A City Planners Guide to Playgrounds In Salt Lake City

A City Planners Guide to Playgrounds In Salt Lake City

A great playground can make us all feel like a kid again, but to keep the actual kids safe, the adults need to pay attention to the details. Creating a play space for a community has its own set of challenges, especially since children of all ages and abilities will be using it.

“What’s a city planner in Salt Lake City to do to create a playground design that will help keep everyone safe while letting everyone have fun?.” 

 Public playground safety is regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and ASTM International. Being familiar with these standards is a foundation to start with before the design even begins. These include aspects like making sure equipment does not have hazards like sharp edges in it, that there no places a child can get entrapped, and trying to make sure children are protected from falls by design, and by a proper soft playground material. Also, the playground must meet the standards set by the American With Disabilities Act

CITY PLANNERS HAVE AN IMPORTANT JOB: They get to organize the places we live. They organize where we work, where we live, and where our children play. Following current safety standards and providing a safe place for our kids to play is an extremely important job. 

New Trends For Playgrounds

In the last several years, playground design has moved toward not just making structures that kids with challenges can use but designing a place where kids of all abilities can play together. These inclusive spaces let all the kids imagine, laugh, move, cooperate, socialize, and experience independence, all while keeping them safe and comfortable.

Over 200,000 children each year are sent to the hospital from accidents on playgrounds. The majority of those injuries are from falls. While creating a design that minimizes falls is an important component of playground safety, it is also important that the ground below is protective with soft playground material. Some of these include rubber mulch, artificial grass, play sand, and solid rubber.

Safer Materials For Playground Surfacing

Rubber mulch is popular because it absorbs more force than gravel or wood mulch, keeping little arms and legs and heads safer when falling. Additionally, it doesn’t degrade or absorb water. Planners will want to make sure any material used as a floor of a playground is non-toxic as well.

Playgrounds in Salt Lake City are more than just play equipment; they are an area for families and friends to gather and have fun. So, you should make sure you attend to other portions of the space too. For instance, are there trees planted to created shady areas? Is there a place for the grownups to sit where they can comfortably supervise the kids? Are there separate places for kids of different ages to play? And don’t forget the most important part of playground design: is it fun? Color, texture, and design that encourages safe risk taking are all components of fun.

Playground Maintenance

Finally, planners should budget accordingly for all the parts of a good playground, plus short and long-term maintenance for the whole area. The structure will have to be painted and inspected regularly and the rubber chips will have to be topped offed annually.

Playgrounds are wonderful community spaces. Good design and creative planning are keys to making sure your community’s is only a place of happiness and fun.

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Trends For New Parks In 2019

Trends For New Parks In 2019

We are living in a digital era where almost every activity is computerized. This has rendered nearly all people, kids alike, to be less active as they spend the bulk of their time behind computers. These days, even playing games outdoors is considered to be out-fashioned, considering that there are loads of indoor computer games to play during their free time.

“Not only by building more parks, but by building better, safer, and more engaging parks will we help our children get back to playing with one another outside.” 

 We hope this trend will start to change as there has been an entry of modern playground trends into the market. There are also new playground surfaces entering the market, most of which are made of soft material to ensure that the safety of the kids is always assured. The following are some of the new playground trends that Salt Lake City residents can expect to see in the coming months and years.

NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR PLAYGROUND SAFETY: Industry leading companies like Sof’Fall are helping to provide safer parks for our children to play on. An increase in playground safety can lead to increases in playground attendance and satisfaction. 

1) Electronic Interactive Play

Are you worried that your kids are always fixated on the television screens for most parts of their free days? Well, you need to relax as there are plenty of games that they play outside and still get the thrill that comes with engaging in computer games. Electronic Interactive Play is, without a doubt, one of the most engaging outdoor games that parks are incorporating in their playgrounds. The game tests speed, alertness, and coordination of the players.

2) PlayGrounds For All

Research shows that people of all ages are interested in participating in outdoor games. As a result, they have customized playground surfaces with non-toxic materials that ensure that people of different age groups can engage in outdoor sports. The move is proving to be successful as many people are embracing engaging in sporting activities as part of trying to control many of the common lifestyle induced ailments such as obesity.

3) Sensible and engaging games

The primary aim of games is to deliver a particular result to the participant. Many of the playgrounds in Salt Lake City have realized that there is a need for sports to be engaging in such a way that they enable the kid’s senses to grow. On that light, many playgrounds are introducing musical instruments, water features, rotating play equipment, and many other objects that will keep the kids engaged and in the process lead to holistic development.

4) Introduction To New Playground Equipment

Children require adventurous and challenging games on their day to day play. This will enable them to grow to responsible individuals who can face issues head-on without fear. Most playgrounds have realized this and as a result, rolled out games such as sky-high climbing nests that require expertise to engage in. Participation in such games has enabled the kids to hone their creativity.

The bottom line for many playgrounds is that they need to be upgraded to meet the desires of those for whom they were intended. Another big upgrade a lot of parks need is to have a safe and soft playground surfacing. By improving both safety and entertainment levels of our parks we can get more people outside benefitting from the joys that parks were designed to give us.

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Compaction Of Your Playground’s Soft Surface

Compaction Of Your Playground’s Soft Surface

Compaction happens naturally over the life and use of your Sof’Fall product. Composed of crushed wood surfacing, Sof’Fall comes from new wood that has been modified for this specific purpose. Because the wood is not kiln dried, it retains water. This makes the final material softer and causes it to act as a cushion. As you understand your Sof’Fall material and what compaction is and how to deal with it, it will prove very beneficial when compared to the neglecting these actions

While compaction entails a lot it essentially means that the Sof’Fall is no longer as effective as it was on the day that it was first installed. This is due to loss of material and compacting down the material still there. This is no cause for alarm because this is normal of most products. Through normal wear and tear things just aren’t the same as when they are brand new. 

“Planning for compaction of your of Sof’Fall and taking appropriate action will lead to immediate safety for our children and long term savings for your playground.”

When the amount of Sof’Fall drops below certain levels the Play Protection Warranty is no longer valid. Be familiarized with your warranty plan to make sure you never drop below that level. 

Calculating For Sof’Fall Installation

Installing Sof’Fall on any playground requires attention to detail but will certainly pay dividends. When considering the area you would like to fill, consider two calculations. Consider the needed square footage. Then, add in 30% more for compaction when calculating your total amount. Do this by dividing your square footage by .2025. This calculation will give you the number of cubic yards that you need when taking into account compaction.

Maintenance and Care

One thing to remember is that anytime the fill level drops below the fill line the Play Protection Plan Warranty is no longer active. So, being aware of factors that can cause compaction is important.

  • Be aware of a large fill area. More edges mean more fill gets tracked off the playground.
  • Weather, wind, and rain can cause shift and compaction.
  • Watch  high-traffic parks with care. Frequently used playgrounds require fills more often.
  • Know that mixing playground soft surfaces with Sof’Fall can also void your warranty.
  • As seen in Salt Lake City’s parks system, ADA compliance easily leads to compliance with your Sof’Fall warranty. Learn to stabilize surfaces to be slip resistant. Make the width between gates a least three feet wide.

Sof’fall Safety

Having a safe place to play comes down to two realities. They are a well-designed environment and safe playground material. Sof’Fall and Sof’Bounce compliment that by design. They are manufactured with high-quality concern to safety and preservation.

With Sof’Fall the inherent cost comes from using virgin wood. The long term protection is in not using recycled wood products. Frequently filled with insecticides and arsenic compounds, these wood by-products are not able to claim to be toxic free.

As you plan for your park make sure you keep compaction in mind. It is important for the safety of the children who will be playing there. Review the material of the Sof’Fall Warranty to know how often you will need to top off your playground surface. Being on top of these things will save you money in the long run and provide a safe place to play both now and in the future.

 

 

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Is My Salt Lake City Playground ADA Compliant?

Is My Salt Lake City Playground ADA Compliant?

One of the reasons for the American Disabilities Act (ADA) was to make all locations accessible for those who normally couldn’t get to them. This is especially true with playgrounds in Salt Lake City and across the country.

Playground materials needed to be evaluated. One reason was to ensure the proper components were properly set up. Another reason was to confirm there were enough soft playground surfaces to minimize injuries. 

“The goal of making playgrounds handicap compliant had a huge impact on new and existing locations. ”

Today’s playgrounds can be quite imaginative to handle all types of children. There may be some in Salt Lake City that encourage everyone to play together. But, is the local playground ADA compliant? Here are a few things to know to make a determination.

Sof’Fall Engineered wood surface is 100% ADA compliant and fully approved by multiple organizations that govern playground equipment safety. 

Accessible Routes

Outside of the play area, the soft playground surface must be stable, slip resistant and at least three-feet wide. Any grates or openings should be no larger than a half-inch, and the same goes for any changes in level.  On the way into the play area there shouldn’t be any objects that protrude onto the path more than four inches. This includes drinking fountains or signs.

The Play Area

Inside the play area, playground materials need to be easy for children using mobility devices or wheelchairs to traverse, Thus, there should be a 50/50 split between elevated and ground level components. Those higher items should be accessible via low-grade ramps. All surfaces should be examined through standards developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). In reviewing components, ASTM looks at the minimum characteristics and performance needed to be ADA compliant.

“Finding a safe place for our children to play needs to be a priority. Not just for our children, but for all children.”

Some of the most common ADA compliant playground materials include wood fiber or carpet, a rubber surface, and synthetic turf. When making a determination on the structure materials, items like weather and environment need to be examined.

For instance, a playground may not be ADA compliant if the materials get too hot in direct sunlight. In another example, changes may need to be made if the ground surfaces are not moisture absorbent.>

Becoming ADA Compliant

In many cases, it costs developers between $60,000 to $100,000 to make a playground ADA compliant. So, they may decide to do a partial update for access. Or they may not do one at all.

Should visitors feel a playground isn’t ADA compliant they need to report it. If the playground is based in a private business — for example, a preschool — it needs to be discussed with management. If it’s part of a park, then reports or complaints need to go to the township, county, or state

Should the issue not be resolved at those levels, then a complaint can be filed at the federal level. ADA.gov has information on how to register this with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

In the end, all children have the right to enjoy a playground. If they have trouble on their own or with mobility devices, then this needs to be addressed. For play helps them build confidence and happiness for a better life.

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Playground Safety Certification Standards

Playground Safety Certification Standards

Playground safety is something parents take for granted. We assume that any park and playground we take our children to will be safe enough for them to swing, climb, slide and otherwise play on without being injured. Why can we take for granted that the equipment and soft playground surfaces provided for children will be safe? Salt Lake City has taken safety at their beautiful parks and playgrounds very seriously and always seeks to be up-to-date on safety information.

“There are several non-profit trade organizations that have set standards for the industry that provides playground equipment, even down to the soft surfaces that are used in play areas.

If the equipment and materials meet certain standards they can earn certificates of safety. Sof’Fall engineered wood fiber and engineered rubber is in compliance with these safety standards and have earned their respective seal of approval.

Industry Safety Standards for public playground surfaces have been set by safety organizations such as the International Playground Equipment manufacturers Association (IPEMA) and others. Sof’Fall meets or exceeds these standards.

The International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) is one of the organizations that promotes safety and play, and provides certification for playground equipment and soft surfaces materials. They seek to uphold the consistency of compliance to standards that are proven to be safe. Members include manufacturers of playground equipment and surfacing materials, as well as consultants and suppliers related to safe playground materials. They provide their members with timely, in-depth information about their industry. IPEMA actively promotes the benefits of children’s play and playgrounds. They sponsor a website, www.voiceofplay.org, for parents and kids, as well as anyone who has an interest in the safety of playgrounds for children. The website provides excellent information and other resources relating to this topic.

The National Playground Safety Institute is a branch of the National Park and Recreation Association and offers continuing education programs to recreation professionals and to the public. NPSI was the first national clearinghouse and information resource available to the public about playgrounds. They devised the most inclusive playground safety inspector-training program worldwide. The training teaches participants to identify playground hazards by the use of probes and gauges designed for performing playground safety audits and routine inspections.

Prior to NPSI, safety and inspection information did not spread and was not being distributed by any organized method. During the 1980s educating the people who were in charge of playground equipment was very difficult and sometimes fell on deaf ears. Thanks for NPSI even most PTA presidents are now aware of safety issues for playgrounds.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) provides resources to professionals and advocates of safe playground materials in all communities. They help to provide education, networking, resources and certification to playground operators to help monitor and improve playground safety. Playground Inspection Kits provide the necessary equipment to check for neck and head entrapment, as well as entanglement and protrusion hazards on playgrounds. It was developed to meet Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines. It also provides projection gauges, head and torso probes, fish probe and a carrying bag.

Thanks to these organizations parents and care-givers can go to almost any park or playground and know that they and their children will not encounter any hazard or life-threatening danger. There are safe, fun parks throughout every community in the United States. Salt Lake City is one of the best known cities for their love of outdoor recreation, and provides plenty of parks and playgrounds for their residents.

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Playground Safety Checklist

Playground Safety Checklist

It never fails, whenever the sun is out kids,and often their parents, are at the park soaking in the sun and having fun on the slides, monkey bars and swings. What could be better for our kids that getting exercise and being active outside? This statement is true but park playgrounds can have their risks.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), two thirds of the number of injuries in which children were taken to the ER from 2005 thru 2013, were caused from children falling from swings, slides and overhead ladders. The CDC also reported that 20,000 kids ages 14 and over come to the ER every year for playground-related brain injuries.

Playgrounds have changed a lot over the last 40 years and have become safer than ever before. It’s hard to believe that playgrounds were ever built on cement with tall metal slides, swings, and monkey bars, extremely hot under summer sun hovering over hard surfaces that would cause certain injury. Today’s playgrounds are built with a number of different materials including plastic and are designed with the whole child in mind. They are designed to help the child develop physically and even socially.

While playgrounds are safer than ever before, hazards still exist. Our safety checklist can help avoid potential problems.

It’s surprising that despite all of the improvements to playgrounds over the last several years a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that 20,000 kids 14 and younger come to the ER every year for playground related brain injuries. About 2/3 of these injuries are cause by falls from swings, slides, and overhead ladders. Even more alarming, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says that in a study that ER visits increased substantially from 2005-2013.

So what can parents do to make sure that these statistics don’t involve their child? Here are some ideas that will help keep your child safe this year at the park.

1. Evaluate the playground surface. Only play at playgrounds with safety-rated surfaces that reduce injury like wood chips, sand, or pea gravel. Avoid playgrounds with asphalt, concrete, or grass as a surface below playground equipment. You may think that the playground surface doesn’t matter, that your child isn’t going to fall. But keep in mind that no parent takes their kids to the park expecting them to fall.

Our products, Sof’Fall and Sof’Bounce, are incredible options. Sof’Fall is a specialized type of wood chip. When 8-12” deep, it is rated for falls up to 25 feet and has a 10 year warranty. Sof’Bounce is shredded tires. It has a 50 year warrantee and can cushion falls for up to 13 feet. Both are great options for keeping playgrounds safe and are rated much higher than typical surfaces.

2. Look for tripping hazards. Look for tree roots, pieces of metal or anything sticking up that can be a hazard for your kids. Warn your kids or avoid areas with these hazards.

3. Evaluate guard rails. Make sure playground equipment has appropriate guard rails to protect kids, especially when they are up high.

4. Closely supervise your kids. As parents, it is tempting to sit down at a park bench, breathe a sigh of relief, pull out a smart phone, and look up every once in a while. Kids that are more closely supervised build relationships with their parents and are safer because parents help them avoid falls. Parents can also help kids socially avoid conflicts, share, and have a positive experience.

So if you are looking to upgrade your backyard playground’s surface, or if you are concerned about the playground surface at your kids’ favorite park, look into our Sof’Fall safety surface products. We want your kids to have fun while playing and to be as safe as possible.

[U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Injuries and investigated deaths associated with playground equipment, 2001-2008. https://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/108596/playground.pdf. Published October 29, 2009. Accessed April 26, 2016.]

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Benefits of Exercise on the Brain

Benefits of Exercise on the Brain

No one will argue that exercise is good for you. Exercise improves cardiovascular health, helps control weight and blood pressure, and helps us have more energy. More and more evidence is mounting that regular exercise improves mental and physical skills.

…something as simple as kids having a chance to play on playground equipment before school starts in the morning may affect their behavior and concentration in school.

For school-age children, outdoor exercise has even more benefits. Taking your kids to play at the park, going on a walk, or playing sports may help your child to have a healthy body. More and more studies are finding a link between healthy bodies and better performance in school. Scientific studies are proving what every parent suspects—that strong bodies equal strong minds. Exercise is essential for success at school. So, your time on the school playground equipment was actually helping. But schools can’t make exercise breaks optional anymore because of all the potential benefits.

EXERCISE AND LEARNING: Scientific studies show what most parents already know, strong bodies equal strong minds.

Benefits of exercise

Increased academic performance. A study cited in the Journal of Pediatrics found that a positive relationship exists between academic performance and motor skills and aerobic exercise. What that means is that if kids have recess at school and have the chance to run around, play sports, and/or climb on playground equipment, they will not only be strengthening their physical bodies but will be helped academically as well.

Increased focus and concentration for every student, but having a greater impact on students with ADHD symptoms. The Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology reports that a 2014 study conducted by researchers from Michigan State University and the University of Vermont found that offering before-school programs based on aerobic exercise decreased ADHD symptoms at school and at home. This means that something as simple as kids having a chance to play on playground equipment before school starts in the morning may affect their behavior and concentration in school.

Increased cognition or the ability to learn. Studies have shown that exercise can slow or even reverse cognitive decline in older people with dementia. For school-age children, studies reported by the UK’s Centre for Educational Neuroscience have shown that aerobic exercise can increase the plasticity of the brain and can affect learning in a number of different ways: “perceptual skills, intelligence quotient, verbal tests, mathematic tests, memory, developmental level, and academic readiness in all ages from 4-18 years.” Exercise is essential to being “smart” at school.

Increased positive behavior at home and at school. In a study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, reported in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, an increase in exercise during the school day had positive behavioral effects in the classroom and at home. The far-reaching effects of something so simple are astounding. Exercise not only affects kids at school but can have positive effects for hours afterward.

The bottom line is that exercise can’t be considered something extra, like a reward for children for good behavior or for finishing homework. It is essential to their learning, behavior, and brain health. Exercise needs to be part of every school day and every day at home. Every school and pre-school should have a playground for kids to play on, with the proper safety measures in place, of course. Playgrounds are the perfect way for exercise to be playful and spontaneous and fun.

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Not all Playground Wood Surfacing is Created Equal

Not all Playground Wood Surfacing is Created Equal

Because Sof’Fall crushed wood surfacing is manufactured from new wood, you can be sure that it is virtually free of any toxic substances. Recycled wood products, derived from used pieces of pressure-treated wood, chemical-soaked pallets and other undesirable wood, cannot claim to be free of toxic substances. – Poisoned Playgrounds – Arsenic in Pressure Treated Wood.

“Virtually all of the lumber sold for outdoor uses in the United States is pressure-treated, a misleading term that hides the fact that the wood is injected with vast amounts of toxic compounds to preserve the wood and kill termites.”

An article published by the Environmental Working Group, titled “Poisoned Playgrounds” states that wood on picnic tables and on equipment and playground surfaces may contain hazardous levels of arsenic.

CONSUMER BEWARE: Non-Sof’Fall wood mixed with non-toxic virgin wood of Sof’Fall Engineered wood surface can void your “Play Protection Plan” warranty.

“Each year, an estimated 2,300 children under age five go to hospital emergency rooms with poisoning-related injuries.” Substances in “petroleum distillates are a group of hydro-carbon-based chemicals refined from crude oil. They include gasoline, kerosene, mineral spirits, maptha, paraffin wax, and tar. They are the primary ingredient in many products, solvents, adhesives, and automotive chemicals. Aspiration of even small amounts of these substances into the lungs can cause asthma, pneumonia, pulmonary damage, and death.” In these cases, “most children had primarily poisoning-related injuries and were exposed to these products through inhalation ingestion, or eye or skin contact.” (Consumer Product Safety Review, Vol 1 No. 4, Reducing Poisonings to Children).

Non-Toxic Virgin Wood

Often the question arises, “Is Sof’Fall a recycled product?” The answer is, No… and Yes! Sof’Fall engineered wood fiber is a by-product of virgin wood derived from a variety of rough cut wood species prior to being cured (kiln dried*). Before Sof’Fall is delivered to a playground site, it undergoes a seven-step manufacturing process. It is interesting to note that prior to the manufacturing of this wood by-product, it was considered waste and disposed of.

Although Sof’Fall is not a derivative of previously used wood, it makes good environmental sense and is the safest protective surfacing on the market.

“The fact that wood is an environmentally friendly product is undeniably important to an increasing number of consumers. There is a growing appreciation for what engineered wood is doing for people and forest alike.” (Evergreen Magazine, Dec-1996, pg. 12, Engineered Wood: Improving on Nature).

*Kiln dried or cured wood means the moisture has been removed prior to manufacturing plywood, pallets and 2x4’s. Because virgin wood retains moisture content, it is softer and more user friendly.

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