It’s a warm summer day in your neighborhood, so you and your family head to your backyard playset or your local playground for a day of fun in the sun.
It feels normal doesn’t it? Just a part of everyday life that we have seemingly done forever.
However, in the not so distant past, local and personal playgrounds and playsets didn’t exist.
That all changed when German “sand gardens” met an American gymnasium in Boston in 1821.
Child Safety In An Overcrowded City
It’s 4PM in downtown Boston; let’s say it’s sometime in the month of May…oh, also it’s 1887.
The Industrial Revolution is in full swing (no pun intended) and the streets are packed with commuters, merchants, carriages, sailboats and cargo ships are pulling in and out of the harbor. Kids are running all over the place; ‘cause, well they’re kids and they really have no place to go.
This created quite a problem for parents and residents in the neighborhood. Needless to say, a busy city street or crowded marketplace was not the type of place that children should be left to run free. Dangers were all over. The kids needed something safer.
So, one day, a local outdoor gymnasium, created years ago for adults, expands and dumps sand around the area outside the building creating the first sand garden in Boston.
Children begin to congregate and play in the sand. This is the beginning of several developments. Firstly, children now have a safe place to play, away from the general public. The kids begin to build friendships. And a sense of community begins to take hold in the area.
Most of the credit for that first sand garden goes to a woman named Maria Zakrzewska who saw kids playing in mounds of sand while on a trip in Germany.
Upon her return to the US, she took it upon herself to write a letter to the Massachusetts Emergency and Hygiene Association (MEHA). That letter advocated sand gardens in Boston and spurred their growth at the city and state levels.
Sand Gardens Get An Upgrade
In the 1920’s, society began to recognize the value of playgrounds and began to expand them.
Steel apparatuses, merry go rounds, and other spinning wheels of fun were added to these public playgrounds.
By the 1940’s there were what were called “adventure” or “junk” playgrounds. Themes included climbing over and around tires or just simply using the lay of the land and existing objects to create a play area.
Interestingly, there are a couple of these still around in California. The oldest adventure playground is in Berkeley.
The 50’s and 60’s saw the beginnings of the Cold War and Space race. So naturally, playgrounds of that era featured rocket ships and exposed steel cages and climbers. We still hadn’t moved past metal as the material of choice.
By the 1980’s our imaginations (and a little forethought) began to shape playgrounds that were made of plastics and more modern, safe materials.
We now have fully customizable playsets and playgrounds with safe, rubber surfaces made from plastics or splinter-free wood.
Forethought Before Imagination In Playset Development
Today, we live in a world with stricter building codes and the Federal Government regulates the playground industry. These regulators and regulations help safeguard our products and your children.
We also live in a world where the manufacturers can be more creative in their designs thanks to advances in plastics. There are so many different types of configurations and accessories on the market today that it’s possible to find the perfect playset for your family.
We’ve come a long way in the design and development of playgrounds and playsets, but there are still things that we can do better.
Rubber mulch and other fall-zone playset surfaces like padded synthetic turf add safety to playsets and playgrounds.
And if you remember…the safety of the children in one Boston neighborhood waaayyy back in the 19th Century was one of the reasons these things were created in the first place.