A Blast from the Past: Old and New Playground Equipment
If you’ve been to a playground in the last few years, you’ve probably noticed they’re significantly different from the ones you knew and loved as a kid. Playgrounds have changed a lot since their inception in the mid-1800s, but they’re not entirely new. Many of the same elements from your childhood will still be present for your kids — just in a different, safer way. Plus, future generations have access to a wider variety of equipment than you did, some of which are more inclusive or educational.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how playgrounds have changed and what that means for the play spaces in your community.
A Walk Down Memory Lane
Think back to your time on the playground. You probably have plenty of positive memories to attribute to that rickety old steel structure in your neighborhood. You fondly remember the rattle of that tall metal slide and the burn it left on your skin on a hot summer day.
You probably learned a lot of tricks on that playground — like how to avoid a hit from the teeter-totter. Or, choosing where to sit on the merry-go-round so you didn’t go skidding into the dirt. You might have even gained some upper arm strength from powering through the monkey bars, knowing a long fall awaited you if you slipped.
Old playgrounds had you seeking out thrills through risks, but you also knew misusing the equipment could lead to injury. Remember these popular pieces of vintage playground equipment? Though they hail from yesteryear, the memories are still fresh:
- Metal slides: Tall and terrifying, metal slides required some bravery to use. They quickly got hot in the sun and could rise to impressive heights, but kids loved the speed and motion that came from these slides.
- Witch’s hats: A witch’s hat involved a cone-shaped swing balanced from a metal pole that spun riders around. This piece of equipment was deemed unsafe due to several injuries. It has all but disappeared from playgrounds, but it gave kids of all ages plenty of thrills in the last century.
- Sandboxes: Many playgrounds used to have areas where children could play in a shallow pit of sand, but it turns out that sandboxes are a breeding ground for bacteria, yeast, and mold. When neighborhood animals like raccoons and cats treat it as a giant litter box, kids also run the risk of coming into contact with fecal matter and parasites — and most parents don’t want their kids to play in that.
- Seesaws: A playground staple for many, seesaws were the source of plenty of injuries. These teetering bars could smack an unsuspecting child or lift them high enough to fall and get hurt. They’re less common now than they once were.
You can probably think of many more features of your favorite play area that aren’t around today. But why is that?
In the ’70s, the United States government started to look more closely at playground injuries. Standardization came about, and playgrounds began to change dramatically. Later, the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) created a set of standards that the industry adopted to change the landscape of play and old playground equipment further.
Where Things Are Changing
Of course, there was a certain charm to most of those old activities. The rush of spinning quickly and the thrill of flying down the slide are some of the things that kept us coming back. Playground designers understand this appeal, and modern-day equipment tends to incorporate those fundamental thrills. Most of the things you remember from your childhood didn’t go away completely. Instead, they’ve changed in a way that improves safety for your kids and grandkids. Here’s how some of your iconic favorites have transformed:
- Surfaces: Instead of letting kids fall onto hard asphalt or dirt, playgrounds now use things like poured rubber, rubber mulch, or sand. Several new materials exist that are softer for kids to land on. They can enjoy heights or climb on structures without hurting themselves if they fall.
- Dome climbers: While you probably remember these large dome-shaped webs of bars, you might not notice the changes they’ve undergone. In the past, these domes were made of metal. Modern climbers consist of safer plastic with better padding and reinforcements. They’re similar to older models but updated for enhanced safety.
- Slides: Metal slides aren’t as common anymore, as plastic has taken over as the material of choice. It also allows for many more options regarding design and color. Kids can ride a dual slide with waves, one with rolling tubes to guide them down, and even extra-wide inclusive slides.
- Merry-go-round: While merry-go-rounds still exist, you might find other spinning options too, like the Teeter Spin or the Ten Spin. These can be more inclusive and enclosed, reducing the risk of kids falling off without taking away the thrill of the spin.
- Monkey bars: If you see traditional monkey bars on a modern playground, they might be lower to the ground than you’re used to. An alternative to monkey bars might include Gliders or S-Rails.
- Seesaws: Safer versions of the traditional seesaw tend to use designs that don’t have the same loose, high-swinging bar as their predecessor. You might find a larger plastic version that sits lower to the ground, like the Tri-Totter, which also accommodates a third child.
Our Commitment to Safety
Most of the changes that antique playground equipment underwent occurred for safety reasons. In the past, play spaces haven’t always been as secure as they are now. Certain safety risks accompanied the slides and swings many of us grew up with, as anyone who got a playground injury can attest to. Now, we can offer parents, schools, and landscape architects a perceived risk that gives kids the thrills of motion and adventure without putting them in a harmful situation.
At Miracle Recreation, we take our commitment to safety very seriously. It’s our goal to make a safe, positive environment for play, and we can’t do that without a certain level of dependable manufacturing practices.
We also take an active role in standards development with ASTM and the CPSC, and we maintain an active membership with the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association.
At every level of business within Miracle Recreation, from sales to design to installation, you’ll find that we take great pride in creating safe environments without sacrificing the thrill of play.
Miracle Keeps Up With the Times
While you might hold some fond memories of old school playground equipment, they could be riskier than you realize. Thankfully, newer versions of your favorites exist — ones that prioritize safety and still allow kids to get excited and experience a fun rush.
We’ve been working toward that goal for quite a while — since 1927, to be exact. That’s given us a lot of time to perfect our craft. We’re always innovating and coming up with better ways to improve the safety and experience of kids across playgrounds. We carry a wide array of equipment designed for this purpose.
If you’re interested in adding modern, safe facilities to a play area, explore our products to see how they can help.