Friday, June 7, 2013

Conscious, green playgrounds

Today's article was sent our way via author: Tom Reynolds, marketing executive at Monster Play Systems, an outdoor play equipment manufacturer based in Watford, UK.

Image credits: unionland and dondj2

What Makes a Playground Eco-Friendly?

In these modern times when many of the population tries their best to recycle as much of their household waste as they can and industries have to do their bit as well, it's refreshing to see that playgrounds have joined the green movement too. Many of the outdated old style playgrounds have been torn down and in their place eco-friendly play areas have been erected. But what makes a playground eco-friendly?

Non Toxic Materials

An eco-friendly playground will be made out of non-toxic materials which include wood as well as 100% recycled materials such as plastics and rubber, and all these materials have to meet any regulations set in place by the government. When it comes to surfaces found in eco play areas, more often than not the materials are made out of recycled rubber. This can be old discarded tyres or in some cases in the States, the tiles can be made out of recycled sneakers and trainers.

Some eco playgrounds do have other types of surfaces but whichever recycled material is used, it has to meet all the regulation regarding playgrounds that are currently set in place. Not only do the surfaces have to be made out of recycled materials, but they have to offer children a safe place to fall down onto without the risk of causing any serious injuries when they do. Climbing frames must have safety nets under them so that if children do fall off them, they are caught in the nets below.

An Eco System All of its Own

As well as using non-toxic recycled materials, many eco-friendly playgrounds and play areas incorporate ways of capturing rain water in their designs. The water runs into water butts so it can be stored for use later on. When needed the rain water can be used to water any vegetation or plants found around the play areas. This is a great idea because in some areas hose pipe bans are often in place during the summer months.

A Safer & Healthier Play Environment

Eco-friendly play areas are created with the safety of all children very much in mind; as such any timber used in the construction of playground equipment has to meet all current regulations. In the past most timbers were treated with chromium copper arsenate (CCA) which was used to preserve the wood. The problem was that these treatments or preservatives contained harmful arsenic.  Studies showed the arsenic could rub off onto the children who played on any timber equipment in a playground that had been treated in this way which caused a lot of concern over health issues.

These days any wood used in playgrounds has to conform to regulations so there is no chance of arsenic being used as a wood preservative on any playground equipment, fencing or seating. Some older playgrounds got around the problem by painting any wooden structures and they had to do this every single year which proves not to be very cost effective in the long run so newer, modern and much safer eco play areas were set up in place of the older style ones.

A Play Area Where Kids Can Learn

Many modern day eco-friendly playgrounds are conceived and designed to keep children's minds occupied and busy as well as giving them a great play area to amuse themselves in when it's play time. It's no good having a sterile, eco playground if the kids don't like playing on the equipment that's in it. This is why many educational facilities call in the experts who then draw up eco play areas to suit the children who will be playing in them. Knowing what children like is the key to a playground being a success with the kids.

Building eco-friendly play areas has become more than a niche business because all schools and local authorities now look at this type of recreational area as being the way forward and it takes an expert to get it right. Parks now have interesting, innovative ideas that work well for children of all ages. During the daylight hours, mothers can take younger children to play in them – then later in the evening older kids get to mess around in the same play areas and still have a lot of fun. What makes a playground eco-friendly is the fact they blend in with the countryside too!

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