Playgrounds have been an integral part of children’s life since as long as 19th century. Developmental psychologists like Friedrich Frӧbel suggested playgrounds as a developmental aid to imbibe values of fair play and good manners in children. The first playgrounds were built in Germany. The first purpose-built public-access playground was opened in a park in Manchester, England in 1859. Streets were becoming reserved for motor vehicles and ceased to be free play areas for children. This started the reformist playground movement that laid emphasis on the role of playgrounds in improving mental and physical health, attention in school, and reduced truancy. Subsequently, more public playgrounds opened which were safe and designated play areas for children.
A brief timeline of evolution of school playground equipment suppliers and their innovations:
- It started with sand gardens in the 1880s, with sandboxes for children to play in, along with tools for digging and blocks for building.
- The 1900s brought about model playgrounds with tall apparatuses made of steel tubes comprising swings, merry-go-rounds, and other twirling equipment like the Giant Stride.
- 1940s was a divergent era for children with Adventures or Junk playgrounds. They allowed them to go on adventures and exploring through caves, over landscapes, building elements using found objects, within a safe and supervised enclosure.
- 1950s brought about more colorful elements to the game called Novelty playgrounds. They came in various creative structures like those of rocket ships, animal shapes, imaginative tunnels and shapes, made of metal.
- 1970s was a revolutionary time for the industry with the Standardized playgrounds. This was the first time when they were made with rounded edges and hard plastic equipment for safety.
- 1980s-present has what we called the Modern playgrounds. These are an assortment of innovative playgrounds with safe surfaces, varying themes and materials.
Some recent innovations by manufacturers in playgrounds:
- Indoor Playgrounds: Because of the availability of spaces outdoor playgrounds becoming limited and weather reaching extreme yardsticks in places, indoor playgrounds have gained immense popularity. Indoor playgrounds comprise similar equipment as outdoor playgrounds, and other equipment that’s exclusive to interior environments. This is because it is not dependent on the weather. Indoor playgrounds are relatively safer than their outdoor counterparts as they are built using materials like hard plastic instead of metal. Therefore, indoor equipment like Playtots is often seen in schools and commercial establishments like restaurants and malls.
- Fitness Oriented Playgrounds: The focus on physical health has increased manifold due to mushrooming obesity levels. Playground manufacturers are building playgrounds designed to provide cardio inducing and physically exerting play. Equipment like obstacle courses and independent climbers are great for schools that want to enhance their physical education program outdoors.
- Mentally Stimulating Playgrounds: In current times, children health experts well know that playgrounds are an important part of development. They help children build social skills while enhance emotional, sensory and cognitive development. New wave playgrounds like ‘Dinosaur digs and climbers’ are life size equipment cast from real dinosaur bones. Along with this, the supplier offers durable outdoor signage of the specimen explaining as to where the skeleton was originally found and the importance of the skeleton to the science of paleontology.
- Safety standards and regulation: Over the last twenty years, the kind of playgrounds in schools has gradually shifted towards safer equipment. There are regulations in place in most countries for safe playground installation and maintenance practices. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard for Children’s Playspaces and Equipment CAN/CSA Z614 and United States of America’s ASTM F1487 stipulate safety and performance standards for various types of public playground equipment.
One of the most important aspects of safety of playgrounds is the material in which they are built. Hence, manufacturers are now building playgrounds with galvanized steel to prevent corrosion and maintain strength.
The decks of equipment are coated with PVC-free coatings and also free of heavy metals such as Lead and Cadmium.
Playgrounds are now being made differently for different age groups, customized for the user’s skill level and stage of development.
Furthermore, manufacturers engage in specialized product testing to ensure their products meet strict standards for quality and safety.
Prominent suppliers get additional certifications like ASTM International, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA), etc. These are independent federal agencies, non-profit and trade organizations.
With the aforementioned evolution of playgrounds, school playground equipment suppliers have pioneered several innovations over the years. Old players in the industry have pivoted and incorporated these changes throughout the years. One such player is Henderson Recreation. Our story started over 47 years ago when it was started out as a family business of playgrounds and is now one of the veteran companies in the industry. For any help with school playground equipment, contact our helpful staff at Henderson Recreation.