Definitions

Playground

Playground

[pley-ground]

A playground or play area is an area designed for children to play, indoors or outdoors.

Modern playgrounds often have recreational equipment such as the see-saw, merry-go-round, swingset, slide, jungle gym, chin-up bars, sandbox, spring rider, monkey bars, overhead ladder, trapeze rings, playhouses, and mazes, many of which help children develop physical coordination, strength, and flexibility, as well as providing recreation and enjoyment. Common in modern playgrounds are "play structures" that link many different pieces of equipment.

Playgrounds often also have facilities for playing informal games of adult sports, such as a baseball diamond, a skating rink, a basketball court, or a tether ball.

"Public" playground equipment refers to equipment intended for use in the play areas of parks, schools, child care facilities, institutions, multiple family dwellings, restaurants, resorts, and recreational developments, and other areas of public use.

A type of playground called a playscape is designed to provide a safe environment for play in a natural setting.

About playgrounds

Professionals recognize that the social skills that children develop on the playground become lifelong skill sets that are carried forward into their adulthood. Independent research concludes that playgrounds are among the most important environments for children outside the home. Most forms of play are essential for healthy development, but free, spontaneous play—the kind that occurs on playgrounds—is the most beneficial type of play.

Children have devised many playground games and pastimes. But because playgrounds are usually subject to adult supervision and oversight, young children's street culture often struggles to fully thrive there. Research by Robin Moore (Childhood's Domain: Play and Place, 1986) has clearly shown that playgrounds need to be balanced with marginal areas that (to adults) appear to be derelict or wasteground but to children they are area's that they can claim for themselves, ideally a wooded area or field.

A type of playground called a playscape can provide children with the necessary feeling of ownership that Moore describes above. Playscapes can also provide parents with the assurance of their child's safety and wellbeing, which may not be prevalent in an open field or wooded area.

Playgrounds can be

  • Built by collaborative support of corporate and community resources to achieve an immediate and visible "win" for their neighborhood.
  • Public, free of charge, like at most rural elementary schools
  • A business with an entrance fee
  • Connected to a business, for customers only, e.g., at McDonald's and IKEA.
  • Elaborate indoor mazes, like those at the (now defunct) Discovery Zone and Chuck E. Cheese's

Playground safety

Sometimes the safety of playgrounds is disputed in school or among regulators. Over at least the last twenty years, the kinds of equipment to be found in playgrounds has changed, often towards safer equipment built with modern materials. For example, an older jungle gym might be constructed entirely from steel bars, while newer ones tend to have a minimal steel framework while providing a web of nylon ropes for children to climb on. Often, playgrounds with equipment that children may fall off of has mulch on the ground to help break children's falls. Rubber mulch is gaining popularity due to its added ability to break falls.

A study done by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that playground injuries were responsible for 23 visits a day to emergency rooms in Ontario, Canada. The largest proportion of these visits were for orthopedic and head injuries (51% and 22% respectively.)

In the United States the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American National Standards Institute have created a Standardized Document and Training System for certification of Playground Safety Inspectors. These regulations are nation wide and provide a basis for safe playground installation and maintenance practices. ASTM F1487-07 deals with specific requirements regarding issues such as play ground layout, use zones, and various test criteria for determining play ground safety. ASTM F2373 covers public use play equipment for children 6-24 months old. This information can be applied effectively only by a trained C.P.S.I. A National Listing of Trained Playground Safety Inspectors is available for many states. A Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) is a career that was developed by the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) and is recognized nationally by the National Recreation and Park Association or N.R.P.A.

European Standards EN 1177 specifies the requirements for surfaces used in playgrounds. For each material type and height of equipment it specifies a minimum depth of material required. EN 1176 covers playground equipment standards.

In the UK playground inspectors can sit the examinations of the Register of Play Inspectors International (www.playinspectors.com) at the three required levels - routine, operational and annual. Annual inspectors are able to undertake the post-installation inspections recommended by EN 1176. For further information and downloads see The Play Inspection Company at www.playinspections.com

Playgrounds in the Soviet Union

Playgrounds were an integral part of urban culture in the USSR. In the 1970s and 1980s there were playgrounds in almost every park in many Soviet cities. Playground apparatus was reasonably standard all over the country; most of them consisted of metallic bars with relatively few wooden parts, and were manufactured in state-owned factories. Some of the most common constructions were the carousel, sphere, seesaw, rocket, bridge, etc.

In the 1990s, after the breakup of the USSR, many items of playground apparatus in post-Soviet states were stolen by metal-thieves, while relatively few new playgrounds were built. However, there were so many Soviet playgrounds that many of them still exist and are in a relatively good state, especially those which were repainted.

Natural Playground

"Natural playgrounds" are play environments that blend natural materials, features, and indigenous vegetation with creative landforms to create purposely complex interplays of natural, environmental objects in ways that challenge and fascinate children and teach them about the wonders and intricacies of the natural world while they play within it.

Play components may include earth shapes (sculptures), environmental art, indigenous vegetation (trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers, lichens, mosses), boulders or other rock structures, dirt and sand, natural fences (stone, willow, wooden), textured pathways, and natural water features.

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