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File:PlayEquipComboPlastic wb.jpg

Combination playground structure for small children; slides, climbers (stairs in this case), playhouse

A playground or play area place with a specific design for children be able to play there. It may be indoors but is typically outdoors, and when it is the latter, it may be occasionally referred to as a tot lot by some people or in some regions.[1]

Modern playgrounds often have recreational equipment such as the see-saw, merry-go-round, swingset, slide, jungle gym, chin-up bars, sandbox, spring rider, monkey bars, overhead ladder, trapeze rings, playhouses, and mazes, many of which help children develop physical coordination, strength, and flexibility, as well as providing recreation and enjoyment. Common in modern playgrounds are "play structures" that link many different pieces of equipment.

Playgrounds often also have facilities for playing informal games of adult sports, such as a baseball diamond, a skating arena, a basketball court, or a tether ball.

"Public" playground equipment refers to equipment intended for use in the play areas of parks, schools, child care facilities, institutions, multiple family dwellings, restaurants, resorts, and recreational developments, and other areas of public use.

A type of playground called a playscape is designed to provide a safe environment for play in a natural setting.

Recognizing the need for such, former President Theodore Roosevelt stated in 1907,

City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children can not afford to pay carfare.[2]

History and development

Professionals recognize that the social skills that children develop on the playground become lifelong skill sets that are carried forward into their adulthood. Independent research concludes that playgrounds are among the most important environments for children outside the home. Most forms of play are essential for healthy development, but free, spontaneous play—the kind that occurs on playgrounds—is the most beneficial type of play.

File:SeesawWithKids wb.png

Seesaw with a crowd of children playing

File:KidsRopeBridge wb.png

Rope bridge for improving balance

Children have devised many playground games and pastimes. But because playgrounds are usually subject to adult supervision and oversight, young children's street culture often struggles to fully thrive there. Research by Robin Moore (Childhood's Domain: Play and Place, 1986) has clearly shown that playgrounds need to be balanced with marginal areas that (to adults) appear to be derelict or wasteground but to children they are area's that they can claim for themselves, ideally a wooded area or field.

A type of playground called a playscape can provide children with the necessary feeling of ownership that Moore describes above. Playscapes can also provide parents with the assurance of their child's safety and wellbeing, which may not be prevalent in an open field or wooded area.

Playgrounds can be

  • Built by collaborative support of corporate and community resources to achieve an immediate and visible "win" for their neighborhood.
  • Public, free of charge, like at most rural elementary schools
  • A business with an entrance fee
  • Connected to a business, for customers only, e.g., at McDonald's and IKEA.
  • Elaborate indoor mazes, like those at the (now defunct) Discovery Zone, Zoom Zoom's Indoor Playground in Ancaster, Ontario, Jungle Jam Indoor Playground and Chuck E. Cheese's

Playground safety

Sometimes the safety of playgrounds is disputed in school or among regulators. Over at least the last twenty years, the kinds of equipment to be found in playgrounds has changed, often towards safer equipment built with modern materials. For example, an older jungle gym might be constructed entirely from steel bars, while newer ones tend to have a minimal steel framework while providing a web of nylon ropes for children to climb on. Playgrounds with equipment that children may fall off often use mulch on the ground to help break their falls.[3] Rubber mulch is gaining popularity due to its added ability to break falls[4].

A study done by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that playground injuries were responsible for 23 visits a day to emergency rooms in Ontario, Canada. The largest proportion of these visits were for orthopedic and head injuries (51% and 22% respectively.) In the United States, approximately 200,000 emergency room visits occur each year because of accidents on commercial and residential playgrounds.[5].

In the United States the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American National Standards Institute have created a Standardized Document and Training System for certification of Playground Safety Inspectors. These regulations are nation wide and provide a basis for safe playground installation and maintenance practices. ASTM F1487-07 deals with specific requirements regarding issues such as play ground layout, use zones, and various test criteria for determining play ground safety. ASTM F2373 covers public use play equipment for children 6-24 months old. This information can be applied effectively only by a trained C.P.S.I. A National Listing of Trained Playground Safety Inspectors is available for many states. A Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) is a career that was developed by the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) and is recognized nationally by the National Recreation and Park Association or N.R.P.A. (Some information sources offer interactive examples of playground equipment that violates CPSC guidelines.)

European Standards EN 1177 specifies the requirements for surfaces used in playgrounds. For each material type and height of equipment it specifies a minimum depth of material required.[6] EN 1176 covers playground equipment standards.[7][8] In the UK playground inspectors can sit the examinations of the Register of Play Inspectors International at the three required levels - routine, operational and annual. Annual inspectors are able to undertake the post-installation inspections recommended by EN 1176.

The risk aversion of prioritising safety above other factors, such as cost or developmental benefit to the users, is often forgotten.[9] It is important than children gradually develop the skill of risk assessment, and a completely safe environment does not allow that. A playscape or forest kindergarten are steps towards a balanced approach to risk.

Playground safety

Main article: Playground safety

Playground Injury

Main article: Playground injuries

Approximately 156,040 (75.8 %) of the 1999 injuries occurred on equipment designed for public use; 46,930 (22.8 %) occurred on equipment designed for home use; and 2,880 (1.4 %) occurred on homemade playground equipment (primarily rope swings). Percentage of injuries involving public equipment

  • About 46% occurred in schools.
  • About 31% occurred in public parks.
  • About 10% occurred in commercial childcare centers.
  • About 3% occurred in home childcare.
  • About 3% occurred in apartment complexes.
  • About 2% occurred in fast food restaurants.
  • About 9% occurred in other locations.

From January 1990 to August 2000, CPSC received reports of 147 deaths to children younger than 15 that involved playground equipment.

  • 70% of those deaths occurred in home
  • 30% of those deaths occurred in public use

Girls were involved in a slightly higher percentage of injuries (55%) than were boys (45%).

Injuries to the head and face accounted for 49% of injuries to children 0-4, while injuries to the arm and hand accounted for 49% of injuries to children ages 5-14.

For children ages 0-4, climbers (40%) had the highest incidence rates, followed by slides (33%).

For children ages 5-14, climbing equipment (56%) had the highest incidence rates, followed by swings (24%).

Approximately 15% of the injuries were classified as severe, with 3% requiring hospitalization.

The most prevalent diagnoses were fractures (39%), lacerations (22%), contusions/abrasions (20%), strains/sprains (11%).

Falls to the surface was a contributing factor in 79% of all injuries. On home equipment, 81% were associated with falls.

Most injuries on public playground equipment were associated with climbing equipment (53%), swings (19%), and slides (17%).

Based on these statistics and other research, the National Program for Playground Safety advocates that:

  • Adults actively supervise the children in the play environment.
  • Adults choose appropriate developmental equipment for the play environment.
  • Adults provide safe surfacing both in the public use areas and at home for playground equipment.
  • Adults insure that all equipment and surfacing located in the children's play areas be maintained on a regular basis.[10]

Playgrounds in the Soviet Union

Playgrounds were an integral part of urban culture in the USSR. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were playgrounds in almost every park in many Soviet cities. Playground apparatus was reasonably standard all over the country; most of them consisted of metallic bars with relatively few wooden parts, and were manufactured in state-owned factories. Some of the most common constructions were the carousel, sphere, seesaw, rocket, bridge, etc.

In the 1990s, after the breakup of the USSR, many items of playground apparatus in post-Soviet states were stolen by metal-thieves, while relatively few new playgrounds were built. However, there were so many Soviet playgrounds that many of them still exist and are in a relatively good state, especially those which were repainted.

Natural playground

Main article: Playscape

"Natural playgrounds" are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex interplays of natural, environmental objects in ways that challenge and fascinate children and teach them about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world while they play within it.

Play components may include earth shapes (sculptures), environmental art, indigenous vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, lichens, mosses), boulders or other rock structures, dirt and sand, natural fences (stone, willow, wooden), textured pathways, and natural water features.

See also

  • Empower playgrounds
  • Friendship bench
  • Obstacle course
  • Playground game
  • Playground song
  • Playground Surfacing
  • Playscape
  • Playwork
  • Ropes course


  2. To Cuno H. Rudolph, Washington Playground Association, February 16, 1907. Presidential Addresses and State Papers VI, 1163.
  3. EPA Playground Surfaces
  4. [1] Detroit Testing Laboratory
  5. [2] U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Tips for Public Playground Safety, Publication #324
  6. EN 1177 - Impact Absorbing Playground Surfacing
  7. The Royal Society for the prevention of Accidents: EN1176 Playground Equipment Standard
  8. SMP Specifiers Guide to EN 1176 parts 1 To 7 Playground Equipment (A light-hearted guide)
  9. Gill, Tim (2007). No fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse society, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
  10. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) National Electronic Surveillance System (NEISS)

External links

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