The History of Playgrounds & Playground Equipment

old play area
Playgrounds are one of those things that we take for granted today. Nearly every community across the country has some kind of playground, and there is playground equipment on the property of basically every school from coast to coast. Kids love to enjoy themselves at the playground, and adults love to see them having fun. But where did the concept of playgrounds come from? When did these open spaces come into being, and how long did it take for them to become so popular? The history of the playground is an interesting one, and we have highlighted some of the major events below.

Beantown Beginnings

What we can trace as an early predecessor to the playground started to pop up in Boston in the late 1800s. Of course, these first playgrounds weren’t anything like what we see today – they were simply some open space for kids to get out their energy. The modern vision of the playground started to come into focus in 1906 with the formation of the Playground Association of America. With the presence of this association, there were now some standards and ideas to rely on when developing a new playground. However, even with this development, we were still a long way from the point we have reached today. One of the biggest differences is the fact that these early playgrounds were often divided with play spaces for boys and girls in different areas. Also, play was formally supervised, which is not the norm today.

Big Business

As is so often the case in the history of America, playgrounds really hit the ground running once they were commercialized. In other words, once companies realized there was money to be made in the manufacture and installation of playground equipment, the concept of the playground as a whole really took off. Large play structures became more and more common in neighborhoods across America, although they were not exactly safe by modern standards. The materials and design elements within those early playgrounds were rather dangerous for kids. Today’s playgrounds have to meet the requirements of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and kids are much safer while playing as a result.

The Safety Age

Parents today can turn their kids loose at a playground without much concern thanks to the safety features now included in a proper playground installation. In addition to the design of the equipment, the materials use to create the equipment are usually plastic, which is a step up from a safety perspective over metal. Also, the play surface has come a long way in recent years, with softer landings available for kids who are jumping on and off the play structure.

It is good news for parents and kids alike that playgrounds have come a long way since their humble beginnings in the late 19th century. What were once just patches of dirt are now beautiful, safe play areas with exciting toys and ready-made adventures. Playgrounds have become a staple of modern life, and that fact is unlikely to change anytime soon.