At Urban Play, we’ve got a soft spot for those classic playground features we knew when we were kids. But that hasn’t stopped us giving each one of them an all new spin… or two… or three. From the humble swing to the good old fashioned seesaw, the following five park playground structures have stood the test of time and their re-inventions continue to inspire children today.
The swing set has evolved with us since the dawn of civilisation. Sculptures and vases dating as far back as the 2nd century BC depict ancient children and women on swings. Typically consisting of a supporting frame, two ropes and a seat, the swing set today is being reinvented in myriad ways.
While a lot of schools and councils still opt for classic swings, new variants are just as popular with the kids. These variations include the nest swing, which consists of a round basket resembling a bird’s nest used in place of the typical swing seat. The nest swing comes in regular sizes to giant, and may be suspended in the same way as a classic swing, or with three to four ropes around the circumference which hang from one single point above, enabling it to swing in all directions. Then we have the pendulum rope swing, tyre swing, and swings with two to three bays.
Another classic that harks back to the early days of commercial playground equipment, the slide has become part of our collective image of a playground. Historians attribute the playground slide’s origins to the early 20th century, and since then it has become a staple of all playgrounds in the community.
Your recollection of a playground slide is probably of a right angle triangle made from steel, or one that reaches sizzling temperature on hot summer days. Today’s slides have come a long way from their origins with recreations as diverse as full pipe or half pipe slide, wavy slides, double width, colourful and plastic slides.
Also known as the flying fox, the cableway playground structure is based on industrial and tourism cable cars that carry massive cargo over rough terrain. The biggest cable cars travel over cities and mountains, the smallest pass between structures on a playground.
Today’s children’s cableways can be a stand-alone addition to the park playground or used to connect its structures. Cableways may be low or high, from round seats that the children sit on while holding the stem to high-placed handlebars that children hang from while flying. They may be straight or long, short or curvy, or even doubled up so you can race with a friend.
Legend has is that the seesaw was invented by young girls who weren’t permitted beyond the confines of their gardens. They invented the seesaw in an attempt to catapult themselves out and explore the world beyond. The seesaws may be as old as the playground itself, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been reinvented since.
Modern seesaws attract younger children and toddlers and can be traditional two seaters or more dynamic three-seaters. Seats come in all shapes and sizes and may be designed as animals, birds or bumble bees, as well as racing cars and abstract colourful shapes. But seesaws are not just for sitting. These days standing seesaws are an exciting, safe alternative to the classic sitting seesaw.
5. Climbing nets
Climbing structures started with ladders, somersault poles and monkey bars and became staples of a traditional playground. They were once built from wood, steel and tire chains. Today’s climbing structures offer an incredible variety of nets and poles designed to ignite the imagination.
Climbing nets come in all shapes and structures limited only by the imagination. Popular varieties include tunnels, corkscrews and twisters which lead the climber into exciting new dimensions. Elaborate designs such as pyramid space nets and sky forest walks take daring climbers up towards the sky, while wavy loops and parkours challenge kids in the style of a military obstacle course.