Skip to main content

Profit Motive Scales Down Today’s Playground Equipment


Safety and design experts had a lot to say about the latest generation of playground equipment at a recent National Recreation and Parks (NRPA) trade show in Salt Lake City. A common observation was that manufacturers not only are cutting back by using cheaper materials, but they also are reducing the overall size of products such as slides and climbing structures.

This is being done simply to reduce overhead costs, instead of providing playgrounds with the best possible products. The unfortunate end result here is a less exciting and enjoyable playground experience for today’s generation of youngsters, who as it is spend far too much time indoors in front of screens within walking distance of the refrigerator. With the considerable rise in childhood obesity and health problems compared to generations past, playground activities and equipment should be as fun as appealing ever, not scaled down and cut back.

Sure, today’s playground gear may be softer and significantly safer, but can’t there be a happier medium? Why can’t today’s slides, swings and other playground attractions be safe and as much fun as equipment from the 1970s?

Women’s lifestyle website Divine Caroline takes us back to yesteryear with a photographic review of the elaborate, immense climbing structures, slides and swing sets circa a generation ago. The designs that currently dominate the landscape in parks and school yards all over the nation pale in comparison in terms of visual appeal and their ability to inspire fun and excitement.

This phenomenon of cutting back on the quality and overall enjoyableness of a product reminds me of what’s happening to our favorite food and candies, which used to be packaged in generous portions. Revamped, watered-down recipes are changing the taste and texture of all kinds of food products, while at the same time giving smaller portions. And yet the price constantly goes up.

Take my favorite snack from years ago, the Devil Dog, which sadly is no longer what it once was. Today’s version tastes like saw dust thanks to a totally changed ingredient formula. And like so many slides and playground climbing structures, it’s about half the size it was in its heyday.

Playground structures definitely should not go the way of the Devil Dog because outdoor play activity is essential to keep kids happy and healthy. Consumer feedback to equipment manufacturers would be a good start toward improving their products’ appeal and entertainment value.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Consensus Lacking on Playground Supervision Ratios

It’s clear that adult supervision is the best way to prevent mishaps on playgrounds, whether they be school yards, back yards, parks or wherever groups of children gather to play. But an important aspect of this, narrowing down a viable ratio of adult supervisors to children, remains elusive.

The answer, of course, varies depending on the dimensions and specific characteristics of a playground, the age range and number of children present, as well as legal and administrative factors.

So the key question remains, how many adult supervisors should be present? And while there’s far from a consensus or clearly defined mandate, playground supervision is definitely an active, ongoing topic of discussion in the realms of tort lawyers, government agencies, educators and the broader playground safety community.

Columbia, South Carolina law firm Duff, White & Turner provides a detailed recommendation: “In the area of supervision, school districts should establish an appropriate adult to stud…

Backyard Playground Safety Issues

Safety in backyard playgrounds is obviously just as necessary as at public facilities.
"Ten years ago, a study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered more deaths occurred on backyard playground equipment than on public playgrounds," FortWayne.com recently reported. "A 2009 study from the CPSC found that 40 deaths were associated with playground equipment between 2001 to 2008, the majority of which were the result of hangings or asphyxiations."
Toward preventing such tragedies, the article highlights "location," "equipment," "surfaces" and "inspection" as the keys to a consistently safe backyard play area.
Playground placement is especially emphasized:
"Location, location, location! A home playground's location is very important. When deciding where to put a playground, consider its accessibility."
Earshot distance is a suggested gauge for determining a reasonable distance for responders -- be…

Special Needs Playgrounds Gaining Ground

As playgrounds grow and evolve with increasing attention paid to safety and equipment durability, it's important to note that kids with physical limitations need adequate places to play just as much, if not more, than kids without disabilities.

Children who must contend with limited mobility and dexterity need much more carefully designed equipment and facilities. In recent years, awareness of making parts of everyday life more "handicapped accessible" is now commonplace in many areas of everyday life.
And in the wake of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act, through which Congress made accessible public facilities the law of the land, focus on accessible playgrounds has naturally followed suit. Creating recreational facilities accessible to all, however still remains an uphill battle in many instances.
Parents of children with disabilities often have to go out of their way to make local accessible playgrounds a reality. The St. Tammany Kids Konnection Boundless Playgro…