Playgrounds as we know them are a relatively recent phenomenon. Few existed before the 20th century. Many sources claim that the first planned playground in the United States appeared in Boston in 1886, a year after a recreational "sand garden" was created in Germany. The rise of playgrounds coincided with the expansion of industrialization and the middle class, as well as the expansion of urban areas.
History of Playgrounds
These early playgrounds offered a safer space for children to exercise, socialize and meet their friends at a time when automobiles on roads and other situations made it unsafe to play in other places. The movement benefited from the creation of the Playground Association of America as an association that sought to develop playgrounds throughout the United States.
Early playgrounds often had regimented activities and separate play areas for boys and girls. Soon, manufacturers began to design standardized playground rides and equipment, including the slides and swings we are familiar with today. Although some of the things found on these playgrounds resemble what we see today, other items were removed or replaced due to safety regulations first implemented in the 1960s.
Below are some classic playground equipment pieces and games from the past:
Jungle Gyms: Patented in 1920, the earliest versions of this common playground differed from the ones found on most playgrounds today. Today's versions are designed for safety and often have woodchips or other materials on the soil around them to cushion falls.
Roundabouts: These early merry-go-rounds remain popular today, though newer models have sturdier handles and other safety enhancements to protect children as they spin around on them.
Maypole Swings: These "swings" were ropes or chains that had a ring which children grabbed as they went around the pole. They did not have seats, so children sometimes fell when they went around the pole.
Early Seesaws, Slides and Swings: Unlike the ones we commonly see today, earlier versions were frequently constructed with wood and lasted a shorter time.
Hide-and-Seek: A game that remains popular to this day, this contest to avoid being discovered by others sometimes went to other areas of the park far from the playground.
Hopscotch: Impromptu chalk hopscotch courts have appeared on sidewalks for more than 120 years. Some playground designers developed formal courts for the kids similar to the tennis and shuffleboard courts found in parks.
Duck, Duck, Goose: A "picker" goes around the circle, tapping everyone on the head ("duck") until they choose someone ("goose") before trying to outrun them in the circle until they get to original place.
Leapfrog: A once-popular game where a child leaps over the back of another child's back while he or she is in a stooped-over position.
Dodgeball: A game where members of opposing teams try to eliminate the other players by hitting them with the ball.
Red Rover: Players from one team call someone from the other team over and that player tries to break through the line of the other team.
These are just a few of the rides and games that have become popular on American playgrounds during the last century.