Often when we think of the “good old days,” thoughts of a time before cell phones, Facebook and GPS come to mind, when kids played in public parks stocked with swing sets, monkey bars and maybe (if you were lucky) a basketball hoop and teeter-totter.
Time marches on however, and while there will likely always be a place in our collective hearts for the classic playground swing set, we've come a long way from the days of rusty swings with frayed canvas seats, splintered teeter-totters and faded hopscotch courts. The shift from plain metal-and-asphalt equipment to more colorful and exciting—and safer—equipment really began in the 1990s, and the field has been diversifying and evolving ever since. Today, chances are good that if Sally knocks Johnny off the monkey bars, those bars will be shaped like a DNA double-helix (or some other fanciful shape), and Johnny will not fall onto concrete or pea-gravel, but onto foam padding.
A New Age of Play
According to Ryan Russell, president of Playmore Recreational Products & Services in Fort Myers, “Safety standards in the past 25 years have greatly influenced design of the modern playground. Recently, a lot of manufacturers have began to look outside the box, and are starting to come up with a lot of unique and interesting pieces that still adhere to safety standards.”
Playgrounds began to change in the mid-80s, notes Russell. “The mid-1980’s is when composite structure playgrounds—a series of interconnected elevated decks with climbers and slides hanging off them—appeared on the market,” added Moira Staggs of Illinois-based NuToys Leisure Products.
Prior to that, composite structures were often a combination of wood and metal or plastic slides. Now people have many more options to create a design and color scheme that fits the needs of the user group either by age, level of challenge, or type of activities.