Before you buy: take a playground field trip

playground field trip

It’s easy to make a brand-new playground structures look inviting and durable in a catalog, but how well does it hold up after three years (or more!) of wear, tear and weather?

While marketing materials and websites are helpful resources, we recommend that you take a playground field trip to see and touch what’s out there before making the decision to buy.

What to do. This field trip is not a spectator sport! Be sure to jump on the decks, slide down the slides, climb everything, and play on each structure as much as possible.

What to look for. During your visit, examine the playground equipment according to three key criteria:

Safety. Are all the playground components connected tightly? Are surfaces—especially handholds—PVC coated to protect children’s hands from temperature extremes? Are there any sharp metal edges, like exposed fasteners or expanded metal coming through worn PVC coating? Do the slides feature slidehoods with built-in handbars for safer sliding?

Durability. All play structures look good when they’re new. But how well do they stand up after three to five years of hard play? The most obvious signs of excessive wear are rusting or worn weldments (the metal that connects the parts of components), sagging, warped or cracked slides, and “moving parts” that no longer move.

Play value. Overhead play events? Bridges? Interactive play panels? Look for play structures complex enough to challenge kids with a variety of play experiences that help them develop coordination and confidence.

How to determine “play value”?

• Look for bridges and overhead events that move. Movement creates complexity, challenges children and develops their coordination and confidence.

• Look for interactive play panels. Play with them. Do they work as intended? Interactive panels challenge children and develop imaginative play and hand-eye coordination.

• Be wary of play panels that are merely pictures with no moving parts or action required. These panels have little play value for children of any age.

• Don’t forget to talk to the families there and watch children playing on the structure. What events do they prefer?
If you have lingering questions or concerns after your field trip, contact your Gen Rec sales consultant. Or, before you go, invite your consultant to come along with you. They can help point out the features you should examine most and answer any questions you may have. Contact Gen Rec at 800-726-4793 for more information, email

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