Playground

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A modern-day playground Childrens Game Park 01621.jpg
A modern-day playground

A playground, playpark, or play area is a place designed to provide an environment for children that facilitates play, typically outdoors. While a playground is usually designed for children, some are designed for other age groups, or people with disabilities. A playground might exclude children below a certain age.

Contents

Modern playgrounds often have recreational equipment such as the seesaw, merry-go-round, swingset, slide, jungle gym, chin-up bars, sandbox, spring rider, trapeze rings, playhouses, and mazes, many of which help children develop physical coordination, strength, and flexibility, as well as providing recreation and enjoyment and supporting social and emotional development. 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 arena, a basketball court, or a tether ball.

Public playground equipment installed in the play areas of parks, schools, childcare 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.

History

Seesaw with a crowd of children playing SeesawWithKids wb.png
Seesaw with a crowd of children playing

Through history, children played in their villages and neighbourhoods, especially in the streets and lanes near their homes. [1] [2] [3]

In the 19th century, developmental psychologists such as Friedrich Fröbel proposed playgrounds as a developmental aid, or to imbue children with a sense of fair play and good manners. In Germany, a few playgrounds were erected in connection to schools, [4] the first purpose-built public-access playground was opened in a park in Manchester, England in 1859. [5]

Response to Mass motorisation

Plaque to mark the spot where the Playground movement began in Nova Scotia (1906), Local Council of Women of Halifax, Nova Scotia Local Council of Women, Halifax Plaque, Halifax, Nova Scotia.jpg
Plaque to mark the spot where the Playground movement began in Nova Scotia (1906), Local Council of Women of Halifax, Nova Scotia

However, it was only in the early 20th century, as the street lost its role as the default public space and became planned for use by motor cars, that momentum built to remove children from the new dangers and confine them to segregated areas to play. In the United States, organisations such as the National Highway Protective Society highlighted the numbers killed by automobiles, and urged the creation of playgrounds, aiming to free streets for vehicles rather than children's play. [6] [7] The Outdoor Recreation League provided funds to erect playgrounds on parkland, especially following the 1901 publication of a report on numbers of children being run down by cars in New York City. [8]

Young boys playing in a New York City street, 1909 Children playing in street, New York.jpg
Young boys playing in a New York City street, 1909

In tandem with the new concern about the danger of roads, educational theories of play, including by Herbert Spencer and John Dewey inspired the emergence of the reformist playground movement, which argued that playgrounds had educational value, improved attention in class, enhanced physical health, and reduced truancy. [9] Interventionist programs such as by the child savers sought to move children into controlled areas to limit 'delinquency'. [2] Meanwhile, at schools and settlement houses for poorer children with limited access to education, health services and daycare, playgrounds were included to support these institutions' goal of keeping children safe and out of trouble. [8]

One of the first playgrounds in the United States was built in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in 1887. [10] In 1906 the Playground Association of America was founded and a year later Luther Gulick became president. [11] It later became the National Recreation Association and then the National Recreation and Park Association. [12] Urging the need for playgrounds, former President Theodore Roosevelt stated in 1907:

City streets are unsatisfactory playgrounds for children because of the danger, because most good games are against the law, because they are too hot in summer, and because in crowded sections of the city they are apt to be schools of crime. Neither do small back yards nor ornamental grass plots meet the needs of any but the very small children. Older children who would play vigorous games must have places especially set aside for them; and, since play is a fundamental need, playgrounds should be provided for every child as much as schools. This means that they must be distributed over the cities in such a way as to be within walking distance of every boy and girl, as most children can not afford to pay carfare. [13]

In post war London the landscape architect and children's rights campaigner Lady Allen of Hurtwood introduced and popularised the concept of the ’junk playground’ - where the equipment was constructed from the recycled junk and rubble left over from the Blitz. She campaigned for facilities for children growing up in the new high-rise developments in Britain's cities and wrote a series of illustrated books on the subject of playgrounds, and at least one book on adventure playgrounds, spaces for free creativity by children, which helped the idea spread worldwide. [14]

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.

Design

Playground design is influenced by the intended purpose and audience. Separate play areas might be offered to accommodate very young children. Single, large, open parks tend to not to be used by older schoolgirls or less aggressive children, because there is little opportunity for them to escape more aggressive children. [15] By contrast, a park that offers multiple play areas is used equally by boys and girls.

Effects on child development

Professionals recognize that the social skills that children develop on the playground often 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.

Exciting, engaging and challenging playground equipment is important to keep children happy while still developing their learning abilities. These should be developed in order to suit different groups of children for different stages of learning, such as specialist playground equipment for nursery & pre-school children teaching them basic numeracy & vocabulary, to building a child's creativity and imagination with role play panels or puzzles.

Rope bridge for improving balance KidsRopeBridge wb.png
Rope bridge for improving balance

There is a general consensus that physical activity reduces the risk of psychological problems in children and fosters their self-esteem.[ citation needed ] The American Chief Medical Officer's report (Department of Health, 2004), stated that a review of available research suggests that the health benefits of physical activity in children are predominantly seen in the amelioration of risk factors for disease, avoidance of weight gain, achieving a peak bone mass and mental well-being.

Exercise programmes "may have short term beneficial effects on self esteem in children and adolescents" [16] although high-quality trials are lacking. [16]

Commentators argue that the quality of a child's exercise experience can affect their self-esteem. Ajzen TPB (1991) promotes the notion that children's self-esteem is enhanced through the encouragement of physical mastery and self-development. It can be seen that playgrounds provide an ideal opportunity for children to master physical skills, such as learning to swing, balance and climb. Personal development may be gained through the enhancement of skills, such as playing, communicating and cooperating with other children and adults in the playground.

It can also be seen that public and private playgrounds act as a preventative health measure amongst young people because they promote physical activity at a stage in children's lives when they are active and not yet at risk from opting out of physical activity.[ citation needed ]

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 [17] concluded shown that playgrounds need to be balanced with marginal areas that (to adults) appear to be derelict or wasteground but to children they are areas that they can claim for themselves, ideally a wooded area or field.

For many children, it is their favorite time of day when they get to be on the playground for free time or recess. It acts as a release for them from the pressures of learning during the day. They know that time on the playground is their own time.[ citation needed ]

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.

Funding

A playground under construction in Ystad, Sweden in 2016 Lekplats - Ystad 2016.jpg
A playground under construction in Ystad, Sweden in 2016

In the UK, several organisations exist that help provide funding for schools and local authorities to construct playgrounds. These include the Biffa Award, which provides funding under the Small Grants Scheme; Funding Central, which offers support for voluntary organisations and social enterprises; and the Community Construction Fund, a flagship programme by Norfolk County Council. [18]

A playground being built for a homeowner's backyard as part of a handyman project. Modern playgrounds can have many options besides swingsets, including sandboxes, rope-climbs, tic-tac-toe games, a fort with dormer roofs and a chimney, a slide, and other amenities. Building a swingset.jpg
A playground being built for a homeowner's backyard as part of a handyman project. Modern playgrounds can have many options besides swingsets, including sandboxes, rope-climbs, tic-tac-toe games, a fort with dormer roofs and a chimney, a slide, and other amenities.

Safety

Safety, in the context of playgrounds, is generally understood as the prevention of injuries. Risk aversion and fear of lawsuits on the part of the adults who design playgrounds prioritizes injury prevention above other factors, such as cost or developmental benefit to the users. [19] It is important that children gradually develop the skill of risk assessment, and a completely safe environment does not allow that.

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 plastic. 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. Playgrounds with equipment that children may fall off often use rubber mulch on the ground to help cushion the impact. [20]

Playgrounds are also made differently for different age groups. Often schools have a playground that is taller and more advanced for older schoolchildren and a lower playground with less risk of falling for younger children.

Safety discussions do not normally include an evaluation of the unintended consequences of injury prevention, such as older children who do not exercise at the playground because the playground is too boring. [21]

Safety efforts sometimes paradoxically increase the likelihood and severity of injuries because of how people choose to use playground equipment. For example, older children may choose to climb on the outside of a "safe" but boring play structure, rather than using it the way the designers intended. Similarly, rather than letting young children play on playground slides by themselves, some injury-averse parents seat the children on the adult's lap and go down the slide together. [22] This seems safer at first glance, but if the child's shoe catches on the edge of the slide, this arrangement frequently results in the child's leg being broken. [22] If the child had been permitted to use the slide independently, then this injury would not happen, because when the shoe caught, the child would have stopped sliding rather than being propelled down the slide by the adult's weight. [22]

Also concerning the safety of playgrounds is the material in which they are built. Wooden playgrounds act as a more natural environment for the children to play but can cause even more minor injuries. Slivers are the main concern when building with wood material. Wet weather is also a threat to children playing on wooden structures. Most woods are treated and do not wear terribly fast, but with enough rain, wooden playgrounds can become slippery and dangerous for children to be on.

Regulation

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 nationwide 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. (Some information sources offer interactive examples [23] of playground equipment that violates CPSC guidelines.)

In Australia, Standards Australia is responsible for the publication of the playground safety Standards AS/NS4422, AS/NZS4486.1 and AS4685 Parts 1 to 6. The University of Technology Sydney is responsible for the training and accreditation of playground inspectors. [24] The Register of Playground Inspectors Australia lists all the individuals who have been certified to inspector playgrounds within Australia. [25]

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. [26] EN 1176 covers playground equipment standards. [27] [28] In the UK, playground inspectors can sit the examinations of the Register of Play Inspectors International at the three required levels - routine, operational and annual. Annual inspectors are able to undertake the post-installation inspections recommended by EN 1176.

Prevention strategies

Because the majority of playground injuries are due to falls from equipment, injury prevention efforts are primarily directed at reducing the likelihood of a child falling and reducing the likelihood of a severe injury if the child does fall. This is done by:

How effective these strategies are at preventing injuries is debated by experts, because when playgrounds are made from padded materials, children often take more risks. [21] [29]

Playground injury

Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. [30] [31] Approximately 156,040 (75.8%) of the 1999 injuries occurred on equipment designed for public use; 46,930 (22.8%) occurred on equipment designed for home use; and 2,880 (1.4%) occurred on homemade playground equipment (primarily rope swings).

Percentage of injuries involving public equipment

From January 1990 to August 2000, CPSC received reports of 147 deaths to children younger than 15 that involved playground equipment.

Girls were involved in a slightly higher percentage of injuries (55%) than were boys (45%).

Injuries to the head and face accounted for 49% of injuries to children 0-4, while injuries to the arm and hand accounted for 49% of injuries to children ages 5–14. Approximately 15% of the injuries were classified as severe, with 3% requiring hospitalization. The most prevalent diagnoses were fractures (39%), lacerations (22%), contusions/abrasions (20%), strains/sprains (11%).

For children ages 0–4, climbers (40%) had the highest incidence rates, followed by slides (33%). For children ages 5–14, climbing equipment (56%) had the highest incidence rates, followed by swings (24%). Most injuries on public playground equipment were associated with climbing equipment (53%), swings (19%), and slides (17%).

Falls to the surface was a contributing factor in 79% of all injuries. On home equipment, 81% were associated with falls.

In 1995, playground-related injuries among children ages 14 and younger cost an estimated $1.2 billion. [32]

On public playgrounds, more injuries occur on climbers than on any other equipment. [31] On home playgrounds, swings are responsible for most injuries. [31]

Playgrounds in low-income areas have more maintenance-related hazards than playgrounds in high-income areas. For example, playgrounds in low-income areas had significantly more trash, rusty play equipment, and damaged fall surfaces. [33]

Unintended consequences

As a result of what some experts say is overprotectiveness driven by a fear of lawsuits, playgrounds have been designed to be, or at least to appear, excessively safe. [21] This overprotectiveness may protect the playground owner from lawsuits, but it appears to result in a decreased sense of achievement and increased fears in children. [21]

The equipment limitations result in the children receiving less value from the play time. [21] The enclosed, padded, constrained, low structures prevent the child from taking risks and developing a sense of mastery over his or her environment. Successfully taking a risk is empowering to children. For example, a child climbing to the top of a tall jungle gym feels happy about successfully managing the challenging climb to the top, and he experiences the thrill of being in a precarious, high position. By contrast, the child on a low piece of equipment, designed to reduce the incidence of injuries from falls, experiences no such thrill, sense of mastery, or accomplishment. Additionally, a lack of experience with heights as a child is associated with increased acrophobia (fear of heights) in adults. [21]

The appearance of safety encourages unreasonable risk-taking in children, who might take more reasonable risks if they correctly understood that it is possible to break a bone on the soft surfaces under most modern equipment. [21] [29]

Finally, the playground that is designed to appear low-risk is boring, especially to older children. [21] As a result, they tend to seek out alternative play areas, which may be very unsafe. [21]

Risk management is an important life skill, and risk aversion in playgrounds is unhelpful in the long term. Experts studying child development such as Tim Gill have written about the over-protective bias in provision for children, particularly with playgrounds. [29] Instead of a constructed playground, allowing children to play in a natural environment such as open land or a park is sometimes recommended; children gain a better sense of balance playing on uneven ground, and learn to interpret the complexity and signals of nature more effectively. [29]

Types

Playgrounds can be:

Inclusive playgrounds

Universally designed playgrounds are created to be accessible to all children. There are three primary components to a higher level of inclusive play:

Some children with disabilities or developmental differences do not interact with playgrounds in the same way as typical children. A playground designed without considering these children's needs may not be accessible or interesting to them.

Most efforts at inclusive playgrounds have been aimed at accommodating wheelchair users. For example, rubber paths and ramps replace sand pits and steps, and some features are placed at ground level. Efforts to accommodate children on the autism spectrum, who may find playgrounds overstimulating or who may have difficulty interacting with other children, have been less common. [34]

Natural playgrounds

"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.

Playgrounds for adults

China and some countries in Europe have playgrounds designed for adults. [35] These are outdoor spaces that feature fitness equipment designed for use primarily by adults, such as chin-up bars.

Playgrounds for older adults are popular in China. [36] Seniors are the primary users of public playgrounds in China. These playgrounds are usually in a smaller, screened area, which may reduce the feeling of being watched or judged by others. [36] They often have adult-sized equipment that helps seniors stretch, strengthen muscles, and improve their sense of balance. [36] Similar playgrounds for adults have been built in other countries. [36] Berlin's Preußenpark for example is designed for people aged 70 or higher.

See also

Related Research Articles

Safety State of being secure from harm, injury, danger, or other non-desirable outcomes

Safety is the state of being "safe", the condition of being protected from harm or other danger. Safety can also refer to the control of recognized hazards in order to achieve an acceptable level of risk.

Lifeguard Profession

A lifeguard is a rescuer who supervises the safety and rescue of swimmers, surfers, and other water sports participants such as in a swimming pool, water park, beach, spa, river and lake. Lifeguards are trained in swimming and CPR/AED first aid, certified in water rescue using a variety of aids and equipment depending on requirements of their particular venue. In some areas, lifeguards are part of the emergency services system to incidents and in some communities, lifeguards may function as the primary EMS provider.

Seesaw Long, narrow board pivoted in the middle

A seesaw is a long, narrow board supported by a single pivot point, most commonly located at the midpoint between both ends; as one end goes up, the other goes down. These are most commonly found at parks and school playgrounds.

Jungle gym Playground equipment

A jungle gym is a piece of playground equipment made of many pieces of material, such as metal pipes or ropes, on which participants can climb, hang, sit, and—in some configurations—slide. Monkey bars are a part of a jungle gym where a user, hanging in the air, swings between evenly spaced horizontal bars. In Australian English, the term "monkey bars" is sometimes used to refer to the entire jungle gym.

Swing (seat)

A swing is a seat, often found at playgrounds for children, at a circus for acrobats, or on a porch for relaxing, although they may also be items of indoor furniture, such as the Latin American hammock or the Indian oonjal. The seat of a swing may be suspended from chains or ropes. Once a swing is in motion, it continues to oscillate like a pendulum until external interference or drag brings it to a halt. Swing sets are very popular with children.

Recess (break) Period in which a group of people are temporarily dismissed from their duties

Recess is a general term for a period in which a group of people are temporarily dismissed from their duties.

Inflatable castle Temporary inflatable structure for play

Inflatable castles are temporary inflatable structures and buildings and similar items that are rented for functions, school and church festivals and village fetes and used for recreational purposes, particularly for children. The growth in the use of such devices has led to a rental industry that includes inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and games. Inflatables are ideal for portable amusements because they are easy to transport and store.

Adventure playground

An adventure playground is a specific type of playground for children. Adventure playgrounds can take many forms, ranging from "natural playgrounds" to "junk playgrounds", and are typically defined by an ethos of unrestricted play, the presence of playworkers, and the absence of adult-manufactured or rigid play-structures. Adventure playgrounds are frequently defined in contrast to playing fields, contemporary-design playgrounds made by adult architects, and traditional-equipment play areas containing adult-made rigid play-structures like swings, slides, seesaws, and climbing bars.

Playground slide

Playground slides are found in parks, schools, playgrounds and backyards. The slide is an example of the simple machine known as the inclined plane, which makes moving objects up and down easier, or in this case more fun. The slide may be flat, or half cylindrical or tubular to prevent falls. Slides are usually constructed of plastic or metal and they have a smooth surface that is either straight or wavy. The user, typically a child, climbs to the top of the slide via a ladder or stairs and sits down on the top of the slide and slides down the chute.

Injury prevention is an effort to prevent or reduce the severity of bodily injuries caused by external mechanisms, such as accidents, before they occur. Injury prevention is a component of safety and public health, and its goal is to improve the health of the population by preventing injuries and hence improving quality of life. Among laypersons, the term "accidental injury" is often used. However, "accidental" implies the causes of injuries are random in nature. Researchers use the term "unintentional injury" to refer to injuries that are nonvolitional but preventable. Within the field of public health, efforts are also made to prevent or reduce "intentional injury." Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, for example, show unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death from early childhood until middle adulthood. During these years, unintentional injuries account for more deaths than the next nine leading causes of death combined.

Outdoor playset

An outdoor playset is a structure erected outside for children to play on and around.

A playscape is either a piece of land modified for children's play, a particular structure on a playground, or an alternative type of play environment. Sometimes playscapes look and feel like a natural environment. However, landscape architects and designers are increasingly using the term to express areas of cities that encourage interaction and enjoyment for all ages. The term was probably first used in the mid-twentieth century, possibly first attributable to the National Institute for Architectural Education in 1957, and associated in the 1960s with the New York-based Playground Corporation of America. It is mentioned by Joe Frost in his 1992 book, Play and Playscapes, referring to attempts to replace or add on to the rubberized surface, metal and plastic of traditional playgrounds.

Physical hazard Hazard due to a physical agent

A physical hazard is an agent, factor or circumstance that can cause harm with contact. They can be classified as type of occupational hazard or environmental hazard. Physical hazards include ergonomic hazards, radiation, heat and cold stress, vibration hazards, and noise hazards. Engineering controls are often used to mitigate physical hazards.

A playground surface is the material that lies under and around swings, slides, monkey bars and other playground equipment. The surfaces are usually made of wood or rubber and designed specifically for aesthetics, child safety, and/or ADA wheelchair accessibility. Playground safety surfacing often involves the use of recycled rubber tire products such as poured rubber, rubber tiles or loose rubber mulch.

Commercial playgrounds are developed to provide fun for children ages 14 and under in a safe environment. There are distinct differences between Commercial and Residential Playgrounds. Residential Playgrounds, though safe, are typically made out of lumber and do not have safety guidelines set up by different associations. The safety of the Commercial Playgrounds is governed by several different organizations. They include: Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), National Program for Playground Safety, A.S.T.M. International, ADA Accessibility Guidelines, and National Child Care Association. One can usually find commercial playgrounds at public parks, fast food restaurants, indoor play places, schools, and churches. Prices for a commercial playground depend on size and the type of components on them. The prices range from typically $10,000 to $150,000.

In the United States, there are environmental and occupational health hazards in zoological parks. The risks associated with working with and caring for the animals, include visitor employee safety. There are numerous safeguards in place to prevent injury, disease, and death.

Maggie Daley Park Park in Chicago

Maggie Daley Park is a 20-acre (81,000 m2) public park in the Loop community area of Chicago operated by the Chicago Park District and managed by MB Real Estate. It is near the Lake Michigan shoreline in northeastern Grant Park where Daley Bicentennial Plaza previously stood. Maggie Daley Park, like its predecessor, is connected to Millennium Park by the BP Pedestrian Bridge. Designed by landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh, the park had its ceremonial ribbon cutting on December 13, 2014, and is named for Maggie Daley, the former first lady of the city who died of cancer in 2011. The park was almost entirely remade with multiple new features including a new field house, an ice skating ribbon, climbing walls, landscaping and children's playground. An older section of the park maintains a garden dedicated earlier to honor cancer survivors. The park is bounded by Randolph Street, Monroe, Columbus and Lake Shore Drives. Construction took 2 years and cost $60 million, including rebuilding an underground parking lot.

Playscapes is a playground designed by artist and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi. Completed in 1976, the playground is located in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, in the city's Piedmont Park.

Margaret Mahy Playground Playground in Christchurch, New Zealand

The Margaret Mahy Playground is a playground in the Christchurch Central City on the banks of the Avon River.

Adventure Playground at the Parish School

Adventure Play at the Parish School is an Adventure playground located in Houston, Texas. The Adventure Playground at The Parish School consists of a three-acre play-area open to children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. It is one of the few junk playgrounds located in the United States, and the only one located in a school. The playground serves children with communication disorders and language and learning differences, often including difficulties interacting with peers.

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