How Playground Equipment Has Evolved Over the Years

steel pipe playground
As time marches on, it is always interesting to look back at the way things used to be. Often, we can’t believe – from a modern perspective – the things that used to be accepted as standard. The evolution of playground equipment is a perfect demonstration of this concept. While parents today still love to send their kids to the playground, most would think twice before letting their kids play on what used to pass as a public play space for children.

A Rough Beginning

Playgrounds have been existence for more than 150 years now, and well over 125 in the United States alone. However, if you could go back in time to view those early playgrounds, it would be a surprising experience. Unlike playgrounds of today, which use relatively safe materials and adhere to specific codes, playground equipment in the early days was nothing more than a collection of steel pipes. These pipes would be molded into a wide variety of shapes and toys, but the inherent danger of steel was always present.

For one thing, it was possible for these pieces of playground equipment to rust after years out in the harsh weather. Rusting equipment is obviously dangerous, as it could easily cut a child, or the entire piece of equipment could simply break. Even if it wasn’t rusting, steel pipes can be dangerously cold in the winter months, running a risk to exposed skin. Needless to say, there were plenty of injuries attributed to those early steel playgrounds.

A Wood Revolution

Eventually, playground construction moved on to wood. The popularity of wood was easy to understand, as it could be acquired relatively cheaply, and it is easy to use in building projects. On the downside, the durability of wood in an outdoor application is not ideal, especially when that wood has not been pressure treated. Splinters were a common threat on these kinds of play structures, as was mold and the warping of equipment.

Gradual Growth

In the time since wood was commonly used as a playground material, there has been a slow development of safer and safer materials. Thin wall metal tubing became popular in the ‘70s, and it is still in use in some cases to this day. The development of powder coating was another important step, as this process goes a long way toward protecting the metal tubes from the elements.

Today, it is common for playground structures to be built from a variety of materials. There will certainly be some plastic involved, but there is also likely to be metal and even wood. It is the combination of these materials – each used in a way that takes advantage of the properties of the material – that allows for the construction of a safe playground. Also, the design of play structures has come a long way, and the material used under the play structures now makes for softer landings. Children on the playground are now much safer thanks to the developments that have taken place in the last 150 years, but we would not be where we are today without those early play structures.