IoG Saltex Preview - Playing safe

Play equipment needs to be safe but stimulating. How can the two be combined? Maureen Keepin looks at what's on show.

See the 'Boulder' at Saltex 08 - photo: Playground Facilities
See the 'Boulder' at Saltex 08 - photo: Playground Facilities

Play equipment design is a major issue and those who provide the equipment are keen to provide items that are challenging and suitably scaled but, at the same time, offer a calculated risk to those using it.

Reporting on current trends within the industry, Record RSS sales director Douglas Belfield says: "I think this is an exciting time for playgrounds. Older children are looking for something fun that they can do with their friends. They are expecting something more from their play areas and we have found an expanding thirst for a small element of risk to be included. This can be provided through a higher climbing item, or a different or faster movement."

Celebrating its 40th birthday at the show, this play and leisure company will launch products designed to provide dynamic and fun play value to make playgrounds more appealing to children of all ages. On display will be Typhoon, described as "an exhilarating new ride for up to three children at once that promises a unique feeling as it combines spinning and flying".

Playworld Systems Europe is gearing up to introduce a series of products, including Neos All Around, the latest addition to its outdoor electronic gaming range, aimed at those with smaller budgets. Players stand in the middle of a circular structure on which electronic light buttons and the scoreboard are mounted, so that play wraps all the way around.

Visitors tempted to have a trial run at the show can enter the "highest score competition", with the opportunity of winning an MP3 player. Spring Riders will also feature at the show. They have been taken to another level and are now bursting with interactive sounds; sensing movement, they respond with sounds based on their characters, from cows and horses to bees and cars.

Creating a developing range of play products, Inclusive Play (UK) is focusing on stimulating senses, manual dexterity and encouraging children of all abilities to play together. Cyclops is the latest product under development and will be featured at the show. Each item of equipment has been designed after feedback from specialists such as Barnardos and Capability Scotland, together with carers and children. The range includes Exosphere, which provides a circular panel with central games on each side that are independently interchangeable. Designed to engage users through dynamic movement, science and problem solving, the company says that the unit can be updated easily.

Following a keen interest in climbing structures, Playground Facilities will show its 3.5m-long by 2.7m-high Climbing Boulder. This provides an innovative climbing test that is suitable for unsupervised outdoor play. It comes complete with 130 hand holds that can be reconfigured to continue to present a challenge to the climber. And a drink and "rock" cake are being offered to visitors to the stand.

This year, with the natural play debate continuing, HAGS demonstrates how to incorporate natural elements into the harsh reality of challenging urban environments. Giant climbing rocks are now combined with third-generation Agito and robust UniPlay systems to create endless play opportunities. Its classic steel UniMini range suits the toughest budgets and has been given a brand new look and new functions. And sure to take centre stage in any open space and make an impact is a climbable stone dragon sculpture from the company.

Once again, SMP Playgrounds is unveiling a line-up of products, including a selection of new designs for children of all ages. Zingo, for those aged two to seven, is a range of brightly coloured equipment that promotes child development and encourages children to think for themselves. Also on show is the long-awaited expansion of the Nexus range for seven- to 14-year-olds, an age range where challenge, excitement and stimulation is a key part of enjoyment. The Nexus range is designed to channel and encourage the abundant energy of older children.

GL Jones Playgrounds is introducing the improved D009 Ability Whirl from the company's flagship Ability Range. The spacious design, brought about by the re-alignment of the grab rails, is intended to allow extra room for two wheelchair users. Both the roundabouts in the Ability Range now feature a cradle seat and a flat seat as standard, so toddlers can join in the fun. Also on show is the Ability Swing, with a locking system to stop unauthorised use.

Pupil power has been harnessed for the creation of the new Tropical Breeze roundabout from Wicksteed Playscapes. Devised and designed by children from Brambleside Primary School, once the show is over it will be installed in its playground. Two additional roundabouts will also be featured. The Triple Spinner offers two spinners that rotate separately while the main roundabout is circling and the Kick-About Spinner is a self-propelling roundabout which helps children to exercise and strengthen their leg muscles. And no matter how old you are, Wicksteed will be on hand to encourage everyone to keep fit and healthy with its Xerscape range of units.

Play providers will no doubt be interested in standards, so the company will use the show to link with the Play Inspection Company to give regular educational seminars on the revisions to the European Safety Standards for playground equipment and surfacing. It will also look at multi-sports and roller sports equipment.

Offering a daily prize draw at the exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to win a significant piece of Wicksteed equipment for their local school, local authority or charity.

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