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All the Playground Terms to Know

All of our technical playground terms defined.

Playground Glossary

ADA - is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public Enacted by the U.S. Congress in 1990.

ADA Accessible - Describes a playground that meets or exceeds ADA guidelines.

ADA Compliant - This is another way of saying ADA Accessible. Compliant playgrounds follow ADA guidelines.

Age Group - Playgrounds are designed with a specific age range in mind for safety reasons. The age group refers to the age range that the equipment is designed for.

Agility - Is the ability to move and change direction and position of the body quickly and effectively while under control.

ASTM - Formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, ASTM International provides international standards for a wide range of products, services, and materials. ASTM standards for playgrounds ensure that your product is safe and reliable.

Availability - The availability tells you how soon after your order is placed that you can expect your equipment to arrive.

Balance - Evenly distributing one's weight to remain upright and steady.

Barrier - An enclosing device around an elevated platform to prevent accidental and purposeful attempts to move through the device.

Blow Mold Plastic - Pieces of the play structure that is hollow plastic. Created by melting down the plastic and injecting it into the mold. Air pressure pushes the plastic out into the mold, creating the product.

Border - Piece of equipment, typically a type of timber, that outlines the use zone of a playground. A border surrounds loose-fill safety surfacing, restricting displacement and the amount of refill product and maintenance needed.

Brand - The company that produces the product.

Climber - Piece of equipment designed for children to climb up and around safely. Several designs include panels, ropes, nets, and metal.

Coordination - The organization of different body parts so they can work effectively together.

Composite Structure - The combination of elevated play components that are linked together to create one large system. Provides play activities such as slides and climbers.

CPSC - Stands for the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC sets forth guidelines for playground equipment. Some states may require playgrounds to comply with these guidelines.

CPSI - Stands for Certified Playground Safety Inspector. A certification that can be earned from the National Recreation and Park Association stating that the individual is qualified to determine a playground's safety level.

Critical Height - The maximum fall height that a life-threatening head injury would not be expected to occur.

Designated Play Surface - Any elevated surface for standing, walking, crawling, sitting or climbing, or a flat surface greater than 2 inches wide by 2 inches long having an angle less than 30 from horizontal.

Embankment Slide - A slide that follows the contour of the ground and at no point is the bottom of the chute greater than 12 inches above the surrounding ground.

Entanglement - Occurs when the playground user's clothing or something around the user's neck becomes entwined or caught on a component of equipment.

Entrapment - Any condition that impedes withdrawal of a body or body part that has penetrated an opening.

Fall Height - The distance between the highest designed play area on a piece of equipment and the safety surfacing beneath.

Fine Motor Skills - Skills required to manipulate and gain control over materials and tools including grasping, manipulating and hand-eye coordination.

Flexibility - The capacity of a joint or muscle to move through its full range of motion. Good flexibility is an important part of the overall fitness profile and is also important for injury prevention.

Footing - A way of anchoring the playground equipment to the ground.

Footprint - The area that the piece of equipment will cover physically.

Full Bucket Seat Swing - A swing generally appropriate for children under 4 years of age that provides support on all sides and between the legs of the occupant and cannot be entered or exited without adult assistance.

Geotextile - A fabric that retains its relative structure during handling, placement, and long-term service to enhance water movement, retard soil movement, and to add reinforcement and separation between the soil and the surfacing and/or sub-base.

Gross Motor Skills - The ability to control large body muscles including the arms, legs, hands, feet, head, neck and torso - for walking, running, sitting, crawling, climbing, balancing, jumping, catching, throwing and striking. These skills foster a lifelong ability to participate in physical activity including sport and recreation.

Guardrail - A device around an elevated platform that exists to prevent falls from the elevated surface.

Imaginative or Creative Play - A style of playing where a child uses his/her imagination during play time. It allows a child to explore his/her own identity, make decisions and create their own rules, control behavior and practice the act of creation which helps develop sense-of-self and boosts confidence. During creative "let's pretend" playtime, a child experiences new thoughts and feelings and begins to learn how to respond.

Inclusive Playground - Playgrounds that ensure children of all abilities feel included. Inclusive playgrounds contain activities designed to develop the whole child across a variety of developmental domains, including physical, cognitive, social, emotional, communicative, and sensory.

Infill - The material used with some turf surfacing products to help ensure the pile doesn’t mat or become flattened.

Loose Fill Surfacing - Protective surfacing in a use zone that consists of loose particles. Examples are sand, gravel, rubber mulch, or engineered wood mulch.

Natural Playground - Playgrounds that use natural materials, features, and vegetation with creative landscapes to create a play area out of natural objects.

Overhead Ladder - Commonly referred to as “monkey bars.” Features a horizontal ladder hoisted up by four poles at various heights. Can stand alone or attach to a structure.

Playground - A designated place specifically designed for children to play. May be indoors or outdoors.

Polyethylene - The most common plastic. Used in several products.

Powder Coat Paint - A type of paint coating that is applied as a dry powder and is baked on.

Preschool Age Children - Refers to children ages 2 to 5 years old.

Projection - Anything that extends outward from a surface of the playground equipment and must be tested to determine whether it is a protrusion or entanglement hazard, or both.

Protrusion - A piece of something that sticks out.

Protective Barrier - See Barrier.

Protective Surfacing - Shock-absorbing (i.e., impact attenuating) surfacing material in the use zone.

Roller Slide - A slide that has a chute consisting of a series of individual rollers over which the user travels.

Rotational Mold Plastic - A heated hollow mold that is filled with plastic and slowly rotated until the plastic fully coats and fills the mold.

Safety Zone - The surface around a piece of equipment that is expected to be the area a child falling would land. Also designated for free circulation around a piece of equipment.

School-Age Children - Refers to children ages 5 to 12 years old.

Seesaw - A narrow board anchored in the middle, allowing one end to go up as the other goes down. Commonly called a teeter-totter.

SKU - Stock Keeping Unit. The item number of the piece of equipment.

Slide - A chute that travels from the decks of the structure to the ground. Various forms of slides include a tube slide, right turn slide, and a bump wave slide.

Slide Chute - The inclined sliding surface of a slide.

Social Development - The ability to interact and work with others, and the acquisition of skills for effective relationships (i.e., sharing, waiting a turn, working as a team).

Stationary Play Equipment - Any play structure that has a fixed base and does not move.

Supervisor - Any person tasked with watching children on a playground. Supervisors may be paid professionals (e.g., childcare, elementary school or park, and recreation personnel), paid seasonal workers (e.g., college or high school students), volunteers (e.g., PTA members), or unpaid caregivers (e.g., parents) of the children playing in the playground.

Tether Ball - A two-person game featuring a pole with a ball hanging from the top by a long rope. Players hit the ball back and forth, trying to wrap the rope around the pole. One player wins when the rope is wrapped around the pole and the ball touches the pole.

Toddlers - Children ages 6 months to 23 months.

Tube Slide - A slide that is a totally enclosed tube or tunnel.

Unit Size - The dimensions of the piece of equipment.

Unitary Surfacing Material - A manufactured material used for protective surfacing in the use zone that may be rubber tiles, mats, or a combination of energy absorbing materials held in place by a binder that may be poured in place at the playground site and cures to form a unitary shock absorbing surface.

Upper Body Equipment - Equipment designed to support a child by the hands only (e.g., horizontal ladder, overhead swinging rings).

Use Zone - The area under and around a piece of equipment that a child falling would be expected to land. Also designated for unrestricted movement around the equipment.

Weight - How heavy the piece of equipment is.


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