9 November 2011

Electronic playgrounds measure energy expenditure

In a ground-breaking development, new technology in electronic playground equipment can now measure the amount of calories burned by users.

The latest addition to the i.play unit, from Playdale, has made the electronic play system even more covetable among communities and health professionals, as it is now able to provide evidence-based feedback. Purchasers can access an online users’ area, linked to their own unit, that displays invaluable usage data including the number of games played, the total number of calories burned and the distance covered by players running between switches during the fast-paced game.

The i.play was developed in response to growing concerns over childhood obesity and brings a technological edge to the traditional playground, in a bid to appeal to today’s computer-obsessed children. With more than 60 units installed throughout the UK and Ireland, the innovative play equipment is already proving effective in improving children's health, but this new advance will enable purchasers to measure its success even more accurately.

Presenting these statistics to the local community could prove hugely beneficial in communicating efforts to engage youngsters in stimulating activities that improve their fitness levels, and the health of the whole community - if the popularity of i.play is anything to go by!

19 October 2011

The importance of playground designs in creating successful play spaces…

The success of play areas that attract hundreds of children can often be closely linked to effective playground designs. While it may seem unlikely that there is such a thought process behind the layout of playground equipment, this is far from the truth.

Many play objectives can be met through effective playground design such as providing areas for different age groups, accommodating risk and challenge and encouraging social development among children.

The introduction of the Playbuilder scheme in 2008 generated much interest in playground designs; with Play England publishing 10 principles for designing successful play spaces’. This guidance provided the basis for many of the new play areas created by the government initiative and suggested that successful play spaces:

§  Are ‘bespoke’ and/or designed to enhance their setting
§  Are well located
§  Make use of natural elements
§  Provide a wide range of play experiences
§  Are accessible to both disabled and non-disabled children
§  Meet community needs and are loved by the community
§  Allow children of different ages to play together
§  Build in opportunities to experience risk and challenge
§  Are sustainable and appropriately maintained for play value
§  Allow for change and evolution

These principles have certainly had an impact on playground designs, but also closely replicate what many good playground designers already factored into their designs. 

3D playground designs help to visualise how your playground might look
Every playground is different, serving different audiences, age groups and visitor numbers – some communities may have an idea of how they want their playground to look, while others may be open to guidance and inspiration from specialised playground designers.

What’s important is that the design of your playground is carefully considered; it’s a good idea to hold a public consultation and get the local children and their parents involved to see what they want from the play area – at Playdale, we produce 3D playground designs that can help people visualise how their playground could look. This can prove an effective tool in generating interest for your playground project and to give credibility to any funding applications you may be preparing.

To find out how we can help you devise the perfect playground design for your play project, get in touch or visit our website.  

5 October 2011

National Fitness Day celebrates free fitness facilities!

How did you spend the ‘empower half hour’?! Playing sport in a multi use games area? Working out with Training Buddies? Completing a trim trail?
Training Buddies

Last Friday, 30th September, saw the launch of the UK’s first ever National Fitness Day, guaranteed to get everyone thinking about what they can do to improve their health and wellbeing. From 12pm midday, everyone was encouraged to take part in the ‘empower half hour’ – 30 minutes of physical activity of their choice, sure to lift their mood.

With recent research revealing that just 15 minutes of exercise a day can improve life expectancy the empower half hour is an easy, convenient way to vastly improve your lifestyle.

Whether you want to tone up, try new sports or improve your fitness levels, the chances are there’ll be loads of free facilities available right on your doorstep. With the increasing popularity of outdoor fitness equipment, many communities have multi use games areas, trim trails and other training equipment installed for use by local residents. These can be used in countless different ways to fit in with an exercise routine tailored to your needs.

Multi use games areas provide fun for the whole community

Multi use games areas are great for helping the whole family get into shape, many offer purpose-built goals, markings and baskets to facilitate a range of sports matches, while their specialised surfacing provides a favourable alternative to muddy fields or hard ground.

Trim trails and equipment such as Training Buddies encourage more active users to challenge themselves with a balance of cardio and strength-building exercises – they can be used alone, or as a great basis for a group circuit training session.

For more ideas about multi use games areas and outdoor training equipment, read about the Playdale Wellness Park

13 September 2011

Natural play equipment remains popular

Natural play equipment fuels children's imaginations

When the government launched the Playbuilder/Pathfinder scheme three years ago, the introduction of Play England’s ten design principles for play saw the emergence of a new trend for playgrounds across the country – natural play equipment.

After years of installations of large steel structures, increasingly abstract playground equipment and the developing trend of electronic outdoor play, communities and local authorities across the UK began to move away from these trends to appreciate the aesthetics of natural play. Blending seamlessly into the natural environment, and encouraging children to use their imaginations; a whole new genre of play equipment was born.

Logs and boulders became makeshift seats and clambering obstacles, while climbing frames took on a new, more natural appearance. The development of the Jungle Climbers range identified a huge gap in the market for attractive, abstract climbing structures that encouraged children to develop long-forgotten adventurous skills such as climbing trees. 

Natural play equipment remains popular today, and also works well alongside some traditional items of playground equipment too. For example, stainless steel slides can sit on top of natural embankments to create a new dimension in the playground, while natural-looking mounds can also be created, with tunnels stretching through them, to create a fun ‘underground’ appearance that children love.

Other dynamic items that sit well within a natural environment include the much loved aerial runway and timber adventure trail equipment such as canyon bridges and webnets. For inspiration, you can view a gallery of sites influenced by natural play equipment, and start planning your new play area.

9 September 2011

Risk-taking in the playground

Thank heavens for the prevalence of common sense, at last! Coverage in several newspapers this week tells of playgrounds being encouraged to ‘revive potential dangers’. 

Monkey bars encourage challenges
In plain terms, this simply means a return to traditional playground equipment, such as climbing frames, monkey bars and sand and water play, that our compensation culture has previously deemed undesirable to leisure operators and local authorities alike.

With the risk of litigation too great, play providers have gradually opted for low-risk equipment that offers children little opportunity for adventure, or to calculate risk or overcome fears. Our children have been wrapped in the proverbial ‘cotton wool’ and kept close at hand, probably encouraged to seek entertainment and risk within the constraints of their four walls, on a games console or similar.

The Sunday Times quoted Ellen Sandseter, a professor of psychology at Queen Maud University in Norway, on the perceived benefits of overcoming fears about risk in the playground. Writing in the scientific journal Evolutionary Psychology, she said: “Children must encounter risks and overcome playground fears – monkey bars and tall slides are great. They approach thrills and risks in a progressive manner, let them encounter these challenges from an early age and they will master them through play over the years.”

Of course, rigorous safety requirements demand that all playground equipment is safe anyway – the risk offered by any respected supplier’s equipment will only be within the boundaries of the appropriate safety assessor’s recommendations, and all playgrounds should be subject to regular maintenance checks to ensure their continued safety too - but a little adventure never hurt anyone…

30 August 2011

Take learning outdoors with playground equipment for schools

Vertical planters are great for playgrounds
with limited space
The choice of playground equipment for schools is endless – gone are the days when children had to rely on their imagination, a skipping rope and hopskotch graphics for play – now there’s a whole range of equipment developed specifically with schools in mind.

From musical instruments, to adventure trails, and sand, water and eco play – there’s countless configurations of playground equipment for schools to take the curriculum outside.


For pupils that like to clamber and crawl over challenging play items, there’s a selection of climbing structures available to challenge and excite them – the Jungle Climbers: Little Monkeys range is perfect for the school playground and their abstract appearance encourages freeflow play as children interpret the best way to cross the structures.


Encourage creative pupils to utilise playground equipment for schools too, with the installation of play stages, den poles and roleplay items – use these products in outdoor lessons for interactive learning experiences. Reading aloud comes alive when acted out on stage, while learning about road safety is much more fun with traffic lights and road traffic signs!


For the livelier pupils looking to expel that excess energy, the all-time favourite has to be the adventure trail – with more than 50 items available; pupils can even get involved and help to design their very own trail which can help to develop co-ordination, balance, agility and strength.  

There are so many products to choose from, whether for inner city locations with limited amounts of space, or countryside schools with acres, there is a range of playground equipment for schools of any size. And with specialist funding advice available, the only limit is your imagination!

19 August 2011

Adventurous play with the aerial runway

Parallel aerial runways at Wallace Park, Lisburn

The aerial runway consistently tops children’s wishlists for new playground equipment –and it’s not hard to see why!
An exhilarating thrill ride in your local playground, the aerial runway is a scaled-down version of the daring zip wires seen at some of the top outdoor leisure facilities and adventure parks across the country.  It offers a new dynamic moving element to any playground and is never without a queue of adventurous children waiting for their turn!
When we completed our largest site to date, at Lisburn’s Wallace Park last year, the aerial runway was such a popular choice that we installed two runways, side by side, so eager children could race against their friends.
At Playdale, we have two aerial runways available; one in laminated timber and another in stainless steel – the latter was launched especially to deal with the demand for this popular product and offers customers who prefer our city range an urban alternative to our traditional timber runway.  Our runways are also available in a range of 10 lengths, so those with limited space can take advantage of the shorter lengths, while larger sites looking for the ultimate thrill can install the 40m runway.
Along with the obvious fun factor, the aerial runway offers some great benefits to children too – teaching them about weight and gravity (as they learn the best way to launch themselves from the platform, and how to maintain speed), while also offering an element of risk-taking for younger children (we recommend aerial runways primarily for the 6-12 years age group).
Get in touch to find out where your nearest aerial runway is!

16 August 2011

Childhood obesity? Forgotten traditional play? Who wants to live to 100?!

As new research shows that a girl born this year has a one-in-three chance of reaching their 100th birthday (and boys a one-in-four chance), one has to question what lies ahead.

Figures, based on predictions by the Office for National Statistics, suggest that in 2066 there will be at least half a million people aged over 100 living in the UK – but what of their state of health and mind, if persistent worries over childhood obesity are set to continue? With an aging population reliant upon technology and unfamiliar with exercise and the great outdoors – 2066 looks a rather bleak place to be, unless we act now.

Children living in today’s society seem reluctant to choose traditional methods of play, favouring games consoles over playgrounds and childhood games. Social interaction has been replaced by digital technologies, with children communicating via a computer screen or mobile device – there is no longer any need to leave the house!

Traditional values need to be rediscovered – even as a twenty-something, the developments I have witnessed in my life already are hugely significant, and while I am not denying the positive effects they will have on a younger generation – it saddens me that children today already have such a different existence to that of myself and my peers at their age.

Children do need to be protected (to a certain extent), and encouraged to utilise the technological marvels available to them – but they also need time to be children too and just…play. And by playing I mean getting outdoors, meeting other children and picking their selves back up when they fall down.

Surely I’m not alone in my thoughts?

4 August 2011

Going for gold with i.play!

Olympic gold medallist Mark Hunter was on hand to try out our newest i.play installation, at a playground opening in Dorney, Buckinghamshire last weekend.

i.play was installed alongside a selection of dynamic moving equipment; forming the final phase of the expansive play area, which already featured an aerial runway, jungle climber, tower unit and adventure trail, amongst other playground equipment.

The playground, built over two years, was partly Playbuilder-funded and sits just a few hundred metres from Dorney Lakes where the Olympic Rowing Regatta will take place next year. After having so much fun on the i.play, we're hoping Mark will drop by with his crewmates for some pre-Olympic training!

(photograph courtesy of Scott A. McNealy www.noboundaryphotography.co.uk )

13 July 2011

Playday highlights need for more outdoor play

New research from Play England has found that 59 per cent of children wish they could play outside in natural places more than they currently do.

The study, completed to coincide with the official launch of this year’s Playday, also found that 7 out of 10 parents think taking their children to outdoor places to play is a real treat.

The new findings show a stark contrast between the habits of today’s children and their parents. Of those questioned, 72 per cent of parents played outside rather than indoors when they were young, whereas only 4 in 10 children spend as much time outdoors today.

Catherine Prisk, Co-Director of Play England, said: “Play - outside and indoors - is essential for children's health, well-being and happiness now, and is also important for their future development, to build vital life and social skills. It’s important that we overcome the barriers to outdoor play by addressing parents’ safety concerns, protecting and making the most of outdoor spaces in our communities and acknowledging the pressures on family time.”

Playday is an annual celebration of children’s right to play and takes place on 3rd August this year.

8 July 2011

Air Glider draws crowds at Playfair

Thanks to all our customers who came to see us at Playfair last week. We have just about recovered from demonstrating some of the exciting new products we had on stand! 

Our dynamic Air Glider proved a huge attraction at the show, with everyone keen to have a go on this eye-catching new addition to our popular movers range. We had great feedback with people welcoming the opportunity to have a unique piece of equipment that offered the same thrill factor as our aerial runway, but with less space required.  

The weather wasn’t as kind to us as in previous years, but we still had a great show, meeting lots of people keen to create new and exciting playgrounds, and revamp some existing ones too.

Highlights of the show included meeting keynote speaker Sally Gunnell OBE and learning how our brand new Training Buddies range can provide an energetic workout with fitness guru Steve Barrett. Steve helped advise customers, and staff alike, how they could benefit from using Training Buddies as part of their exercise routine. 

To find out more about the Air Glider, Training Buddies and the complete range of Playdale products, visit our main website at http://www.playdale.co.uk/