What is Age-Appropriate?
For those that didn't go to school and get a degree in working with children there may be help. For those of us that learn by experience, we have found that children don't come with a user's manual. Mom taught me to use common sense. What is common to one may be a foreign concept to another. Where do you turn for information on what is "right" for the playground? Children need different activities and events based on their abilities. Using broad age groups is a good direction to look, but the key is that the equipment should be in line with the children in terms of their size, ability and developmental level. This will certainly be hard to achieve with a large audience of potential attendees. Any group of more than ONE is certain to have different skill levels and a variety of needs. The CPSC in their Handbook for Playground Safety describes some specific items for different age groups. BROAD guidelines are used for a reason. This list isn't meant to be everything. Common sense, training and supervision go a long way to enhance the big picture.
CHILDREN 2-5 The focus for this age group is social interaction; activities that make for great group fun, with just the right level of physical challenge. The 2-5 age group requires guard rails and barriers at much lower deck heights than older children. Deck heights for horizontal ladder launches may not be higher than 18", and the horizontal ladder itself cannot be higher than 60" above the surfacing.
Consider: Ramps, rung ladders, single file step ladders, slides, spiral slides up to 360 degrees, spring rockers, stairways, swings, ground level play events, panels
CHILDREN 5-12 Here our focus is more on physical challenge. Major muscle development is the source and inspiration for component and play equipment design. We've zeroed in on this group with challenging horizontal ladders, climbers and slides. Horizontal ladders may launch from decks up to 36" high and may be as high as 84" off the ground.
Consider: Arch climbers, chain or cable walks, horizontal ladders, slides, swings, sliding poles.
CHILDREN 2-12 Sometimes separate playgrounds for different age groups are not an option, so play structures must be created and designed to meet the needs of both age groups. To accommodate the needs of both age groups, both sets of guidelines must be met. It is best to limit use of the play structure to one age group at a time or, if not possible, you need to ensure that there is enough supervision to create a safe play environment for all the children. This age group tends to conflict with certain standards, so consult local, state or federal guidelines that may apply to your particular situation. The CPSC suggests that the layout of a playground should show distinctly separate areas for different age groups.
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