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The Evolution of Playground Materials


Long gone are the days when we were kids at the playground playing on sets made out of wood and steel. These days most of the playgrounds are made of all sorts of newer, modern materials that are all made to code with regards to safety standards that need to be met for the safety of the children using them.

I remember when the steel used by manufacturers of playground equipment was the ‘it’ material… I remember very well because they would chafe incredibly, and if left in the hot sun the metal could heat up intensely and anyone sitting on a swing or going down a slide could get themselves burnt.

I’m sure you can remember as well the times when you were a child, playing on playground sets that were more often than not made of wood and steel. Did you get splinters?

I got several, and they were difficult to remove! But children these days do not go through the same experience as much because the humble wood and steel playgrounds of yore are dying out slowly, one by one, replaced by other, better set made out of newer materials that were chosen because they solved the problems that the old playgrounds used to have.I’m sad to see steel being replaced (I am biased after all!), but even I know from experience that chafing and burns aren’t fun!


So what materials are used in playgrounds these days? Here’s a quick look at the most common ones:

Fiberglass Reinforced Plastics
These days, it is common to see playgrounds constructed from FPRs or fibreglass reinforced plastics. This material is very much durable and can survive in a lot of different climates, making it a material that playground designers love to use frequently.

Its benefits over wood and steel are many—first of all it will not rust, it is insect-proof, it can withstand a lot of heat and also does well in freezing temperatures. The only issues with this kind of material is that it becomes brittle after prolonged exposure to the sun as well as repeated freezing and thawing. The bonus however is that it is non-toxic and cannot harm children.


Synthetic Wood
Wood on its own has been used as a material for building playgrounds in the past. However, back then it was treated with harsh, toxic chemicals most of the time in order to keep insects away (and for other reasons). These days, most playgrounds use synthetic wood in place of real wood. Synthetic wood is composed of recycled wood fibres and plastics and when put together is usually more weather-proof than its all-natural counterpart.

Although this material is a bit more expensive than the others, a lot of people still decide to use it in the construction of their playgrounds as it is quite durable. It in fact is even more durable than wood.

So there you go… Playgrounds these days are always built with safety considerations in mind. I consider that to be a good thing—especially for my future children!


Some people even take it even further by testing the strength of the materials used. Here’s a short video showing he result: