Dip bars in use

Nature calls to us. John Muir said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” So many millions have experienced the call of nature. It might be into the mountains, over the plains or through the dunes of a desert.

If you find it challenging to connect with nature or miss some of that unbridled joy and easy connection you used to experience as a child, there are plenty of ways to rekindle the flame. But, arguably, the best way to connect with nature is active.

When your blood is pumping, your brain and body become more oxygenated, and you become more aware. Unfortunately, in today’s age of technology, it is all too easy to sit slumped in front of a computer breathing shallow breaths all day and feeling fuzzy.

Instead, next time you go outside, try one of these nine ways to both exercises and connect with the landscape around you.

How to Use Outdoor Exercise to Connect with Nature

Willow Playground Den1. Disconnect to Connect

First, ditch the technology. There are many positive things technology has done for us in the modern world. However, there are many more things it can take away if we let it. 

Take out the earphones, even if it is just for part of the activity. Stop looking down at the phone or ask the person on the other end of the phone to call you back later. You will find that it makes all the difference.

2. Find Fellow Nature Lovers

We have likely all heard about the positive benefits you can get from having a workout buddy. They help motivate you to keep up the excellent work, and they keep you going harder and faster during the activity.

Finding someone who enjoys the outdoors as much as they enjoy the activity allows you to get the best of both worlds. Not only will they help keep you going, but they will also be interested in finding new hikes, trails and adventures to try. But, of course, nothing is saying you always have to participate in the same activity!

3. Set Distance Goals

Even if you can’t find your perfect workout and nature partner, you can always motivate yourself. No matter what exercise you are doing, set yourself distance goals. It works whether it be a specific mileage or a new park or mountain you want to explore.

4. Go on a HikeComposite materials for playgrounds

Now that we have gone through the methodology for connecting with nature on your chosen mode of exercise let’s get some ideas on the exercises you can do. Hiking is perhaps one of the most obvious, particularly for people who live in a hilly or mountainous area.

Hiking is a good choice for those people who want to experience nature at a slower pace or who need less of an impact sport. 

If you are goal-oriented, you can always take hiking to the next level and go on a backpacking trip. These kinds of extended stays in nature allow you to become even more grounded than a couple of hours outside will.

5. Feel the Waves

Do you live next to the ocean, a river or a lake? Give the water a chance to help you forge a new connection with nature. There are plenty of options on this medium as well. You can try surfing, a sport enjoyed in both the cold and hot parts of the world, so don’t let the temperature limit you.

Not so keen on only having a board against you and the waves? Then start with kayaking or canoeing. You can do these exercises on almost any body of water as well. That way, even if you are many hours from the oceanside, you can still connect with water.

Other options include paddle boarding, windsurfing and white water rafting. You take your pick in your area, and you are bound to find some excellent choices.

bike station6. Embrace the Euro Velo Cycle Network (or Anything Regionally Similar)

The most extensive cycle network available to you for those living in Europe is the Euro Velo Cycle Network. You can cycle through the countryside to different countries throughout Europe. However, even if you don’t live in Europe, you likely have a developed cycle path in your area.

If you are not yet familiar with your local cycle network, the local government’s website is generally the best place to find it.

7. Find Races in Favourite Natural Areas (or Try Somewhere New)

Running might not be for everyone, but you will have all kinds of options if it’s for you. You don’t necessarily need specific walkways or paths to run. You can try trail running, breathing in the fresh air from the forests, plains or mountainside as you go.

Need some motivation to keep you engaging? Try to find races with achievable distances that are in natural places you enjoy. Or try new places that you haven’t heard of before to explore further afield.

Outdoor Play Equipment Drapers Field

Alternatively, you may find a park with a great outdoor fitness equipment set up – this is great for the whole family and can not only strengthen the body and mind, but also personal relationships.

8. Get Dirty; Try Gardening!

Some of you might have stopped on this point and thought, “wait, gardening isn’t exercising!” However, you would be wrong. For those who need low-impact exercise, gardening is an excellent way to spend time outdoors without injuring our bodies. You can also use it as a form of recovery if you have already gotten injured.

Plus, you can literally stop and smell the roses. Talk about a release from stress and anxiety.

9.Adrenaline Junkie? Go Rock Climbing

Our last option is for those who enjoy their heart pumping, but not just because of the exercise. Rock climbing might be a challenge for those that don’t appreciate heights, but it’s also a great form of exercise. In addition, rock climbing is one of those exercises that work some of the “harder to reach” muscles in your body.

Climbing isn’t the only thing you can do to connect with nature in an exciting way. No matter what you want to get out of your moments of connection with nature, there are many ways to enjoy it actively. 

Getting active outside allows you to reap the benefits of having an active life and an outdoor one. So what’s stopping you? Strap on those sneakers, snowshoes or swimsuits and get out there!

Forest trees

 

Outdoor Playground Equipment Wembley

If you’re searching the internet for outdoor playground equipment, you might find there are a lot of different prices. In fact, the range is huge! So the answer to this question is really as much or as little as you want it to.

However, perhaps the best way to tackle this is not to consider the cost but instead value for money. After all, not everything expensive is worth the investment and cheap could mean buying twice. Assessing value for money is the best way to see the true worth of your investment.

contemporary bespoke playgroundsQuality materials, quality play

Here at Play Equip, we believe in value for money. While our products may not be the cheapest, they will last a lifetime and bring priceless memories for many years.

Made to last, high-quality natural playground equipment brings vitality and much needed natural experiences for children in a world where plastic has invaded. We believe in building for durability and only use the finest timber that offers natural resistance to weather damage. Our playground equipment is even strong enough for adults, so you can enjoy playground equipment with your children to bring out your inner child.

Knowledge and experiencecustom playground equipment london

Our many years supplying playground and outdoor gym equipment have seen us recognise pitfalls often identified with cheaper chemically treated wooden playground equipment, so we just don’t use them. The natural beauty of the wood we use only improves with age. Choosing chemical-free timber naturally resilient to rot embraces the organic properties of Oak, Larch and Robinia to ensure the highest maintenance-free quality equipment on the market.

Our stainless steel and galvanised fixings are engineered to last, giving 20 plus years of practically maintenance-free service. That cannot be said for the cheaper alternatives. So yes, you may pay more initially, but you are certainly guaranteeing the service and safety of your playground.

Wooden Playground EquipmentYears of use

Imagine the joy of seeing many generations of a family enjoying the same playground equipment. It could be your children and grandchildren playing on the same equipment. Equipment that will stand the test of time without constantly breaking, becoming unsafe or having to be disposed of and replaced.

Plastic and cheaper alternatives are all well and good, but they are subject to weather damage, often any more than the most infrequent of use can see them compromised and potentially unsafe. Is this value for money? If you constantly have to check and replace bolts and fixings, imagine the maintenance time and cost involved and the potential for injury that you are at risk of. We believe the actual value of playground equipment is investing to ensure that this is not what faces you

Lower turnover and replacement saves you money long-term

Paying a little more to ensure you buy quality equipment from leading natural playground equipment specialists will protect children’s play areas safely for the future. If you add up the maintenance time and money, time sourcing replacement parts or even whole pieces of equipment, costs can quickly increase. We believe in buying it right and buying it once. Choosing quality playground equipment that is hardwearing, beautiful to look at and guaranteed to last will mean you avoid much of the maintenance requirements or ongoing repair costs incurred with many plastic or cheap timber alternatives. Your initial saving from purchasing less sturdy reliable play equipment could easily be wiped out and leave you spending far more over the life of the equipment.

Buying the best value, not necessarily the cheapest play equipment makes commercial sense for open spaces and playgrounds. In home gardens, it makes emotional sense; you will get to see many generations enjoying the play equipment or at least have a valuable piece to pass on should you move. For bespoke, cost-effective playground equipment that ticks all the boxes, why not get in touch. We could help you plan a sustainable play area according to your budget and space.

DWG Triple Platform Robinia Frame

Free Downloadable CAD Blocks For Playground Equipment

Are you an Architect or Landscape Architect? Then you’ll know the pain of trying to ensure you get the computerised design for new projects just right. But why make life harder than it needs to be when you can get free downloadable CAD blocks for our entire range of natural wooden playground equipment?

Cantilever Play Frame Photo DWG Cantilever Play Frame

What are CAD blocks?

Quite simply, they are an architect or landscape designer’s dream. 3D images of our play equipment range in a downloadable file for digital layout drawings that you can easily work into your design, allowing your clients to get a great view of how the finished space will look. Our playground equipment CAD blocks are free to download and fully scaled, making it simple to create your design using actual products that will look in person just as good as they look on screen. We have even added prices to simplify budgeting and ordering.

Recently we have seen a dramatic rise in the number of architects using our playground equipment. They tell us this is because our free downloadable playground equipment CAD blocks made it easier for them to create the perfect digital play space layout. They designed with actual equipment in mind and could easily show clients their vision and work within budgets more efficiently, as we even priced the items for them. They also had the option to work with us to create custom items and layouts where existing landscape factors or design features needed a more bespoke approach. Our attention to detail means we work closely with architects and designers to find the best equipment, whether from our standard range or bespoke build. We can work within existing landscapes, such as offering protection for tree roots and other areas of an outdoor space. DWG example Swing Set

We want all children and adults to have the best experiences in the great outdoors, which is why we work closely with designers on every project. For some, it is simply ordering our standard equipment. For others, we become heavily immersed in collaborations to reach the perfect result. Either way, your client will be satisfied with the finished look, as using our CAD blocks means it will be identical to what they see on screen.

 

Organic Natural Playground Equipment Design That Feels As Good As It Looks

Our equipment includes gym and playground equipment Close up balance bean trailconstructed of high-quality natural chemical-free wood. Architects and designers can now clearly see how our pieces fit in an area using our gym and play equipment downloadable CAD blocks. We build using the best Oak, Larch and Robinia, naturally resilient to rot, with no drawbacks of working with chemically treated wood. Oak works best in our climate, where playground equipment is in contact with the ground. With high resin natural antiseptic, Larch is as durable as treated timber whilst not chemically corroding fixings. For a perfectly natural look, Robinia offers rustic aesthetics whilst being incredibly durable.  Where green space or natural materials are rare, our equipment provides the authentic feel of the great outdoors.

Is It Really Free Of Charge?

We have made our playground equipment 3D CAD downloads available free of charge. By assisting outdoor designers, we are delighted to say that our vision of a world where every child can experience natural outdoor play equipment is becoming a reality. Our organic approach is excellent for the environment and even better for health. Not only that, but you can be sure that the equipment we supply conforms to strict safety standards. As play equipment specialists who work in parallel with an independent play safety inspector and other professionals, we ensure that every aspect of a design meets every safety consideration.

Looking to create a design for an outdoor space with the wow factor? Why not download our CAD block to give your garden or playground design the perfect finishing touch.

DWG Downloads

natural fitness equipment

 

We all know how important play is for children, but have you ever been put off purchasing play equipment for your garden because those garish primary colours make your garden look less than welcoming for anyone who isn’t a child? Playground equipment that is great for children does not have to be bright and garish. Choosing natural playground equipment could be the perfect alternative when you want to retain the natural look for your garden but still want to provide great play equipment for your children to play on.

 

Easy on the Eye wooden monkey bars photo

Not only is wood a natural material, but it is also beautiful to look at. Here at PlayEquip, we offer highly durable natural wooden playground equipment perfect for any home garden, park or public space. With our equipment, even inner-city homes, where there is little green space can have the delight of natural wooden equipment in their backyard.

With natural playground equipment, parents no longer need to give over vast expanses of space to equipment and furniture that spoils the natural lines of their garden. Choosing natural wood allows synergy with the rest of the garden that is difficult to achieve with plastic.

playground stepping stumps

 

Wood also offers a durable, high-end feel that, combined with other natural wooden features such as planters, seating and dining equipment and even fencing, means your children’s play equipment need not become an unintended focal point. And natural playground equipment is something that all the family can enjoy too. If you are young at heart or enjoy exercising outside, we have some great natural outdoor fitness equipment that can be used by young and old alike.

Quality shines

Playground equipment shouldn’t be all about how good it looks, but given the choice, many of us would rather eschew the blocky, bright equipment for something rather more natural. In reality, natural wood is often the more practical choice too. It offers years of faithful service and is easy to keep clean and sustainable, making it possible to achieve a ‘green garden’ without disappointing the children. wide metal playground slide

Kind to the Environmentstepping stumps

People are recognising the detrimental effects that man-made materials like plastic are having on our planet and taking steps to reduce their plastic use.

Whether it’s biodegradable products, reusable shopping bags or even play equipment, people are looking for sustainable sources. By choosing a natural outdoor playground equipment made from sustainable sources, you’re taking small steps towards protecting our planet for future generations to come!

Encourages Physical Developmentrobinia pull

It may seem obvious, but it’s one of the most important benefits of natural outdoor playground equipment for your garden.. By encouraging children to spend time outside playing, climbing, jumping and running; playground equipment will benefit the physical health of children. Wooden outdoor playground equipment encourages social and psychological development  promoting  creativity and improves communication skills. 

Our wood and steel equipment is ideal for gardens where green space and trees are unfamiliar sights to many young children, particularly in urban environments.  Wooden equipment brings a vitality that children do not get from modern plastic alternatives, allowing them to interact with the natural materials of the world. Feeling different textures and the warmth of stunning wild oaks is something that could be unfamiliar to some, yet natural play equipment can redress the balance.

Playground equipment made from natural materials will encourage children to connect with the environment, explore and become more aware of  nature. This is particularly important in today’s society, where many children would rather be inside playing on a technological device rather than exploring the outdoors.

outdoor fitness rig photo 2

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to how society works, lives and plays as successive lockdowns placed restrictions on how we socialised; how many people we were allowed to see and how far we could travel.

One of the biggest challenges especially for children and young adults came with the closure of schools, colleges, nurseries and outdoor playgrounds with, in some instances local authorities even chaining up and restricting access to playground equipment and outdoor fitness equipment too.

Playground slide

Children’s Mental and Physical Health Affected

Studies are underway to gauge the effect of the pandemic on children who have been unable to play outdoors with friends as they normally would, with an emphasis on how children and young people have had to adapt and learn newer methods of play.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has had an enormous effect on the mental health of children and adults alike particularly in households with no outside space and in homes where children were suddenly forced to spend more time with parents who were perhaps working from home or were furloughed. Research has shown that childhood anxiety has increased due to enforced change in circumstances, not being able to see friends or go to school and through having to deal with parents’ worries as well.

We are seeing evidence of the increasing toll of mental and physical health conditions needing to be treated as a result of the lack of exercise, for children and adults. The closure of sports facilities has shown to be a major factor in increased anxiety and depression and this is largely attributed to the disruption in social cohesion amongst sports teams as well as amongst school groups. The closure of gyms, parks and outdoor play equipment areas has meant the reduction in physical activity was matched by an increase in virtual games and social media usage. In other words; the perfect storm for weight gain, loss of fitness and disrupted sleep patterns.

How Outdoor Exercise and Play Benefits Children

outdoor trampolineChildren learn how to socialise and how to correctly conduct relationships when they interact with their friends and peers and the worry is that many very young children are unable to form relationships with friends or make new friendships.

Indoor and online exercise programmes have played a part in raising morale during the pandemic but cannot replace the vital benefits that social interaction brings through play and exercise outdoors in the fresh air. As life starts to get back to normal there could be a renewed appreciation for our outdoor spaces and the outdoor play equipment we once took for granted.

Triple Platform Robinia climbing frame photo 1

When you are setting up a new playground or refreshing and updating an old one the emphasis must be on getting the right mix of playground equipment, especially if you intend to cater for all different ages.

Classic Choices

No playground would be complete without classic pieces of playground equipment that never go out of fashion. Let’s have a look at these classic choices:

 

Playground Swings

playground swings

While swings appeal mainly to younger children, there’s something about swings that are

tempting to older children too. The cantilever swing for example, also provides a hang-out area for older children. It can be used both actively and passively. Playground hammocks are great for adults wanting to send a little time reading a book whilst the children or grand children play. There’s literally a playground swing for everyone. Swings can be provided with or without safety bars to prevent a small child from falling out.

Wooden Climbing frames

wooden climbing frameClimbing frames can be built as small or large as required and can incorporate a number of features such as balance bars, tyre swings or pull up bars, whatever is needed to suit the ages of the people who will be using them. A smaller, compact climbing frame incorporating non-slip material is more suitable for younger children. Our modular designs can be adapted to suit any space. This is why our range of robinia climbing frames are so popular with landscape architects and teaches. We can adjust the climbing frames footprint to make the most of ever spare inch.

Monkey Bars

monkey bars

Sturdy monkey bars are a great addition to any playground as the action of moving along them from one end to the other can help to develop upper body strength and hand to eye coordination. Monkey bars form the core of many an assault-style course and when used as part of an outdoor gym are a useful tool to build fitness in children and adults alike. Plus this sort of playground equipment is great fun to play on! Monkey bars aren’t just for play either. A large proportion on the monkey bars we deliver are for use by adults too. They are now part of many adults outdoor workout routine too.

 

Trim trails

Trim trails are not just for grown-ups either. These can be as simple as a spring disk, which is a sturdy wooden platform on springs to help build up your balance and core strength or a cross rope frame which is great for improving grip strength, hand to eye coordination or simply to jump over. A balance seesaw is slightly different from a child’s seesaw in that most people would use it to test their balancing skills, or you could sit on it and seesaw if you really wanted!

Trim Trail Equipment

 

Stepping Stones/ Balance Beam Trails

Playground balance log trail

For older children and adults who prefer to test themselves through their fitness regime stepping poles or a balance beam trail are alternatives to the balance seesaw. For ease of set up, a combination trim trail which combines a series of playground equipment including monkey bars, stepping poles or stumps and a grooved balance beam or rope is the perfect choice for larger play areas. Up and under bars can be used as part of your trim trail. These are set at varying heights to test speed, agility, coordination and various muscle groups.

 

Getting quality playground equipment to fit your space and needs

Good quality, durable playground equipment can help benefit the physical and mental wellbeing of all who use it. Whether you opt for standard sizes outdoor playground equipment or have bespoke made-to-measure play equipment, we’re happy to help you find the perfect solution for your playground.

Chatham historical dockyard playground

bespoke wooden climbing frameThe Return to the Bespoke Playground

Once, not so long ago really, every playground looked rather similar. They all contained the same type of slide, the same swings, identical roundabouts and of course that old familiar seesaw in the form of a horse that gently rocked backwards and forwards rather than up and down; often catapulting one of its users off!

Comfortable, but missing something?

There was something safe and reassuring about a visit to the playground – it didn’t matter where you were, the equipment in the playground equipment would be exactly what you were used to. But as with everything new designs were created, and the playground equipment began to change as well. Each one beginning to have a wider selection of equipment, brighter colours, special safety floors to help prevent accidents – the playgrounds of our children’s childhoods were infinitely different to those we remembered from our own childhood.

Appealing to a new generation of players

Children today have had far greater access to technology and want more adventure, more choice and more fun in their lives. This means that playground equipment needs to change in order to stay in touch with the needs of the people who use them. The face of the playground has changed completely, there is no longer a “one size fits all” approach to how a playground should look. The type of equipment it contains, its layout and even its location are only limited by the practicalities of where is will be, the budget that is on offer and, of course, the imagination of the person designing it. Bespoke playgrounds have taken off, and as anyone who has taken their children to use outdoor play equipment recently will tell you, it isn’t difficult to see why the bespoke options are proving such a popular draw for the younger crowd.

 

The benefits of bespoke

A well-designed playground containing bespoke wooden playground equipment is becoming an increasingly popular choice in all kinds of locations, from tourist attractions to public parks and even schools who want to offer something a little more to the people who use it. Whilst the off the shelf option is often the first choice for anyone who is constrained by their budget it is worth spending that little bit more for the value that is derived by those who choose to visit. Not only can this make them an attractive place for local people to visit but also those who are prepared to travel.

Studies have shown that children learn so much through play and when this is combined with fresh air it really is worth making the extra effort. If you’re considering an upgrade to your playground equipment and want something that is attractive, natural and fits well with the space you have, one that contains bespoke playground equipment tailored specifically to your needs could make your playground more popular than you’d imagined!

bespoke climbing frame

Garden Gym Equipment

Living through the pandemic has given us a whole new perspective on spending time outdoors, whether this has been to combat isolation from being home alone and being able to meet with friends outdoors, or being unable to be in the gym due to social distancing measures they must have in place.

But what better way is there for you to spend your leisure and exercise time than benefitting from the great outdoors?  Being outdoors is great for our mental health as well as offering fresh air and the chance for physical exercise and many of us might want to take this renewed love for being outside and use it to improve our health in the new year.

If this is you, but you’re not sure how to begin, or how to keep motivated, why not take a look at the tips below.

Start as you mean to go on

Firstly, decide what your goals are – are you looking to run a marathon, lift heavier, get fitter, or lose some excess weight. Whatever your main goal is, break it down into smaller ones; each goal you reach will motivate you to crack on with the next.

Next, work out where you’ll work out. With the restrictions regarding the pandemic meaning gym access may be a struggle for a while, why not consider building your own? Remember, exercise need not be a chore and with the great range of outdoor gym equipment available, there most certainly isn’t any reason to become bored or not have fun when working out.

An outdoor workout on wooden gym equipment can offer a fun workout whether you are alone or challenging a friend.  Set yourself realistic targets and celebrate your achievements too; the more you do, the more you will manage, want and be able to do.

Stick at it

Like all exercise programs, once the initial honeymoon period is over, you might start to lose motivation, but consistency is key to a healthy lifestyle. If you’re losing the love of a good workout, why not:

Do it with a friend or partner, a little competitive spirit and someone to spur you on when you are having a weak moment can make it easier to carry on.

Do it at a time you can stick with, and choose a time that you know you are free. Turn it into a habit.

Do what you love, we all loved a playground as a child. So why not recreate your childhood memories with the exciting range of wooden playground equipment now available for adults.

Of course, there will be moments when you might not really feel like fitting in a workout, but with your own outdoor gym equipment visible from your window, you might find it easier to get out there than the effort it might take to visit the gym, which could make you more consistent.

If you’re looking to reap the benefits of outdoor exercise and have your own outdoor gym equipment to help you reach your goals, why not get in touch – we’d be happy to create a bespoke solution for any outdoor space you have!

Natural wooden playground photo

natural playgrounds

The changing nature of children’s playgrounds over the decades has had to encompass not only the changing trends in playground equipment but also new ideas around health and safety. In some cases, the extent of this means that in some inner cities, equipment has been removed to help keep children safe.

playgrounds working with nature

However, play can never be entirely risk-free. Children will always need to play, to push themselves and to compete with others and, yes, they will sometimes injure themselves. Thankfully the more enlightened local authorities are collaborating with playground designers to ensure that playgrounds and playground equipment is not only safe but also fun, educational and challenging for older or more adventurous children. This is also the challenge for playground equipment designers like us

timber and metal playground equipment

Working with Nature

The rapid expansion of towns and cities means that millions of children now live in heavily populated areas with little or no access to the natural world around them. Town and city planners realise that children need to have the opportunity to connect in some way with nature, and this is increasingly reflected in playground and playground equipment design.

Playground designers are turning away from old-style plastic, and metal equipment bolted into concrete wastelands. Instead, they are embracing natural playground equipment that is made from more sustainable and environmentally friendly natural wood and increasingly siting equipment within wooded and grassy areas. The natural playground equipment itself is designed to be stimulating and thought-provoking, often coming with information attached for children to read showing where the wood came from. Playground equipment goes through rigorous testing before a design is deemed suitable for use, and it manages to balance the need for safe, exciting play without entirely eliminating all risk.
Sustainability is now a key part of any modern design. A buyer is now better informed about sustainability and would expect any playground equipment supplier to do their upmost to supply equipment that is both durable and eco friendly.

Bespoke rope playground equipment

Working with the surroundings

Going totally natural of course, doesn’t suit every circumstance. Sometimes injecting colour into the design helps to make playground equipment standout. Often an addition of colour brightens a space and makes it more welcoming. In a way playground has no restrictions on shape or form. This mean we can let loose and create bold and thought provoking designs that inspire and induce creativity. The creativity is one of the most important parts of children’s play

Play for All Ages

To help combat a growing obesity crisis, many local communities have got together with local councils to design and facilitate play areas where people of all ages can gather. One of the newest trends is to combine traditional-style children’s playground equipment with fitness equipment such as static bicycles, rowing machines or weights. Monkey bars, stepping stones and easily navigable obstacles can be used by families who enjoy playing and exercising together.

The very latest ideas in outdoor playground equipment use technology such as lights and sounds along with multi-sensory apparatus to stimulate motor and thinking skills in young children and improve coordination and reflexes. These work alongside physical activity to improve mental as well as overall health.

It is clear that city playgrounds are beginning to encompass more of the need for communities to come together and access the outdoors while ensuring local children have somewhere to safely play

history of playground equipment 2

The humble playground plays a vital role in the childhood memories of so many people. Whether it was a trip with your parents before you started your school days or a special reward on the way home from school, there is something about a playground that enthrals and invites. For the last few months, children all over the world have had to go without their trips to the park as the majority have been closed during the pandemic. Now, however, as some of the restrictions are being lifted, a trip to the park is possible once more.

The playground is, in fact, a relatively new addition to our urban landscape and one that has become increasingly popular over the decades since the first one was built. While some toys and games have gone out of fashion, the playground has become more and more popular.  as it ever was and is a great place for children to enjoy being outdoors while getting plenty of fresh air. The benefits of what outdoor playgrounds bring to communities are common knowledge. The fantastic value of these playgrounds is now understood for both physical and mental health.

The first playground

The concept of the playground was first considered in Germany, where it was the idea of development psychologists like Friedrich Frobel, who recommended playgrounds for children as a developmental aid and also to help teach them good manners and a sense of fair play. The first playgrounds were mostly attached to schools and often referred to as “sand gardens”. In 1859 the very first purpose-built playground that was accessible to the public opened in a park in Manchester. The first playgrounds began to appear in the United States in 1886; however, until the turn of the 20th century, playgrounds in public spaces were not common.

What came next?

The first playgrounds were not all that popular, but as urbanisation began to take place, the areas where children might previously have played got swallowed up and the need for dedicated public green spaces, not just for children but for everyone, increased. The Victorian era saw a huge surge in the number of public parks all over the country and with them an increase in the number of playgrounds. Health and Safety was non-existent at this time, and the playgrounds that were created were certainly not for the fainthearted. However, they were the start of bigger and better things that were to come.

how-dangerously-modern-playgrounds-started-2

(image taken from https://www.earthlymission.com/how-dangerous-playgrounds-were-100-years-ago-2/)

Post War playgrounds

During the war, many of the playgrounds, located as they were in larger cities, were bombed out and a generation of children once again had to make their own entertainment. This often led to the somewhat dangerous practice of playing on the rubble left behind on the bombed out buildings of the city. These sites were commonly referred to as “junk playgrounds”. These sights in turn evolved into the very first “adventure playgrounds” which are still up and running today in many urban environments throughout the UK.

Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who was an English landscape architect, became heavily involved in causes centred around children during World War 2. In 1948 established the World Organisation for Early Childhood Education. She was a huge fan of the more unstructured playgrounds that rose up after the war claiming that they fostered a greater sense of imagination in children than the more structured playgrounds they had been used to. She was a firm believer in children learning through play, and declared it was better to break a limb than a spirit. These playgrounds were perhaps a precursor to the natural playground equipment that we see becoming increasingly popular today.

junk playgrounds

Image taken from http://www.architectureofearlychildhood.com/

The 1960s playground

In the 1960s, architects took on the playground and reinvented it with brutalist modern designs. Concrete and metal were the material of choice with inspiration coming from castles, dungeons and even large ships. Climbing frames based on space rockets were also featured heavily as the race to put a man in space was a concept followed by many. These were spaces designed specifically for children to play in and be inventive, but many of them were also a project in modern architecture with placement, shape and design the overriding ideas behind their design.

The playground at the centre of the Pimlico, Churchill Gardens was so iconic that its centrepiece, a gigantic flying saucer which was poised at a rather dangerous angle is now a recreated exhibit in the RIBA gallery. Of course, with health and safety now an issue the reproduction is made of squishy foam and not concrete!

The 1990s playground

It might seem like it was only yesterday but the 1990s playground, the playground many of us will have experienced was a completely different concept to those that had come before it. This was the playground built for fun, with bright coloured equipment and more importantly bright coloured flooring that was designed with safety and fun in mind. Welcome to the age where health and safety began to make its way into the playground. Soft cushiony floors began to appear under playground equipment, designed to protect children from the nastier injuries they had previously been subjected to when falling off the swings or slipping off the end of the slide. These playgrounds were very popular right up to the 00s

brutalist playgrounds

The Churchill Gardens estate in Pimlico, London. Photograph: John Donat (https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/architecture-design-blog/2015/jun/09/brutalist-playgrounds-concrete-foam-riba-assemble)

The modern playground

With a surge interest in the environment and protecting the precious resources that nature has give us, the modern playground and equipment has seen an increase in interest for wooden playground equipment. Natural materials, clean lines and colours that blend into the environment are rapidly becoming the most popular choice. Not only that, but people no longer want to be exactly the same as each other and bespoke playground equipment is coming into its own as people look for something that is unique and will fit perfectly into the space and environment that they have selected for it. Wooden climbing frames, log balance beams and stepping “stones” and natural rope features are significant additions to the natural playgrounds that are popping up all over the place and are perfectly designed to fit the new idea of being more in tune with the environment.

Elephant and castle bespoke playground structure