Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Staying Power of Soft Contained Playgrounds

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Staying Power of Soft Contained Playgrounds

Article excerpt

As more and more park and recreation districts invest in Soft Contained Play Equipment, it becomes clear that these indoor and outdoor playgrounds, with their mazes of tunnels; climbers; slides; and moving, jiggling, and twisting components, are here to stay. Even the under-2 set has a safe place to play and socially interact with friends in the smaller units. After the recreation center in Battle Creek, Mich., witnessed the popularity of its indoor unit, it decided to add an outdoor unit this year.

One of the country's newest SCPE playgrounds can be found at the Elk Grove Park District in Illinois. According to Jennifer Menard, marketing manager, the success they've enjoyed from their small SCPE playground has led them to open a larger unit. Children will be charged $2; adults get in free.

One manufacturer has sold more than 50 units to park and recreation departments around the country. Mallard Creek, in Charlotte, N.C., has a new SCPE playground, the fifth such unit in the area surrounding the city.

At the American Society of Testing and Materials, the F15.36 committee has been working on a standard for this equipment for the past five years. The many differences between this equipment and the traditional public playground equipment have made the job more difficult than originally imagined. The new ASTM F1918 standard is titled Safety Performance Specification For Soft Contained Play Equipment. The purpose of having a safety performance specification is to provide safer play experiences for children and to reduce the potential of life-threatening and debilitating injuries.

The Soft Contained Play Equipment committee is headed by Walt Henderson, MaryLou Iverson, and Dr. Frances Wallach. Members of the committee include manufacturers of SCPE and public playground equipment, surfacing company representatives, consultants, and others interested in children's play environments.

Let's look at some of the differences between the ASTM F1487 and F1918 standard, beginning with the definition of Soft Contained Play Equipment: a play structure made up of one or more components where the user enters a fully enclosed play environment that utilizes pliable materials.

The "Materials" section addresses the safety hazards of soft, pliable materials that could not be ingested or inhaled or absorb any potentially hazardous amounts of substance through body surfaces as a result of contact with the equipment.

Fire-safety requirements are necessary for indoor SCPE playgrounds. If a fire were to occur in a playground, it would most likely be detected first through a smoke detector. Emergency lighting and standard exit signage help users evacuate the building once they have exited the equipment. Materials used in creating the playground must be flame-retardant.

A monitor must be able to reach any point within the SCPE area in less than 60 seconds via a predetermined evacuation route. All dead ends must have a cross section of at least 39 inches and should be no longer than 120 inches.

Entrances, exits, transfer points, and platforms should all be accessible. SCPE playgrounds offer wonderful play opportunities for children with all types of disabilities. Some children get tremendous enjoyment from merely sitting in the ball pool, while others can crawl through the playground, making choices regarding which way to go.

Performance requirements and testing procedures for SCPE and public playground equipment are similar. …

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