As mentioned in Road Trip Report 4 and discussed in the comments, the old dangerous playgrounds are some of the most loved playgrounds. One of my favorite playgrounds had a rocket ship slide – it was three “stories” with ladders and the slides were incrementally longer on each level. It was so much fun and so tall that the biggest slide was scary for a little kid! It’s long gone now and the last time I saw it was in a parade in my hometown. On Flickr try typing in “rocket ship playground” and you’ll see what I mean by rocket ships.

I don’t know much about dating playgrounds or playground history in general, but the blog Playscapes is an excellent resource for reading about design, landscape, and history of playgrounds. The author of the blog posts as Arcady. The blog is worth more than a few minutes of your time. It’s fascinating. If you click on the “Playground History” label, you’ll find pictures, diagrams, and historical information about playgrounds in NYC in the early 20th century, McDonald’s playgrounds in the 1970s and many international ones as well. Scroll through those posts and see how many playgrounds you wish you could visit!

While most of us prefer the 1970s era playgrounds, not all modern playgrounds are built for younger children and boring.  Circular slides, tube slides, tunnels, movable balance beams – all of these are fun. There are many newer playgrounds that children love.  An article in Cookie magazine by KellyAlfieri lists the best playgrounds in major cities.  Click on each playground name to see a picture. They look like so much fun! However, these are just from a few major cities. What about small town America? What are the best playgrounds everywhere else? One that I have heard about a few times is Camelot Playground in Pinehurst, NC. It is a wooden playground with bridges, castles, ropes, and so much for the imagination!

It seems as though playgrounds are loved for different reasons. Are they metal and old and dangerous, wooden and magical, modern and safe, whimsical, the bare minimum, etc.

What’s your favorite? How would you categorize playgrounds?

5 thoughts on “Playgrounds

  1. Martha says:

    I grew up in Reston, VA, a “planned” community in NoVA, and all of the playgrounds (circa mid- to late 70s) were made out of concrete. Very Soviet. I guess they were designed to be really durable and they certainly left lots to the imagination, but they were horrible to play on. A few of them still exist at a plaza in
    Reston at Lake Anne. You can see some photos: (The tower in the background is a proto “waterpark” playground — there’s a sprinkler out of the top that cascades over a few other concrete pillars. A great surface for safe play — wet concrete)

    Here’s a closer shot:

    Here’s a really tiny one of another playarea in the plaza:

    It’s sort of concrete pyramid that you can climb on and in. I remember hating having to play on it when I was a kid because I always skinned my knees.

    Anyway, I think it’s an interesting example of what happens when a different set of values/needs that what is probably appropriate drives the design process.

    At the same time, the areas are kind of landmarks in the town now, and I can’t imagine them ever being replaced.

  2. Kaitlin says:

    Martha, thanks for sharing those links! It is a very interesting looking playground. I hope they remain in place. I bet some kids come up with really fun games to play (skinned knees and all).

  3. miracleplaysystems says:

    Playgrounds are growing in popularity again after a brief nap by the industry. Now, new innovation is taking place within the top playscape producers and truly amazing creations are available again, perhaps adding to the new life of playgrounds. For children, it is so important that they get outside and play… the benefits are just too great to ignore. Improving upon existing structures is a must for this to happen.

    As far as huge playground slides, they are still out there, but maybe a little more safe than that rocket ship slide you mentioned. Take a look at this post for a picture of a huge slide at Magic Mountain Playground in San Mateo, California…

    Thanks for all the info on Playgrounds, I’ll check it out!

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