So I have often wondered how organized playgrounds and early playground equipment started. Playground history shows the Germans were the 1st to offer up a designated play areas. These play areas were known as “Sand Gardens”, in 1885 to get children off the roads where play was getting dangerous. The United States saw it’s 1st “Sand Gardens” playgrounds around 1886 in Boston. The growth of cities and influx of people crowding into cities had some interested parties looking at children’s play as an important part of growing into healthy adults.
The Playground Association of America started in 1906 to promote The Playground Movement. The industrial Revolution had turned cities into dirty crowed living spaces with dangerous streets. These new reformers felt there was a better way and started pushing for more organized play areas for children of these new immigrant workers. The 1st of these playgrounds were not just free play areas, they were usually set up with instructors. These people were trained to teach children lessons while including play. These new playgrounds would include theater, parades, and humanitarian goals.
With the increased installations of Sand Gardens in the USA manufacturers started to see an opportunity for a new line of products. The earliest playground equipment was built of Galvanized steel with simple climbing ladder type play equipment. In the 1940’s into the 50’s free play was coming into its own with what were called landscape adventure playgrounds. By the 50’s to 70’s my early play years, playground equipment had advanced to be much more imaginative with themed playground equipment. I remember fire trucks, rockets, big steel slides and metal tubes to play on at our local playgrounds.
Playground safety history
Playground safety started to come to the attention of planners in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. Things on Playground equipment became a bit more standardized with no more sharp edges and plastics being used more and more. By the 90’s we see the modern age of playground equipment with safety very high on the list of importance. Plastics have become more durable and are now used as the go to component of modern play systems. It was at this time that playground Safety surfacing also became the norm for playgrounds with the onset of recycling auto tires as a softer approach to play surfacing.