If you're getting ready to build a play area for kids, you may be looking at a confusing array of kid-safe play structures and ground covers such as playground sand, rubber mulch or other material designed to protect the kids from injuries. The playground equipment now is unlike what you may remember playing on as a kid. Here's a look at the old-school playground equipment that was fabricated from metal and wood, and what you'll find now in its place.


The older style Merry-Go-Round structure featured a large, round metal base with steel safety bars to hold onto. The base would spin, and it was a popular destination for kids to see how fast they could spin before falling off. In the interest of avoiding broken bones, there are a few different alternatives available now.

One of the most popular alternatives is a round rotating and rocking shape with integrated high-back seats. It is typically crafted from polyethylene. Unlike the metal fabricated structures of the past, there's no risk of rust with these. Kids sit in the seats securely while the structure is spun by someone on the outside. If there's nobody around to spin it, the kids sitting inside can even rock it.

Another unique toy that is replacing the Merry-Go-Round is a large circle mounted on steel posts. You'll need the posts-custom fabricated to allow for movement in the ring. As kids climb onto and inside the ring, it will tip and rotate. The kids have complete control over where it goes, so there's no risk of it spinning out of control.

Metal Slides

Most adults have memories of sliding down hot, custom-fabricated metal slides in the summer time. There are few things that can erase the memories of the heat that the metal absorbed from the sun and the feeling of bare skin sticking on the way down. Since metal slides are a safety hazard not only in terms of the risk of burns, but also rust, these slides are being replaced with safer structures.

Playground slides are now molded from various plastic compositions. Installed with wood or metal posts for stability, they will not corrode or expose sharp edges that can cause cuts. Add safety material at the bottom of the slide to protect against falls, and you'll have a secure play area.

Monkey Bars

Crafted from steel with small ladders, rungs all the way across and just enough space to conquer the top of the bars, hook your feet around them and hang upside down, old-fashioned monkey bars are quickly disappearing with playground suppliers. The National Safety Council recommends that monkey bars be removed from most playgrounds due to the number of injuries sustained on them.

In place of monkey bars, some playground structures include other balance bars, including chin-up bars. These are more limited in function, protecting kids from serious injuries caused by crossing monkey bars or falling from the top of the rungs. If you do install a monkey bar structure, you'll want to opt for something shorter than the older metal ones, because it reduces the fall distance, protecting kids from serious injuries.

Geodesic Domes

Few things on the playground cast the spotlight on the quality of steel fabrication the way that geodesic domes did. These metal domes typically featured metal bars strategically connecting flat octagonal shapes. These posed unique safety concerns, because kids could climb to the top, and would often stand on the top bars. This led to falls and significant injuries.

In their place, many playground construction companies now offer wood and polyethylene castle structures instead. These castle structures often include rope bridges and swings in addition to observation decks and other unique play segments. 

As you can see, there are many differences from the playground equipment created by custom steel fabricators. New safety products are designed to protect kids from broken bones and head injuries. When paired with soft play surfaces, you can build a safe, fun environment for your kids, day care or school.