Building Quality Playgrounds Brings Joy to Children and Workers Alike
In some ways, it almost seems to get monotonous.
As the construction crew set up the new play equipment at a build I attended with our resident photographer, I noticed shouts of appreciation coming from a group of children that eagerly watch the playground's progression from just outside the school.
"Thanks for building us a playground," one child shouts to the foreman of the crew. He turns and smiles at the little girl, recognizing her eager anticipation, but not wanting to get distracted from the job at hand.
It's all in a day's work for play equipment installers. It is one of the unique little pleasures that come from a job that involves hundreds of holes being dug. pieces being placed together in just tl1e right way, and sweat being wiped away from the brow of someone working in the desert sun.
As the work progresses, another class-full of children comes by. Again, the excitement is easily noticeable in the air.
The children are watching a playground- their playground- take shape right before their very eyes.
“Wow, look at the slide," another child says to a classmate. "I can't wait to go on that!"
The children want to ignore the orange construction-site fencing that is around the play equipment and immediately begin to run and jump and climb. But the teacher uses that enthusiasm to teach.
“How do we know that the playground isn't ready to be played on yet?" she asks.
The children answer with a barrage of answers that help them realize that the playing must wait for another day.
There is still a lot of work to do. There are distances to be measured. There are holes to be filled in. There are platforms to properly secure.
There are a hundred tiny details that must be accurately finished before this playground is ready for the children to begin playing on.
But the children aren't concerned with those tiny details. They aren't concerned with standards and guidelines. They don't think about accessibility- as long as they can get on the play equipment and enjoy it.
But adults responsible for the safety and welfare of those children should be concerned with these issues. There should be a concern for the way that the equipment is designed, constructed and then installed.
Besides continuing maintenance, which is essential to keeping children free from life-threatening injuries, the installation of the equipment is the last step in the process that is designed to give children safe, healthy and entertaining play experiences.
Then why should anyone except an installer specifically trained in play equipment construction finish the job?
Manufacturers spend much of their time and resources designing and manufacturing safe and fun equipment. They carefully inspect the product and continually look for new ways to lay out the equipment. They continually get feedback on the designs and come up with new ones. They spend money and take time to research the effect play has on the development of a child.
But all of this work can be in vain if the equipment is not properly installed.
Because of the importance of the installation, playground construction should be done under the supervision of people that are familiar with the standards and guidelines in place concerning play equipment. Community-built construction can be an effective and acceptable way to install a playground if there are educated and experienced professional installers supervising the build in an organized manner. If there is not proper supervision a community-built playground can lack the safe, proper installation that is vital to a playground's overall success.
Besides completing a safe, properly installed playground, experienced playground contractors know the various products produced by the play equipment manufacturers and can often finish the installation in less time than an inexperienced installer. This can save a school, city or general contractor time and money-both positives in the overall, big picture.
It is important when deciding on someone to install the play equipment that the best interest of the children-those same children pressing their noses against the window to catch a peek at the new colors appearing from the construction site are considered.
Do the homework. Make sure that the installer is a (National Playground Safety institute)-certified person that understands the various safety considerations that need to be made. Check references. Ask questions. Visit other playgrounds installed by that company if possible. Take your time and get the job done right.
It's the least that can be done for the thousands of children that may play on that playground over the years of its life. It will also enable there to be more years to the playground's life if coupled with proper maintenance.
And there is one thing that will fail to become routine or mundane in the play equipment installation process. It's the sound of happy children using the equipment. They are learning, growing, socializing, playing and making themselves better people.