Tag Archives: playground

Playground safety: troubling new move from ASTM

American safety standards agency ASTM is considering a flawed new proposal – very similar to one rejected a few months ago – in a continued attempt to ratchet up requirements for playground surfacing. This in spite of growing calls for a wider, more transparent and thoughtful debate on the role and influence of playground standards.

Graffiti saying

Photo credit: Martin Maudsley

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Playground surfacing and ASTM: good news, but concerns remain

Yesterday ASTM put on hold its proposal to tighten up playground surfacing standards, according to reports from committee members. ASTM’s original proposal has prompted widespread criticism: most recently from campaigning journalist Lenore ‘Free Range Kids’ Skenazy and leading American playground design commentator Paige ‘Playscapes’ Johnson. So yesterday’s decision – to suspend publication and refer the issue back to the relevant committee – is good news. However, it is not clear what happens now. The next meeting of the surfacing committee is in May. But some members have told me that the chairman, George Sushinsky, is considering re-balloting members to push it through before then – perhaps before the end of March. [Update 11 March: I have heard via email that a re-ballot is indeed going ahead. The rest of this post has been lightly edited to reflect this fact.] Playground surfacing with question mark Continue reading

An open letter to ASTM, and to anyone who wants to see a thoughtful approach to playground safety

The American standards body ASTM International is planning a major change to playground safety standards. [Update 5 March 2015: this change was put on hold on 4 March – but what happens next is unclear. See this post for more details.]

This post (including a joint open letter to ASTM from Robin Sutcliffe – chairman of the UK Play Safety Forum – and me) is a direct plea to put this proposal on hold pending a wider review. The proposal – to tighten up the impact absorbency thresholds for playground surfacing – may sound purely technical. In fact, it is far more profound, as my regular collaborator Bernard Spiegal has argued. What is more, it could have far-reaching consequences, potentially leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of additional expenditure by schools, municipalities and others, the removal of equipment, and widespread playground closures. Its effects could be felt far beyond the USA, given the global push to normalize product safety standards.

Despite its implications, the proposal has so far had almost no debate beyond ASTM. This post, and the open letter below, aim to persuade ASTM to think again, and to open up this important topic to anyone who wants to see a more thoughtful approach to playground safety. Playground in housing estate Continue reading

Simple pleasures: the swing

It is good to be reminded of the value of life’s simplest pleasures. Like the pleasure of feeling your suspended body sway smoothly through space on a swing. Swinging is an act of effortless grace: rising and falling on a fixed arc that flows first with, then against the pull of gravity.

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Seven principles of playground design

Lion sculpture in Aaholm school playgroundI really appreciate the thoughtful comments to my last post about playground design. It prompted me to summarise my own views in the form of seven design principles (plus an extra one for luck). What do you think of them? Feel free to continue the conversation!

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Whose playground is it anyway?

playground motorbikeAt last September’s Open for Play seminar, London playground designer Jerry Cooper of Theories Landscapes wondered whether there was a danger of losing sight of the child who – he argues – should be at the centre of playground design thinking. “Are we,” he asked, “turning ‘play’, a free-flowing and natural activity, into an adult controlled, designed and spatially confined event in places and ways that are adult-devised, justified and rationalised?” It’s a good question (which Jerry reminded me about in an email exchange last week).

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Open for Play: The Director’s Cut

Do you want to enjoy all the presentations from last month’s Open for Play seminar – on designing for play in playgrounds, streets and public spaces – from the comfort of your own office (or living room, studio, or bedroom)? Well, here is your chance. The full programme of formal presentations is now available to view online in glorious video and audio.

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