Back in the day when most of us were little kids, playgrounds largely consisted of swing-sets, teeter-totters, some monkey bars, and maybe a metal slide or two, along with the requisite basketball hoops and tetherball set-up.
Since then, playground equipment has come a very long way—gone are the colorless pieces of welded metal set up in merciless black asphalt. Kids today get to play on all kinds of cool, interactive equipment, and if they happen to take a spill, chances are their fall will be broken by several inches of industrial-grade foam padding instead of concrete or pea-gravel.
A couple of decades ago, playground equipment all looked pretty much the same and posed the same safety risks for the kids using it. However, that all began to change about 25 years ago.
“The options for playground equipment have expanded greatly,” Moira Staggs, a sales representative for NuToys Leisure Products in LaGrange, says. “There are all kinds of different play apparatuses available now and you have a huge range of things to do on a playground. Whereas 25 years ago you might have had a bridge or two, now you’ve got 20 to choose from. The range of challenge out there has expanded with the use of all different kinds of materials—nets, rocks, piping, rotomolded plastic, there’s just an incredible amount of ways to design the systems and also different kinds of things for kids to do with their bodies, like spinning, bouncing, there’s rides.”
Industry experts say that the concept of continuous play, plus advances in materials and technology in the 1980s and 1990s led to a huge expansion in opportunities for commercial playground equipment. Another major change occurred in 1981 when, in light of numerous playground injuries such as children falling off of teeter-totters, slides and monkey bars, led the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to publish the first Handbook for Public Playground Safety, which was designed to provide guidelines for making playgrounds safer.