Do you remember growing up, all the fun you had on the playground? The teeter totters, the carousel, monkey bars and slides, all the fun of childhood memories. What you probably don't remember is the safety hazards that accompanied those pieces of playground equipment. The teeter totters were just waiting to knock out teeth. The carousel could break an arm or leg if a child tried to get on or off while it was moving. Way back when, there was nothing wrong with the risks associated with the classic playground items. Today however, liability issues and raised health awareness have forced a transformation in the way a playground is built and assembled.
One of the first things that changed in playground assemblies was the composition. Thirty years ago, the most common playground equipment materials were metal and wood. Metal heats up in the sun, and even steel can reach temperatures in the summer that can cause burns. Wood... well wood doesn't age well. Ten years after construction, there'll be splinters all over the exterior of a wooden playground, and nothing ruins a fun day of playing like having a giant splinter in your hand or foot. Now picture the playground of your childhood, and look at the ground for me. What is it covered in? Odds are the answer is either sand or gravel. Those materials tend to be abrasive, especially over prolonged periods of time.
So are all playgrounds deathtraps waiting to main your children? Hardly, remember how much fun you had on those supposedly scary playgrounds? The playground equipment of today has evolved to meet the standards of safety that we have. It's also become more environmentally friendly. For instance, the most common ground covering on a playground today is rubber. Now you may not think of rubber as an environmentally friendly material, but the rubber for playgrounds is most often made of recycled tires. That we can give new life to that rubber and provide a safer, more shock absorbent covering for the playground at the same time is a great bonus.
Or take the equipment, today most playground equipment is made of plastics. This is because plastics can be molded in such a way that all fastenings are internal, preventing the equipment from presenting a snagging or cutting hazard to children. Plastic also is less thermally conductive than metal. Remember how you couldn't slide on the slides at two in the afternoon because they were too hot to sit on? Well that was because the metal would absorb a large portion of the heat from sunlight. Plastic reflects a much larger spectrum of light than it absorbs, making it cooler during the hot hours of the day.
Another benefit of using plastic is a reduced chance of getting a friction burn. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the kind of burns you can get on your knees from running around on carpet. But maybe some of you were lucky enough to avoid getting a friction burn on the playground growing up. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that they are no better than the other kind. Plastic is much less likely to give a friction burn than even the smoothest metal. This is because skin is less likely to stick to plastic than metal. Today, playground equipment puts safety as goal number one, and as a parent, isn't that what you want?