships in natural outdoor settings.
One organization in New York called UrbanMathTrails, a math education consultancy, is taking mathematics out of the textbooks and inspiring children to discover math in the environment around them.
Jan Cohen is the founder. She says parks and other natural habitats, playgrounds, zoos, and neighborhoods have “kinesthetic, naturalist and spatial elements” that support “mathematical thinking” and that gets children excited about math. She says her “learning outdoors” approach is great at cultivating problem-solving skills, creativity, and decision-making.
This approach encourages students to use spatial awareness to solve problems. For example, basketball courts, running tracks and play equipment can be creatively leveraged into engaging lessons about numbers and operations, measurement and data, geometry, ratios and proportions, and even algebraic thinking.
Even walking around the school building itself offers opportunities for measurement activities using both non-standard (hand span, arm span, step length) and standard measurement units (feet and meters). With a tape measure (one that has both inch and centimeter units), you can guide students as they convert lengths, widths, and heights to feet, yards and meters, practicing division to solve application problems. You can teach children how to convert units of measurement within and between the metric system and the U.S. measurement system.
Math Problems Outdoors
In addition to the example above, here are a few math activities that can be taken outdoors.
Explore the relationship between perimeter and area.
Compare lengths of lanes in a running track to determine the correct starting position in each lane to ensure that all competitors run the same distance.
Calculate slopes. By learning how to measure a change in elevation, students are exposed to another concept in engineering.
Measure heights using corresponding shadows.
Identify and measure different types of angles (acute, obtuse, right or straight)
Practice using geometric terms. When students are challenged to communicate math orally, their understanding of concepts and skills improve.
Tools to Get Started
Activating the outdoors for math learning requires very few materials. Sidewalk chalk, measuring tapes, string, clipboards and pencils are enough to get started.
Have a plan when you head outdoors. Don’t just wander around! Know what concepts you’ll be teaching.
Group the students for specific activities. Students can learn to work with a partner or in a team. Student interaction with one another builds observation skills and enables students to retain information through experience and teamwork.
In many ways, the playground facilitates cooperative learning. It builds an appreciation of the outdoors for lifelong learning and enjoyment, adds variety and fun to the math curriculum and experience. It should come as no surprise that playgrounds can also reinforce the math skills learned in class.
All too often, canopies and shade structures are an afterthought. So much time is spent designing a playground, choosing the right equipment, and finding the rubber surfacing to keep children safe, that not much thought (or budget) goes into what should cover the playground area.
Shade structures add protection, visual appeal and value to any space, so don’t forget about them!
These covers come in sturdy powder-coated frames, colorful fabric canopies, and sizes and shapes that perfectly match your play environment. But it turns out, they aren’t just for looks. They’re also the first step to reducing risk and protecting your investment.
Block UV Rays
Today’s functional, durable and beautiful shade installations can be custom-designed for every need. One of the most important needs is protecting children from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Children can be obstinate about using sunscreen, so you have to be proactive about shielding them from mother nature’s harsh outdoor elements. Shades keep everyone cool. They can also help prevent sunburns, heat exhaustion and other sun-related ailments. One blistering sunburn can increase a child’s risk of getting skin cancer later in life.
During the hot summer months, the risk of burns from exposure to the sun increases. Older playgrounds in particular may have bare metal climbing structures and metal slides that get blazing hot in the sunshine—even on a temperate day!
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that one child received second-degree burns from a slide when the temperature outside was only 74 degrees. A well-designed covering would have made this highly unlikely.
Remember: Outdoor shade structures aren’t just for playgrounds! Placing them over benches and picnic tables can help keep families and caregivers cool while the children play.
Extend Outdoor Time
Protect Your Investment
Adding shade to your recreational space, play area or other outdoor space can protect playground equipment or any other assets on your property from sun damage.
In addition to cooling the playground, shade structures will actually increase the life of the playground equipment. Shades and canopies protect equipment against fading and cracking that happens from sun exposure over time. When plastic is overheated, warping and cracking will occur, which creates a hazard for children at play.
Take it from us, using an overhead shade can keep No Fault products, as well as your playground equipment, looking great and working optimally for years to come.
USA Shade & Fabric Structures is a great source to use when purchasing shade structures for your playground, aquatic and athletic areas to name a few. Check out their website for more information.
Are you guilty of forgetting what goes overhead?
Modern shading solutions are designed to look great while providing functionality. High-quality fabric and other materials ensure years of use and sun protection in many types of weather.
Here at No Fault, we can answer your questions about playground design, renovating and updating old play areas, and more—including sending you referrals for some of the best shade manufacturers in the business. Call us today, and we’ll be glad to help!
A toddler explores the world through sensory experiences. A school-aged child learns through teamwork and independent exploration.
What about the children in between?
Early childhood (roughly, ages 2-5) is a time of rapid learning. This is the time when preschoolers are developing skills like independence, social interactions, creativity, and more.
That is why a playground designed with preschoolers in mind is important. Let’s look at what you should remember when designing a playground for preschoolers.
Preschool children are starting to learn about the world around them. They interact with each other and begin to understand that the world is full of individuals with their own wants and needs. They are expanding their vocabulary and communicating with one another.
For this reason, early childhood playground equipment should prepare children for the social development needed to get them ready for school years. Outdoor games are a primary force for socialization. Giving children space to do things like throwing a ball back and forth helps with the socialization process.
These skills build confidence and encourage children to engage more with their peers. This in turn leads to greater independence.
With these social activities, there are always a few roadblocks along the way. Preschoolers can become easily frustrated if they get tired or if the game is not going their way. This is where close supervision comes into play. The grown-ups supervising playtime will need to step in and referee when feelings are hurt or when social time becomes unruly.
To put it another way: Promote independent play AND supervised play. Do not just turn the children loose since their physical skills, social skills, and emotional competence are still developing. Your playground layout should be designed so caregivers and adults can step in to help when needed.
Children ages 2-5 years old have a wide range of capabilities, so playgrounds designed for preschoolers needs to take these differences into account.
Children this age are still working on balance and motor skills. These children may not have great balance yet, but they will push the limits by trying to imitate what they see older children doing (including running and climbing). Keep an eye on the children because they can quickly find themselves in situations outside of their physical abilities!
Find play equipment to provide social and cognitive features for the 2-5 age range. These include low balance beams, activity panels, and small structures (like playhouses and crawl tunnels), which are perfect for make believe and role play.
Want the little ones to do some climbing? The maximum platform height for preschoolers should be 36 to 48 inches and should include protective enclosures to prevent falls. These platforms should have multiple access points (such as ramps and ladders). Ramps should come with railings. Children this age love slides, but it is recommended they be no taller than four feet. In addition to age specific climbing equipment, you will need a playground safety surface that offers adequate fall protection.
Preschool children sometimes struggle with climbers because they have not yet fully developed their upper body coordination needed for that level of difficulty. Moving equipment, like merry-go-rounds, should be avoided for safety reasons.
Play features should be comfortable for smaller hands, feet, and bodies. No rise greater than 6 inches will ensure easy access for short legs.
Preschoolers are just about the most creative people in the world. They practically live in the land of make believe! Pretend play is important for their young minds’ development. Playgrounds should be a backdrop for their active imaginations.
Themed playgrounds are a great way to help children imagine another world for their play. For example, a police or fire department theme encourages role playing. It also helps them imagine helping others, racing to an emergency, and collaborating with the rest of a team to get the job done.
Children in the preschool years have short attention spans; for this reason, playgrounds need to excite and engage them to keep their focus. Think bright colors, multiple activities, and fun textures designed to appeal to all senses.
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.
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 prevent injuries, making play areas safe for children of all abilities. For more information on our best-in-class safety surfacing products, please check out our website at www.nofault.com. Or, contact No Faulttoday to learn what’s in store for the playgrounds of tomorrow. Perhaps we can help you with your next project!
First Apostolic Church in Knoxville, Tennessee needed help with their Preschool Playground. Their existing play equipment and surfacing was worn and outdated. It needed to be removed and replaced. The Church wanted a natural look for their new playground and a more suitable play structure with age appropriate pieces. They also wanted safe, accessible play surfacing so children of all abilities at their school could join in the fun.
No Fault partnered with Howlett Recreation to provide and install our No Fault Safety Surface(NFSS) in a color blend of 50% tan / 50% black which gives the play area a natural, earthy look. Just what our customer was looking for!
Our NFSS can be used for both indoor and outdoor playground areas. It is comprised of the highest quality EPDM or TPV rubber granules blended with a polyurethane binder and is poured-in-place and professionally installed on site. NFSS comes in a variety of bright, cheerful colors, and will increase the safety, beauty and life of your playground for years to come!
Contact No Fault today for more information about what playground surfacing product is right for your needs and meets your budget. Our skilled Regional Account Managers are ready to assist you.
If you have children, you may want an area in your backyard for them and their friends to climb and play, to be active and happy, all without leaving home.
It’s never been easier to install a backyard playground. All it takes is some basic construction know-how, the right materials and the time it takes to bring it all together.
What is the hardest part? You know, the part that usually gets skipped or shortchanged. It’s typically the planningphase.
Whether it’s a “do-it-yourself” project or a professional installation, here are some factors to take into account before and during construction.
Set Your Budget
Before the installation begins, familiarize yourself with average costs, brands, and options as you price out and plan the project.
The price of playground equipment ranges between $100 and $5,000, according to Home Advisor. The equipment you choose, the type of safety surface you get, and the cost to level your yard are all factors that could bump the price up.
Another factor to consider is whether to contract out the labor and installation. There are local handymen and playground specialists available to help with installation and construction. If your play area is small, you may decide the “do-it-yourself” route suits your project—just make sure you get the help you need when you are assembling the equipment or operating any heavy equipment.
Choose Your Play Features
While designing your background playground, safety should be your priority. This means choosing age-appropriate equipment. For example, you might think twice about swing sets or merry-go-rounds if your children are toddlers.
Do you have children of different ages? You should see to it that preschoolers do not wander into areas meant for older children, where they are more likely to be injured.
Children’s minds are developing quickly, so every age group will be stimulated by different activities, challenges, and designs. Keep your project focused on the age of your children and don’t cut corners on safety, and you’ll be off to a fantastic start.
What kind of play features do you envision? You can find options as simple as a single swing or as complex as a tower with multiple slides. Play sets, sandboxes, and water tables round out your options.
We suggest that you keep the design simple. Simple playground features such as swings and slides never go out of fashion. But you can also use natural features such as a large tree and climbing rocks.
Most home-use play sets should give you 8 or 10 years of use. With proper maintenance and mild weather, that can go up to 15 years.
Again, the equipment you install in your play area should coincide with the age of your children. Equipment that is too large and challenging should be avoided, as this may lead to injuries.
You may want to add to your play area as your children grow so that it holds their interest over time. Thanks to the modular design of today’s playground equipment, this is quite easy to do.
Choose the Site
The success of your playground depends in large part upon the site you choose to install it.
All too often, moms and dads invest in creative backyard playground ideas before they’ve closely surveyed the plane they’ve selected as a construction site. For example, a leveled area is typically what you want. If you have a hilly or uneven yard, you might have to budget for the price to clear and level the land.
Check for site dimensions. Pending the fall height, most play equipment requires a minimum of at least 3 feet of clear space on each side. You will also want to consider clearance for swings.
In addition to the dimensions of the site, you will want to consider water levels, predictable weather patterns, whether debris can fall into the play area, and irregularities in the terrain.
Be sure to measure everything carefully; you don’t want to start digging until you’re sure what you’re doing!
Finally, before you move forward with site prep or buying any playground equipment, make sure you check and comply with all local laws. Some municipalities require homeowners to apply for a permit.
Choose Your Surfacing Material Wisely
Remember when we said the planning phase is where mistakes usually happen when moms and dads install backyard playgrounds? These mistakes include failing to install adequate safety surfacing.
Choosing the appropriate residential playground surfacing is essential to making modern playgrounds both safe and attractive. That’s where No Fault can help!
Playground safety surfacing is a must to keep your children safe. This is where many people go for cheaper options (wood chips, gravel, or sand). Overtime, these surfaces can disburse across the ground or begin to decompose – in the case of wood chips- causing the homeowner to have to continuously replenish the materials to meet the minimum safety standards. If you consider the long-term work required to maintain these “less expensive” options, not to mention the increased risk of injury that comes with using them, this quickly becomes a case of “penny wise and pound foolish.”
Instead, consider using surfaces such as No Fault Safety Surface, No Fault Safety Tiles, or No Fault Rubber Mulch, which will absorb impacts when the inevitable falls happen. Our soft rubber tiles, for example, are kid-friendly, relatively easy to install, slip-resistant and ideal for rainy areas where drainage is a concern.
You’ll probably want a boundary for the play area. Again, there are materials you should and shouldn’t use.
For example, wood timbers or rocks piled around the edges are common choices, but they are trip hazards, and they create hard surfaces. No Fault Timbers are a superior alternative, giving you attractive borders with rounded top for added safety.
Get Help Assembling the Equipment
Now, it’s time to put it all together. The more people involved, the faster the work will go. Decks, platforms, stairways … all of it will need to be assembled using the proper tools, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Attaching the elements to the main play structure brings everything all together and the finished shape of the play structure begins to emerge.
As you’re putting equipment together, use a builder’s level to make sure holes are at the proper depth. This will ensure a smooth process when you’re assembling your playground equipment. Level the decks and check the joints before pouring concrete to anchor your equipment.
A builder’s level will keep everything on an even surface.
Think About the Surrounding Landscaping
The surrounding landscape of your backyard playground should be carefully organized. You probably don’t want your beautiful flower garden in this area. Children at play tend to not pay much attention to roses, daffodils and azaleas while they’re swinging, climbing, and tumbling around.
When planning your garden around the play area, make sure you plant durable and low-maintenance plants and shrubs in and around your backyard playground.
Consider a Shade or Shelter
Bad weather can often play spoilsport for your children. To address this issue, you can add a shade structure or canopy to protect your children from sunburns, or a shelter to ensure they stay dry. If your play area is available “rain or shine,” your children will be more likely to play outside instead of getting “cabin fever” indoors!
Don’t Forget the Fence
You probably already have a fence around your property. But if your children are spending lots of time outside, you’ll want to keep unwanted visitors out. Privacy is important, especially in suburban and urban areas. If you live in rural areas, fencing also protects your outdoor structures from being damaged by wandering animals. Placing a fence around the property also protects you as a parent from the liability of other neighborhood children playing on the equipment without your knowledge.
Keep an Eye On the Children
Children need close supervision, as they tend to play with anything and everything. During the early days when your children are still learning about the backyard, you should watch them carefully to ensure their safety.
It’s important that you have a good view of the playground from your house. The playground should be in such a spot that it also gives a clear ear shot because then you can clearly hear your children playing.
Before you get started with your backyard playground, consider all the above factors to keep your children safe. Your backyard playground will take time and careful planning, but in the end your children will have a wonderful, safe play area just outside your back door.
Contact No Fault to speak with one of our Regional Account Managers. They can assist you in choosing just the right playground surfacing for your backyard play area to meet your budget and to keep your children safe and happy!