We at EcoPlay Structures know that the current environment feels like everything is upside down…
Across the country, playgrounds that have been closed for months are beginning to re-open. What is the best way to do this? What should be done after re-opening to keep the playground safe? Where can you go for answers?
There are two online sites recommended for up-to-date information and answers to your Playground/COVID-19 questions.
The first is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website, which has a section dedicated to Coronavirus (COVID-19). Scroll down this page and you will notice a box entitled “Helping Communities Plan And Respond” with subcategories Childcare, Schools, and Parks and Recreational Facilities.
Another useful site has been created by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). There is a lot of information on this site, but you will probably be most interested in the “Specific Guidance for Common Park and Recreation Spaces, Facilities and Programs”.
In addition to these two sites, be sure to review your city, county and state websites for any information specific to your geographic location – such as mandated closing/re-opening dates and any rules/regulations you will have to meet/follow in order to be compliant.
We look forward to the time when all of us can safely play on playgrounds again. Understandably, playground purchases may have been put on hold. However, designing and planning for a new playground can sometimes take anywhere from several weeks to several months. Now is the time to consider an upgrade to your current playground equipment, or if you have thought about putting a new one together. Contact us now to begin the design process to Planet Friendly Fun!
Church attendance numbers in America are declining. According to Pew Research and Gallop Polls, it has been declining for several decades. This is particularly true for mid-size churches.
A recent study noted that from the period 1994-2004, while the smallest churches (attendance 1-49) and the largest (2,000 plus attendees) experienced membership growth; mid-sized churches experienced a decrease in weekly attendance and new membership numbers.
Shawn McMullen, author of Unleashing the Potential of the Smaller Church, suggests smaller churches cultivate an intimacy not easily found in larger churches. “In an age when human interaction is being supplanted by modern technology, many younger families are looking for a church that offers community, closeness and intergenerational relationships,” he says.
How can mid-sized churches create a sense of community and closeness comparable to what small churches provide? Will this help them to grow – curtailing the trend of declining membership?
One pathway to membership growth is outreach to young families – and especially the children of young families. When a church provides children with a space where they feel welcome and can enjoy themselves, their parents will feel welcome, too.
CASE STUDY: SCOTTSVILLE BAPTIST CHURCH
Scottsville Baptist Church (Scottsville, KY) has been serving the community for 178 years. Despite this longevity, the church leadership decided to remain diligent to reach families and a younger population while also serving the existing church members with children.
As part of this strategy, it was decided to remodel a wing of the building for a Children’s Ministry and to add a very visible playground area to the front of the church — adjacent to the new Children’s Ministry wing. The visibility of the playground serves as a beacon to the community that young people are welcome, and Scottsville Baptist Church is focused on growth and its future. The new playground is open to all pre-school and elementary-age children during church hours.
“I feel that our playground is and will be an outreach to our community. Our church loves children and we long to see the church (and the Children’s Ministry) grow. I view the playground as an example of our love for children. We want them to have a fun experience while here learning and growing in the word of God and connecting with our leaders and helpers,” says Kori Thomas, Children’s Ministry Director.
The turnaround time for the playground project was rather quick – from inception to installation in less than a year, including fundraising. The church focused on a six- month giving campaign to raise funds for the playground. One of the favorite features of the campaign was a cutout of the pastor climbing a ladder where the pastor moved up a rung when certain milestones were met. Keeping progress toward the final fundraising goal in front of everyone helped keep momentum going. Providing church members with a visual of what the funds would be used for also helped. This was accomplished using 3D renderings and composite images supplied by EcoPlay Structures Inc., the playground vendor the church chose to work with.
DURABILITY AND LOW MAINTENANCE
One reason EcoPlay Structures was chosen is because their playground structures are made of an extremely durable plastic lumber that is highly competitive with the strength and cost of steel – yet EcoPlay® lumber will never rust. It is virtually maintenance free as it will never need painting, treating or sealing. Made from clean, post-consumer, recycled HDPE plastics (such as milk jugs), EcoPlay will never rot, splinter, crack, swell, or degrade in any way. With the occasional pressure washing, it will look and perform great for decades.
After meeting with an EcoPlay Commercial Playground Consultant and discussing the parameters of the playground project – including age groups, number of children expected to use the equipment, desired play elements to be include/excluded, available space in the proposed playground site, anticipated budget, and project timeline – a proposal was created offering two custom-designed play structures that met the churches criteria (one for ages 2-5, and the other for ages 5-12). After review, some minor changes were requested, and final designs were approved. (EcoPlay Structures are custom-designed to meet a client’s specific requirements, however pre-designed playgrounds are also available and can be searched online.)
At this point, 3D renderings and composite drawings were created (showing the structures as they would appear when installed in front of the church) and fundraising activities surged. Once funding goals were reached, colors approved, and contracts signed, it took approximately 8 weeks for the equipment to be manufactured and for installation to begin.
INSTALLATION OF EQUIPMENT
Installation of the two structures took only 2 days. Check out this time lapse video of the installation.
EcoPlay Structures installations are quick and efficient because decks and other components are pre-assembled at the manufacturing plant in Marietta, GA, before shipping. This process also ensures a high-quality product – as all assemblers and installers are CPSI certified.
After allowing concrete footings to cure for several days, mulch was spread to the proper depth, caution tape was removed, and the playground was open for families to enjoy Planet Friendly Fun on Easter Sunday.
The two play structures installed at Scottsville Baptist Church kept 2,400 pounds of plastic (approximately 17,516 milk jugs) from going to landfills or being tossed into our waterways and oceans. If placed in a room, these milk jugs would fill a room measuring 21-feet by 21-feet with an 8-foot ceiling.
In addition to being good for the environment, EcoPlay lumber comes with a 50-year warranty. Being good stewards of the Earth and of congregants’ money is always good practice. Choosing EcoPlay Structures allowed the church to do both.
Already, Scottsville Baptist Church has noticed an increase in weekly attendance. Time alone will tell if the increased commitment to families and children will result in increased membership. In the meantime, the families and children of Scottsville Baptist Church are enjoying their new playground – and will continue to do so for decades to come.
This article originally appeared in Religious Product News magazine.
So, you plan to take your children to the playground to burn some of that energy off, right? Well, the great news is that a playground from EcoPlay Structures provides so much more benefit to your children’s health than just running around and swinging from the overhead climbers. There are a multitude of essential life, leadership, and developmental skills children learn on the playground while they’re engaged in Planet Friendly Fun.
1. Flexible Thinking
Playing on the playground helps teach flexible thinking skills. For instance, learning to pivot in a new direction when planning to go to a certain slide and then realizing there are 5 kids waiting to go down the same slide. It’s crucial to their early development to recognize and understand roadblocks and how to approach things differently, take an alternate path, or come back to it later.
2. Conflict Navigation
Teaching kids how to navigate confrontation and express their emotions, whether someone cuts in front of them on the way to the clatter bridge or says something mean, is an essential early social skill. It promotes problem-solving, asking questions, and educates them about adversity.
3. Safety First
Playground play is a great way to teach children about the importance of safety. From not going on a structure that is meant for older children to not wearing jewelry or very loose clothing, it’s a valuable time to have those conversations.
4. Early Cognitive Skills
EcoPlay Structures Play Panels teach children Forms and Shapes, Spatial Orientation, Depth and Size, recognizing themselves in mirrors for the very little ones and much more. They are the perfect complement to what children are learning at home and school, plus they are tons of fun!
5. How to Play Alone
Sometimes you visit the playground with your child early in the morning and you’re the only ones there. That’s a great thing! It is important for children to have unstructured play and to learn how to entertain themselves without always have a parent/teacher/friend/sibling around to interact with.
6. About the Earth
With EcoPlay Structures, you can include a lesson about the importance of using eco-friendly materials and doing your part to keep our planet clean. Take the time to talk about how EcoPlay play structures are made from clean, recycled HDPE plastics (such as milk jugs); then, look for craft projects using recycled milk jugs to keep the learning going!
7. Physical Strength & Coordination
The more children play, the stronger they become! Brachiating is when children swing from one arm to the next, i.e. on the overhead climbers. It has a ton of benefits, from improving depth perception to increasing flexibility and endurance. As children get stronger, their coordination improves, and they can do things faster. Their confidence grows, and they recognize how much they are growing while on the playground.
8. How to make friends!
Perhaps the best lesson of all. Children learn to find things in common with others, go out of their comfort zones and introduce themselves, and build their social skills when interacting with others. It also helps build confidence each time they have a positive interaction, and resilience when they have a negative one.
National CleanUp Day is an annual event that takes place the third Saturday of September and is dedicated to encouraging everyone to commit to picking up even one piece of trash in their local community. This year’s event falls on September 21st, and it’s a wonderful day to teach children about the importance of their contributions in keeping the world around them beautiful.
The organization features several ways to participate, from creating your own event to joining one that has already been established. We’ve compiled simple ideas for National CleanUp Day contribution from the beach to the mountains along with ways you can implement positive daily civic-minded habits throughout the year.
7 Tips for National Cleanup Day Participation
Cleaning Up Starts at Home
Parents and teachers of little ones have probably sung the “clean up, clean up, everybody clean up” song hundreds of times. Teaching children at the youngest possible age to pick up after themselves whether it is toys at school, putting their plate in the sink, or throwing out their trash helps instill positive habits from the beginning.
Cleaning Up On-the-Go
Whenever kids visit a local playground, beach on vacation, or go for a hike, bring an extra bag with you whenever feasible so you can pick up lost water bottle caps, wrappers, and toys you discover along the way. It’s helpful to reinforce why it is so crucial by teaching children about how animals and the Earth are negatively impacted by the trash left behind.
Other Good Habits
Extend the Earth love long after National CleanUp Day by leading by example and teaching children about the importance of recycling, reducing plastic consumption (we’re looking at you, plastic water bottles), joining local chapters of organizations such as Keep America Beautiful, supporting businesses committed to utilizing eco-friendly materials, and finding other ways to give back.
For additional resources on ways to give back, live an eco-friendlier lifestyle, and embrace Planet Friendly Fun, be sure to follow our social media pages and check back on the blog frequently.
Happy National CleanUp Day!
So, you’re finally ready to take the plunge and get a new playground for your church, apartment complex, or neighborhood. Congrats! Now what? There’s a lot that goes into replacing an outdated playground with a new, eco-friendly set. A lot has changed in the playground industry since your current one was installed. As you begin the process of choosing the right playground for your needs, here are some things to think about.
What material do you want?
There are many options on the market today, but not all of them are equal. While wooden playgrounds were the rage a while back, today’s commercial playgrounds are made with much more durable, safe, and eye-catching material, such as EcoPlay® lumber. Did you know EcoPlay® lumber has a warranty of up to 50 years! When compared to wood, the cost savings you’ll incur throughout those five decades are enormous. Before choosing the material for your next playground, check out what makes EcoPlay® lumber so durable.
Who is using the playground?
Take some time to think about who will use the playground the most, and what their needs will be. Will children with special needs use the playground? Will your playground be used by a lot of kids at once, or will it be for a smaller group? You can’t predict the future, but you can take some time to think about who will use your new playground and then cater the design and location to the children and their needs.
What amenities would you like to compliment your playground?
Slides, overhead bars, and climbing walls get the kids excited, but there’s more to a well-planned playground than that. What about park benches? Trash receptacles? Picnic tables? Make sure to ask about what playground amenities are available from your playground manufacturer. At EcoPlay Structures, we offer many functional amenities that match the look and feel of our playgrounds. You can find the full list here.
Do you want your playground to stand out?
Many playgrounds look the same — which is not necessarily a bad thing — but that doesn’t mean yours has to. Do you want to have something more… special? How about a playground specifically designed with a custom sign that incorporates your church or HOA’s logo? Have you considered multiple slides with different shapes to them? Be sure to ask your playground manufacturer how they can personalize the playground to meet the needs of the children. There are many cookie-cutter playgrounds, but not everyone wants that. EcoPlay Structures has an in-house design team ready to help create the perfect playground for you.
There’s a lot to think about before taking the plunge on purchasing a new playground. It can feel overwhelming at times. The good news is we’re here to help. The EcoPlay Structures team has decades of experience designing and manufacturing eco-friendly, long-lasting playgrounds. Contact us today and we’ll walk through your needs and discuss how we can help deliver Planet Friendly Fun to your neighborhood or organization.
The summer fun season is about as good as it gets for our children. School is out, the sun is shining, and the days are long. For many parents, however, the “days are long” part of the summer is what sticks out the most. Trying to find fun, affordable, and safe activities for our children in the hours they’re normally in school can be a challenge. Camps are great, sure, but they can be expensive and getting kids to and from the drop-off and pick-up spots can be stressful.
We wanted to help out our fellow parents and guardians and showcase some cool — and perhaps unique — ways of using a playground to take summer to the next level. Of course, you can always simply take kids to the playground. Who doesn’t love that? But we wanted to help change things up a bit in order to keep children on their toes. Below you’ll find a list of some fun activities to hopefully take summer at the playground to the next level. If you have any ideas that we missed, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line or find us on Facebook or Twitter. We’d love to hear your ideas!
Picnic at the Playground
Who doesn’t love a summer picnic? This is a classic example of summer fun, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remind people of how great they can be. Get your kids in on the action and let them pack their own lunches, snacks, and maybe even a treat or two. This allows the children to feel engaged with the activity, but it also ensures you’ll avoid the dreaded cry of, “I’m hungry!” soon after settling in at the playground.
Create an Adventure Course
Have you ever seen American Ninja Warrior? It’s essentially a playground for adults, that requires the competitors to go through an obstacle course of sorts. While you’ll have to tone down what you do for your kids, this is a fun way of making the playground even more exciting. This is a good example of using an existing playground and turning it into a course for kids.
Hold a Scavenger Hunt
Growing up and taking part in neighborhood scavenger hunts was always one of our favorite summer activities. While some scavenger hunts can span large spaces, you can use your neighborhood playground as a central hub for yours. Choose 10 items that you can either readily find near the playground or items you bring to the playground — think pinecones or a local flower or leaf from certain trees — and have your children and their friends team up to find them.
Organize a Playground Cleanup
Okay, so this will be slightly less “fun” than a cool scavenger hunt or an awesome obstacle course, but this could go a long way to teaching the children in your neighborhood about the importance of cleaning the local environment. To incentivize participation, come up with goals for individuals and the group as a whole. Who can clean up the most? Who can spread the most mulch or remove the most pinecones? If you can tie in aspects of gamification to keeping your neighborhood or church playground clean, it will go a long way to ensuring it stays that way.
Obviously, you’ll need a super sweet playground to be able to take advantages of these summer fun activities. If your neighborhood or church playground is out of date or in need of replacement, EcoPlay Structures is here to help. By harnessing the power of EcoPlay® Lumber we’re able to create customized playgrounds that are built to last. Our EcoPlay Lumber is guaranteed for 50 years! Contact us today to learn more about what makes EcoPlay Structures some of the best playgrounds on the market.
Are you planning a new playground for your community? Congratulations! Here at EcoPlay Structures, play is our business, so we spend all day thinking about how to make playgrounds more fun and functional. Here are several factors we recommend considering as you plan your new playground.
Playgrounds are typically designed for two main age groups: 2-5-year-olds and 5-12-year-olds, often with one structure for all of those children to enjoy. This can be tough on the two-year-olds toddling around and dull for the 12-year-olds looking to run and play around them. Consider creating separate structures that allow the two groups to play side by side, but independently. Designing different spaces and structures for both can better meet their play needs: children under five typically aren’t ready for overheads because their upper-body strength hasn’t developed yet, but children over five love to hang from overheads and climb ladders and loops. A 12-year-old will enjoy a 6-foot slide, but this may feel a little daunting to a three-year-old. Meet the children where they are as you design your structures.
Will your playground traffic primarily be moms with strollers and toddlers throughout the day or lots of kids after school – or both? Each requires something different for designing your structures as well as understanding when it will be busiest. Is the planned playground location close to the pool or in a common area? If so, is the pool area secure so little ones can’t wander in unsupervised? Will there be a basketball court? Now’s the time to look at the placement of not only the playground itself but also the surroundings so you won’t have to worry later about wobbly toddlers getting knocked down or caught up in a lost ball.
Parents, grandparents, and caregivers will want to be able to see their children at all times, so it’s vital to ensure an unobstructed view of the playground structures and spaces. This includes trees and landscaping as well as other playground equipment like playhouses that can limit the view and access to children at play. Moms and dads might find solid crawl tubes – though fun – are tough to see into no matter how good their vantage point. Crawl tubes come with an added risk factor of older kids using them at night to smoke or drink out of sight.
Engineered wood fiber mulch playground surfacing may offer the lowest cost at the time of purchase, but it requires the most maintenance. As part of your playground investment, consider maintenance and replacement costs for the surface. We recommend bonded rubber mulch or a poured-in-place rubber as cost-effective, long-lasting, safe, and durable playground surface options.
Recycled plastic lumber isn’t painted; there’s no chipping paint or regular painting required, unlike a steel playground. Unlike a wood playground, no splinters are hiding in HDPE lumber. Remember “normal” wear and tear to a 7-year-old is a little bit different than it is to an adult so you may want to factor in additional maintenance times to extend the life of your equipment. It will need to stand up to regular, demanding use including being hit by kicking feet, baseball bats and soccer balls. We’ve seen it all.
Everyone has a budget. Be open and honest with your playground consultant. If your wants add up to $75,000 playground, but you have a $35,000 budget, their creativity can help you find ways to make it work if you are upfront and realistic. This partnership is all about communication. Spiral slides are eye-catching but also costlier than straight slides. If your budget needs shaving to meet the bottom line, adjusting components can keep your spending on target and still deliver a fun playground.
Talk with your consultant so they can design based on the area, age groups, number of kids you expect to use the equipment and your budget. Some elements will require a lot of space. For instance, a typical swing set needs a use zone of 32’ to allow for full, safe usage of the swings and the protection of the kids playing around them. Playground consultants are aware of all of these factors and can help you each step of the way.
Members of the planning committee should communicate early and often about your new playground plans to distinguish among your must-haves, won’t-haves and wish list. Once you are all on the same page, designating a single point of contact for your group that can speak with your consultant can save headaches later. This person should be a decision-maker and able to communicate the group’s ideas, hopes, and plans plus any changes to them. Consultants are happy to make presentations at HOA meetings and can be there to answer questions at the moment they arise – even by Skype.
There are new playground designs every year that could be obsolete in five years. Right now, must-haves are climbers, slides, and areas that challenge the kids; play panels are becoming less popular. Crawl tubes and playhouses have mostly fallen out of favor. Instead of trends, think about longevity because the best playground equipment can last you up to 50 years. Creating a play area with the same colors and tones as your neighborhood is an option, but remember kids love bright, bold colors. Benches for parents are a must with good lines of sight. So are plenty of trash receptacles (kept clean and maintained).
Kids want to run, play, and imagine in a variety of play spaces so themes can be helpful, but not necessary. It’s far more important to give flexibility for all ages and play styles by offering both active and quiet areas – and don’t forget about providing some shaded areas. Make sure the equipment is durable enough to withstand the environment the playground is in and the children who will play on it.
Proper installation of all playground equipment and safety surfacing is paramount: EcoPlay Structures has partnerships with certified installers all over the US, so we can deliver beautiful playgrounds that are safe, age-appropriate, and ready for decades of planet-friendly fun.
For more than 25 years, EcoPlay Structures has been custom-designing, manufacturing and installing eco-friendly commercial playground equipment and site amenities. We provide low-maintenance, custom-designed structures for churches, schools, daycare centers, homeowner associations, and military bases. EcoPlay Structures’ environmentally-friendly materials are designed for commercial use. They are also visually appealing structures that help create a fun, family atmosphere. If you’re ready to find out more, please contact our play professionals today!
Of all the factors you must consider when planning a playground, one of the most important is what materials are used in the playground’s structural components. There are only three basic options to consider for commercial playgrounds: steel, wood, and plastic.
Even with regular (and costly!) maintenance, steel playground components will rust and need replacement within 10 to 15 years. Owners of wooden playgrounds face even more problems—especially mold, rot, and frequent sealing or staining, not to mention the hazards splinters pose for children. Plastic components can be either the solution or another set of problems, depending on the type of plastics and processes used in manufacturing. Here’s what you need to know:
EcoPlay Structures’ plastic lumber is based on a proprietary formula and is molded piece by piece. Unlike other HDPE, fiber-reinforced composite, and composite plastics used to make playground equipment, our plastic lumber combines two attributes that result in extraordinary strength and durability:
Thanks to our proprietary material and processes, EcoPlay Structures stands behind the commercial playground structures we manufacture with a 50-year warranty on the EcoPlay® lumber. Interested in learning more? Please contact us today!
For those who yearn for a clean, sustainable environment—like EcoPlay Structures—Earth Day is the perfect time to educate the kid in all of us on the benefits of a healthy environment and how we can take care of mother earth.
April 22nd marks the 49th time we’ll celebrate Earth Day in America, with the first coming in 1970. The annual celebration was spearheaded by Gaylord Nelson, a U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who, after visiting the site of a major oil spill in California in 1969, came up with the idea of a national day to honor — and protect — our planet.
The first ever Earth Day saw 20 million Americans come out to parks and other public gathering areas to promote a healthy, sustainable environment. Today, Earth Day is observed around the globe, with world leaders holding special events to promote the cause.
Now, we all can’t attend fancy events put on by world leaders, but we can do our part at home or in our schools to promote sustainable, healthy practices. We wanted to share some fun activities for the whole family — or classroom — that are easy to do, fun, and educational.
We all have a part to play in keeping the environment healthy and strong, and this Earth Day activity is a first step in educating children on how they can help. For this activity you’ll need the following items:
Once you’ve gotten all of your pieces, all you have to do is cut out the labels from page 3 of the Earth Day recycling activity and tape one of them to the front of each bin. Next, have children put various pieces of garbage onto their paper plate Earth crafts (or pictures of Earth) and explain to them that what we throw away typically stays on our planet for a long time. After the short “lesson,” have the children take the garbage off of the plates and sort them into the specific bins.
Afterward, we encourage you to visit your local playground or park and put what you’ve learned into action! By working together to help clean up garbage left behind at a favorite community playground, your children will learn the importance of both volunteering their time and protecting the environment.
Did you know EcoPlay Lumber® is made from 100% post-consumer recycled HDPE; like milk jugs, food containers and soap bottles recycled? It’s true! Our lumber material also has a 50-year warranty. While we think making our structures out of recycled milk jugs is pretty cool, that’s not the only thing you can do with them. You can also REUSE your milk jugs at home in a variety of ways.
Check out this fun milk jug planter project, which can be done with the following items:
All you need to do is follow three simple steps. First, wash the jugs and cut them in half, just below the handle. Second, pile your rocks — these can be found in most yards for free — in the bottom of the jug, about an inch deep, and add soil to cover the top of the rocks. Lastly, sprinkle the seeds onto the dirt, water, and place outside in the sun.
As another fun Earth Day activity, we’ve created this free printable color sheet just for you! We’d love to see your finished artwork. Please share photos with us using #EcoPlayEarthDay.
For more than 20 years, EcoPlay has been used to construct commercial playground equipment which cultivates #PlanetFriendlyFun. The footprint we leave in the planet is important to us, which is why we produce a quality product that lasts for decades with materials that would have otherwise been buried in a landfill. We hope you have a wonderful Earth Day, and you can take time to reflect on what it means to have a healthy environment. And please don’t hesitate to contact us today if you are interested in learning more about our products.
A neighborhood playground’s cost is more than what you pay the supplier. That’s the acquisition cost, which isn’t the best gauge for evaluating playground costs when reviewing proposals from competing bidders.
When you evaluate commercial playground vendor proposals, you’ll want to calculate the cost of ownership over the long term, perhaps 30 years. Let’s say you are evaluating two proposals: a steel playground and one built from EcoPlay Structures’ plastic lumber.
Here’s our simplified, four-step approach for comparing the cost of ownership of playgrounds. To focus just on equipment costs, we’re not including landscaping, fencing, or the cost of ground cover materials, such as pea gravel or rubber mulch.
Check out this real-world example where the initial investment in the EcoPlay Structures equipment was higher than steel. After 30 years, however, EcoPlay generated savings of 47% over the steel playground!
So, when it’s time to build a playground, talk to one of our playground specialists. We’ll help you design an age-appropriate playground to suit your space and your budget.