Kids Just Wanna Have Fun
Playground design trends mix excitement with accessibility and safety
By Kelli Anderson
It's the million-dollar question: What makes a playground fun?
Research groups study it, manufactures try to design it, communities pay big bucks for it and kids—well, kids just know when they get there.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF BOUNDLESS PLAYGROUNDS|
|Children of all abilities can enjoy the "I Can Fly" playground at William S. Baer School in Baltimore|
In the wake of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) guidelines in 1981 to make playgrounds safer, coupled with the need to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines in 1991, many playgrounds across the country were systematically stripped bare of anything high or that moved. Playgrounds often lost their fun-factor. And the needs of children with disabilities, although given a spotlight thanks to the ADA, have still been largely misunderstood and unaddressed. Until now, that is.
So what does make a playground fun? Various groups in the industry touch that proverbial elephant like the blind men in the fable, sometimes coming to different conclusions that if taken together, still make a pretty good composite picture. What they all agree on, however, is that making playgrounds not only accessible but universally accessible so that children of all abilities can play and interact together throughout the structures is the single-most sweeping trend in the industry.
It's an exciting time for those who have waited so long on the sidelines, separated from their peers and unable to enjoy the most fundamental element of childhood—play with other children.
Excitement in playground design through more activity-based play events is also capturing the industry's attention. The thrill factor is back. Making playgrounds a joy for all children is a concept whose time has come.