Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spain and Children's Playgrounds!

I just arrived back from Spain a few weeks ago and already miss that wonderful place. What a beautiful and amazing country. I visited ten cities in just about two and a half weeks. When I arrived home, I felt as though I needed a vacation from what was supposed to be my relaxing summer trip.

What clean and friendly cities all throughout southern Spain! The food was less exciting than I had hoped. No real variety or flavor. What a disappointment...

And of course, I could not help myself and inspected a couple of playgrounds while I was there.

Wow, what a horrific site! Safety, what safety? It was a disaster.

Most of the play areas were in poor condition and not maintained as well as the city sidewalks. In Madrid the sidewalks get cleaned every night with power washers at roughly 12:30am (Madrid begins to get dark at about 10:00pm during the summer and dinner and everything is just later in Spain) but I digress, sorry…

The equipment as I stated, was not maintained after it was installed and the safety surfacing was the Poured-In-Place type. However, it was not completed with an adequate pour that would meet the minimum use zones nor a thickness that would meet the critical fall heights.

Let me explain further. The play structure needs to have a minimum safety padding around the play structure that will “catch” the child in case of a possible fall. The recommendation from the Consumer Product Safety Commission is 6 to 8 feet. I usually recommend a more stringent requirement of a minimum of 8 feet from the play structure. The Critical Fall Height of the play structure in our industry is typically measured from the platform height of the equipment. I again, use a stricter point of view here and look for any possible areas where a child may be able to gain access to, and will use this as a Fall Height Criteria. The Head Injury Criteria is to simulate a hypothetical child’s head falling to the surface. The purpose is obviously to minimize a serious head injury. So the play surfacing thickness underneath the play structure needs to be adequate enough to minimize this potential critical injury.

The overall play environment was poor and not stimulating for children. I could speak volumes of what it did not have and if you look at the "Collective Safe Play Environment" list, I think you can come up with your own conclusions. A picture is worth more than a 1000 words. So I have attached a few pictures.

Spain, like the United States, needs to spend more time in providing safer play environments for children. For both countries it starts from the bottom with Industry Experts, Community Leaders and Parents putting pressure on the local municipalities. Both countries need to create effective leadership councils that consists of the Experts, Community Leaders and Parents that can create educational guidelines, funding, and finally, enforcement to have municipalities take this seriously. The well being of our children is at stake.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What is "Safe Child Campaign"?

Providing “Collective Safe Play Environments for our children through:

Creativity in Design
Age Appropriate (2-5, 6-12, 13-17)
Superior Equipment Quality
Special Needs Friendly
Play Functionality
Educational Features
Open Space
Shelter / Shading
Superior Safety Surfacing
Site Furnishings
Child Safety
Child Security
Community Involvement
Record Keeping

I believe it is vital to have all of these elements present in order to have an interactive, safe environment. Our children should want to continue to utilize these environments for continued play and education. It is unfortunate that in most areas around the United States they do NOT subscribe to the "Collective Safe Play Environment". I want to change this.

What are your thoughts?