1. What is IPEMA ?
The International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) is a non-profit, trade association whose members include playground equipment and surfacing manufacturers. IPEMA works to promote an open market for its members and to promote increases in the quality and quantity of children’s play and playgrounds. IPEMA’s headquarters are in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
2. What are the key issues affecting the playground industry today?
The disappearance of playtime for kids is the most pressing issue affecting the industry today. It’s alarming because of the overwhelming amount of research which points directly to outdoor free play as a necessary part of a child’s healthy physical and mental development. Also, industry attention is always focused on playground safety and innovation in age-appropriate equipment.
3. Why is play important to kids? Are there any studies about that?
Play is very important in a child’s development. In addition to the physical benefits of play, numerous studies have shown that kids learn and develop in other ways through play, including: - Emotional, social and cognitive skills - Motor development - Negotiation and problem-solving skills - Independent thinking - A greater imagination - Creativity - Valuable knowledge about social norms, risk-taking, and group interactions Click here to learn more about these benefits.
4. How do kids benefit from playground play versus free play or structured activities?
There are many benefits to both free play and structured activities, and striking a balance is important. Free play encourages kids to use their brains in a different way, to think independently and to create their own fun and activities. This helps kids alleviate boredom and teaches them how to learn and have fun on their own and with others. Free play also encourages interaction with nature and the outside world.
5. What are the top concerns of Parks & Recreation officials?
Parks and Recreation professionals are wonderful advocates for children’s playgrounds. These dedicated employees work for local governments and with community groups to design playgrounds and parks. They are increasingly concerned with local government budget decreases, which leave them with few funds to build, maintain and upgrade playgrounds to ensure the best possible safety innovations.
6. What are the top concerns of parents?
Parents take playtime very seriously, as they should! It is a time for children to exercise and socialize – two important issues for parents. Certainly, parents are also concerned about safety, so updated and certified equipment and surfacing are key. Parents are also very interested in learning what the best equipment designs and tools are to help their kids learn critical skills while on the playground.
7. What are the top concerns of taxpayers?
Taxpayers have a right to know that tax dollars are being well spent. They want playgrounds that will be useful, and can be upgraded for future use and not become obsolete. Many taxpayers also think it’s a priority to have playgrounds and space for their community members to gather and play. Taxpayers, often parents and grandparents, also have safety concerns as a priority.
8. Have the playground safety advocates gone too far?
Safety is always a top priority for everyone in the industry, and safety advocates’ concerns are justified – but should be balanced with the value of play in children’s learning and development.
IPEMA’s members have worked hard to design and manufacture IPEMA-certified equipment and surfacing that will allow children to play with minimal risk of injury. However, kids play freely as a part of their nature. They learn from their mistakes on the playground and it teaches them valuable lessons about risk and consequences. As with most things in life, a proper balance between safety and free play is important.
9. Shouldn’t kids play in their free time and not during the school day?
No, play should be a part of kids’ environments, both at school and at home. A wide body of research has shown that kids gain valuable developmental benefits from play, not just physical benefits; there are also social, emotional and cognitive benefits. Quite literally, play helps kids learn, on the playground, in the classroom and throughout life.
IPEMA members believe that playtime should be protected, and in some cases increased, to enhance learning. The recent trend of eliminating recess time so kids can focus on increased testing is also a concern for IPEMA members.
10. What should parents do if they’re concerned whether their local playground is safe?
Parents can inquire whether their local playground’s equipment and surfacing is IPEMA-certified and it meets ASTM safety standards. To find out whether your local playground is certified, click here http://www.ipema.com/Products/main.aspx
In addition, IPEMA has developed a list of 10 questions for parents to use while examining their playground for potential safety hazards. To find it, click here http://www.ipema.com/News/default.aspx
11. What can families do to encourage their schools to provide a safe play environment?
Parents are the best advocates for their kids. Getting involved with local school districts is a great way to ensure the best learning environment for children. Contacting the PTA/PTO, school board, school administrators, principal and teachers, and talking to them about the importance of play is a great way to start. Don’t forget your local government officials, who provide budgets for local community playgrounds.
12. What is the ideal playground environment ?
The ideal playground is one that has children in mind from the start. It should:
- Encourage movement
- Include unique features that encourage both social and alone time for play
- Have soft, impact-absorbing surfacing, made of either rubber chunks, poured-in-place surfacing or engineered wood fiber.
- Offer age-appropriate, accessible equipment to all children and be limited in height to reduce fall hazards
- Include elements of nature should be incorporated into the playground, including grass, rocks, trees and water
- Make sure that there is always adult supervision
13. Isn’t your organization just advocating the importance of play because you make the equipment?
No. IPEMA members are playground equipment and surfacing manufacturers, but we are also community members, neighbors and parents. We care deeply about our children and our communities and want to make sure that kids are having fun, and gaining important benefits from play, at the same time. We, like many, are also concerned about increased obesity rates in children, and want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to encourage our kids to be physically fit, and that includes outdoor free play.
14. How are playgrounds regulated?
Playground regulation varies state to state and depends on the location of the playground. Parents should check with their local municipality to find out what regulations are in affect.
15. How many kids die on playgrounds annually?
A Consumer Product Safety Commission Study from 1990-2000 found 57 deaths on playground equipment at playgrounds. The study also cited approximately 200,000 injuries to children annually, but notes that more than 20 percent of those injuries occurred on equipment at home, not on playgrounds. Most of these injuries are due to falls. By contrast, more children are injured in motor vehicle accidents (214,000) bicycle accidents (285,600) and accidental poisoning (1,054,000) each year.
Lack of supervision on playgrounds is associated with injuries. Studies have also shown that injuries decrease on playground equipment that has been updated to meet safety standards. (“The effect of safer play equipment on playground injury rates among school children.” CMAJ, May 24, 2005).