General Recreation: Before You Buy: Take a Playground Field Trip

Boys and girls playing on playground equipment .
Image via General Recreation.
A playground field trip to see what's out there is a smart more before you purchase a playground of your own.

It’s easy to make brand-new playground structures look inviting and durable in a catalog or on proposal drawings, but how well does it hold up after three years (or more!) of wear, tear, and weather?

While marketing materials and websites are helpful resources, General Recreation in Newtown Square recommends that you take a playground field trip to see and touch what’s out there before making the decision to buy.

This field trip is not a spectator sport! Be sure to jump on the decks, slide down the slides, climb everything, and play on each structure as much as possible.

During your visit, examine the playground equipment according to three key criteria:

Safety. Are all the playground components connected tightly? Are surfaces—especially handholds—PVC coated to protect children’s hands from temperature extremes? Are there any sharp metal edges, like exposed fasteners or expanded metal coming through worn PVC coating? Do the slides feature slide hoods with built-in hand holds for safer sliding?

Durability. All play structures look good when they’re new. But how well do they stand up after three to five years of hard play? The most obvious signs of excessive wear are rusting or worn weldments (the metal that connects the parts of components), sagging, warped or cracked slides, and “moving parts” that no longer move. Are the plastics and painted surfaces fading from UV exposure?

Play value. Overhead play events? Bridges? Interactive play panels? Inclusive play events? Climbing, Sliding, Swinging and Spinning events? Look for playground designs complex enough to challenge kids with a variety of play experiences that help them develop coordination and confidence.

• Look for bridge-climbing events and other features that move. Movement creates complexity, challenges children, and develops their coordination and confidence.

• Look for interactive play panels. Play with them. Do they work as intended? Interactive panels challenge children and develop imaginative play and hand-eye coordination. Many panel activities can provide beneficial sensory stimulation that some children need.

• Be wary of play panels that are merely pictures with no moving parts or no action required. These panels have little play value for children of any age.

• Don’t forget to talk to the families there and watch children playing on the structure. What events do they prefer? What play events or features do they avoid? And why?

After your field trip, feel free to reach out to a General Recreation sales consultant with any questions or concerns.

You can even take the consultant with you on one of your field trips to help point out the features you should examine most and answer any questions you may have before buying your own playground equipment.

General Recreation in Newtown Square serves Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware and has helped hundreds of community leaders and organizations build playgrounds that are safe, aesthetically pleasing, and made to last.

General Recreation projects are supported by expert services, including site evaluation, playground design, installation, and community build services.

Find out more about the work of General Recreation.

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