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Embracing Risk by Playing with Slope

Updated: Jun 6

Slope - It’s a builder’s frustration, it’s a landscaper’s nightmare, it’s this playground suppliers delight!

Have you ever noticed that most places we take children to play, a park or their school grounds, is generally flat? Equipment is level: stairs up to a level deck and sliding down to a level exit. We play at different levels but everything is on a standard plane of…flat. The site is 180 degrees, the posts are on 90-degree angles, decks, slides, monkey bars….it all repeats. It is a dream for construction – but we don’t live in a flat world.

We venture into the wilderness to enjoy nature at its finest, to hike and play outdoors. We embrace and encourage play on slopes: sliding down to a creek bed to search for rocks and bugs, climbing a stump to see farther, swinging on rope swings tied to tree branches, and scrambling up to an overlook. In the winter we find hills to slide in the snow (or summer ice blocking!?!) and the bumps are everyone’s favorite part!

What changed?

Are we afraid of risk?

It has only been in the past few years that larger parks have started to add some dimensionality to their playground surfaces – creating mounds built into the site, or

Embankment Slide at Oquirrh Park

crafting embankment slides to use as a slope. We have watched sites get flattened to then build elevation (insert head scratch here?). Even shade trees are not immune from the site flattening efforts.

Slope gives children’s bodies different movements, it creates strength, it teaches spatial awareness, and it allows a level of risk that we seem to be ok with in nature but not on a typical playground. We have often wondered if we prefer no risk in playgrounds because as parents we’re often sitting on the sidelines, just watching.

We have crafted a couple amazing projects in Utah with slope thanks to our partners at Berliner. It’s not an easy process or a fast one – you will need to have a lot of detail to decide what pieces work and where components need to be enclosed – but the delighted squeals and laughter of movement along bridges, tunnels, and towers makes for an amazing adventure. It also (in the typical Berliner way) makes each play area filled with parents and grandparents who feel invited to play and who can enjoy the risk and reward with everyone else.

We have the ability to work around trees (maintaining natural shade in the playground),

while still working our way up or down a hillside. We can maneuver around boulders, span a drop-off or water feature, enclose a tunnel bridge when the elevation is a bit too high for safety surfacing, and yet we can still provide a way to play that is not normally seen on a traditional playground. Contour lines on your site plans should be viewed as fun instead of trying to craft retaining walls with flat areas to play. Put your budget into equipment instead of hardscape – and watch the reactions!

The next time you are looking at a project with slope – give us a call. We will show you all the ways we can add play in your design so families see the next generation of playgrounds in your communities with as much anticipation as your local hiking trail!

To see more amazing projects and ideas for your future project click PDF below!

Breathtaking Pla(y)ces
Download PDF • 33.87MB

For more info please reach out to your Creative Play Designer.

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