Back in the day when most of us were little kids, playgrounds largely consisted of swing-sets, teeter-totters, some monkey bars, and maybe a metal slide or two, along with the requisite basketball hoops and tetherball set-up.
Since then, playground equipment has come a very long way—gone are the colorless pieces of welded metal set up in merciless black asphalt. Kids today get to play on all kinds of cool, interactive equipment, and if they happen to take a spill, chances are their fall will be broken by several inches of industrial-grade foam padding instead of concrete or pea-gravel.
Starting in the 1980s, playground equipment began to shift away from plain metal and asphalt to the more colorful, user-friendly options you see on the market today.
“The play equipment we grew up on (50 and older) started to be phased out when ‘Play Structures’ were developed in the mid-1980s,” says George J. Herberger, CPSI, the vice president of Ben Shaffer & Associates, a Lake Hopatcong-based company that represents manufacturers of park and playground equipment. “Asphalt surfacing was phased out in the early 1990s due to falls on the surface being the most common cause of injuries on playgrounds, approximately 70 percent.”
Industry experts say that the concept of continuous play, plus advances in materials and technology in the 1980s and 1990s led to a huge expansion in opportunities for commercial playground equipment. Another major change occurred in 1981 when, in light of numerous playground injuries such as children falling off of teeter-totters, slides and monkey bars, led the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to publish the first Handbook for Public Playground Safety, which was designed to provide guidelines for making playgrounds safer.