"Continuous play” for playgrounds was created by Steve King in 1967, as his final thesis project at Iowa State University. Continuous play describes playground play events that are attached to one another, or provide a continuous play experience for children. With continuous play, children can move from play event to play event without touching the ground. This new type of playground design saved space while encouraging independent decision-making and interaction among kids—an important ingredient in children's development. In 1971, Steve and his wife, Barb, founded Landscape Structures.
Continuous play playgrounds can be constructed from a wide variety of materials. For residential applications, wood is quite popular. For commercial playgrounds, steel or aluminum posts, rotomolded plastic and other heavy-duty materials are utilized. These playgrounds are designed to last for many years of use.
Unlike the previous generation of playground equipment or freestanding play components which consisted of detached slides, swings, monkey bars, spinners and climbers, this new type of continuous-play philosophy changed the way playgrounds were designed and constructed. Now, nearly all modern playgrounds utilize this continuous play style. It provides a more creative, active and interesting play experience for children.
Continuous play concepts are used in the design of play structures or playgrounds for children ages 2 to 12+, and these play structures often include connected slides, swings, play panels, climbers, overhead play events and other play equipment. Continuous play playgrounds can vary from two connected play events to dozens of play events or more. They can include varying elevations and offer varying sizes, depending on the site.
Playgrounds also often include wheelchair ramps and accessible play components which allow children utilizing wheelchairs to join in the fun. These are called inclusive playgrounds. There are many types of play events that are specially designed for children with mobility issues, including play panels, often called reach panels, racing areas with appropriate surfacing, and adaptive play events.
When utilizing continuous play-type playgrounds, children of all abilities develop social skills by learning how to take turns and enjoy spontaneous, unscripted play experiences which expand their creative skills.
Continuous play playgrounds can be found worldwide in a wide variety of settings. These include school playgrounds, city, state and neighborhood parks, private locations (i.e. fast food restaurants), churches, daycare centers, even building roofs, parking structures, theme parks and more. Playgrounds that utilize the continuous play concept use safety surfacing under the playstructure in case of falls. This surfacing can be comprised of engineered wood mulch, pea gravel, solid rubber surfacing, shredded rubber or other surfaces. The depth of the safety surfacing depends on the type of playground events, as well as the height.
Some continuous play playgrounds are preconfigured, like our PlaySense® line. In other words, a buyer chooses an “off-the-shelf” design. At Landscape Structures, we also offer completely themed playground designs, both for the playground and the play equipment.
There are several institutions that issue safety guidelines for continuous play and other types of play equipment, especially in the United States. These include the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and the American National Standards Institute. A professional can become a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) through the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI), a designation that is nationally recognized.