Durability can be defined in brief as “the ability to withstand wear, pressure, and damage.”
Vintage playgrounds were durable…for decades. So were the kids who used them. Real steel. Quality weather-worthy equipment that provided endless fun and some real fitness too. A few bumps, bruises, and scrapes definitely built up some tougher kids than we see today.
In today’s over litigated society, we see schools pulling out playground equipment and labeling the time-tested faithfuls such as pull up bars, monkey bars, and giant swings as “dangerous.” Long gone with “most” playgrounds are these old friends of fitness that provided some sentimental memories for many of us over the age of 40.
As with any movement or change in life, there are always a few renegades, hold outs, and down right HELL NO WE WON’T GO factions. On a rare occasion, I discover a few of these gems in the form of vintage playgrounds. The photos in this post were from a small playground in Gila Bend, AZ. I had taken the back road on the way back from Tucson the other year and drove by what appears to be some VERY old playground equipment. I immediately pull off and turned around, and much to my surprise, not only was the equipment still there and crudely but proudly still being used by two small boys! Upon closer examination of the grounds, I also found rake marks in the dirt to indicated it was being cleaned a bit.
There was no rubberized mat surfaces. No danger signs. No waiver forms. Just good old fashioned bars, barrels, and wooden posts to play on, under, and through. The barrels took me back. I can remember crawling through tunnels and barrel-like tubes when young, yet today you rarely see anything like it. Crawling around through stuff when you are a kid is quite fun–now adults pay lots of money to do this with adventure racing and primitive pattern or natural movement classes! For kids to become physically literate, they need to know how to move. Part of this comes from playing around–and on playgrounds if possible. To run, jump, crawl, hang, hop, leap, go over and under, and generally play like a bunch of monkeys are great physical development for kids! An adult and rational view of the above? These are survival skills. If you wind up in a disaster situation, you’ll likely need many of the above “movement” skills, so yeah, there are “kind of” important! 🙂
My point with the post is this–you don’t need anything fancy to keep kids playing and happy for generations. All you need is some space, bodies, barrels, and bars and adults willing to let them do it. The more we retreat from real fitness and dynamic movement, the more we ironically create a “more dangerous” generation of youth who will grow up to be adults who do not move well and are more prone to accidents. Accident-prone employees are expensive. America does not need to lose any more jobs. Want more work here in the US with less injuries? Get your kids to the playground and let them get after it…don’t worry about the rust and dirt. It’s good for them.
In Vintage Vigor,
Ron Jones, MS
Historical Kinesiologist, Physical Educator
*Photos by Ron Jones. Copyright 2015
Other Playground Posts by Ron Jones: