July-August 2009

Kaisja Clark, editorial assistant for Playground Magazine, and I were having a discussion the other day about a particular story she thought might be a good feature to put on our webpage.

The focus of the story was aimed more at parents than it was to playground industry professionals. I was reminding Kaisja that the editorial focus of Playground Magazine is that we’re writing to industry insiders and not directly to parents.

Or are we?

As I thought about that conversation later that day I had this thought: most everyone who reads Playground Magazine is a parent or grandparent. Our readers then, I’m thinking, are not only involved in the playground industry but have children of their own who enjoy (I hope) the very products their parents are creating, manufacturing, installing, and maintaining.

That’s a unique position to be in in this industry. And, I imagine, definitely, a fun one to be in. I suspect that when you design or look at a playground or splash park or any other play space for that matter, you think, “My son or daughter (or grandkids) would really think that’s cool.” You might also be thinking, “I can’t wait for my kids to try that out.”

Does that thinking influence your design and the consequent manufacture of playground equipment? Can I go out on a limb here and say you parents are definitely biased when it comes to designing playgrounds?

The answer is probably, most likely, definitely, yes.

Is there anything wrong with that? I certainly don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s an advantage. I think it gives parents and grandparents in the playground industry an inside edge to everything related to playgrounds. Yes, I know there are several talented people in the playground industry who don’t have children. My intent here is not to cast a shadow on those who might not have children but who make great contributions to the playground industry. Not at all.

My point is that those who are parents or grandparents have a great sounding board at home. Who is more honest than a kid? I know mine will tell me what they think—not in a mean way, just in a kid's way. So if you’re designing, creating, manufacturing, installing, or doing any other of a myriad of things involved with playgrounds, who better to get feedback from than children? Children have been involved in several designs of playgrounds all over this planet. You’ve read in previous issues of Playground Magazine about playground designers who have mentioned their own children as influences on their projects. Not a thing wrong with that.

Think about how different this industry would be if there were no input from children, whether they’re your own or someone else’s. What would our playgrounds, skateparks, and splash parks be like? We might get some things “right” but probably not very many—despite our best intentions.

I hope the children always drive the industry and that their fingerprints are all over all phases of playgrounds, splash parks, and skateparks. And that we never get to the point where we think we, as adults, rule the playground world and not the children.

Meanwhile, here at Playground Magazine, we’ll do our part to report on what you, as parents, are doing to strengthen, promote and build the playground industry in your jobs as designers, creators, manufacturers, and monitors in all aspects of the business.

We hope you enjoy this issue, our annual exclusive buyer’s guide for the playground industry. 

Magazine articles in this issue