Feature Article - November 2010
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Play Date

What's New on the Playground?

By Deborah Vence

The archetypal playground today incorporates the characteristic swings and slides, as well as crawl-through tunnels, rock climbing walls and rope bridges, just to name a few. But, now a newer trend is emerging that incorporates nature into the mix and features for special needs children—giving the classic playground a whole new backdrop.

"There's definitely more trying to reconnect children with nature," said Rebecca Beach, CFO and owner of an Evanston, Ill.-based company that specializes in recycled plastic commercial playground equipment for schools, parks, day cares, churches and more.

To boot, playground manufacturers are making a move toward addressing the needs of children with disabilities by incorporating more universal playground features that all children can benefit from.

"With approximately one in 110 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and the fastest-growing developmental disability, the playground equipment industry must take notice and define opportunities for these children," said Shane Lanier, founder and owner of a Carrollton, Ga.-based commercial recreation equipment distributor. "Sensory integration disorder (SID), which is seen in many children with autism, is becoming more of a mainstream topic."

Such top recreation industry experts talked with Recreation Management magazine about the latest in playground features, with a focus on what's new on the horizon in nature-inspired playground elements and special needs components.