Slides really mattered to me as a child. When I visited a playground, testing out the slide was always par for the course. A good slide was sublime. A poor slide affected my perception of the whole play park.
Factors which affected my judgement included:
- Length of the slide: the steeper and longer the better.
- The ending: ones which slowly ground the slider to a halt were a bit disappointing. The ones which threw you off and made you work on your landing were the best!
- The climb-ability factor: Every child knows that all slides are meant to be climbed up as well as slid down. The best slides were really tricky to climb up.
- The slip factor: Slides need to be slippery. Slow slides are the pits. How a slide fares during wet weather matters too. Bonus points for any slide which becomes more slippery if wet.
Over the years I’ve noticed changes in slides. These days, most slides are much smaller than in my childhood. Sadly I think this reduces the “woah” factor. That’s the sound you make when you realise a slide is steeper, faster or longer than you anticipated it to be.
One exception to this, is the slide at Broadford Primary School and Nursery. The head teacher visited an early years setting who had really considered risky play and decided that children needed more physical challenge in his early years classes. The structure is built just below the height required for planning permission.
The other reason I loved this slide was the wider structure which houses it. There’s no steps to get up. So a child has to learn how to climb up the wall to reach the platform. Then the decision has to be made – should they climb or slide down? Imagine the sense of achievement experienced. The platform has a marvellous view. The roof is tall enough to allow adults to stand up. So they can have fun there too! Now look below. Those are scaffolding planks covering the sandpit. So this ‘cover’ becomes a play part in its own right.
Another noticeable difference is that public playgrounds now have a safety bar at the top – ideal for launching oneself even harder down the slide. Or for the more gymnastic, adding in a somersault.
More often than not, slides are now part of a climbing structure rather than standalone features. This is great for games of tag or chasing each other as suddenly slides are part of the escape routes – up or down!
The underside of a slide has play value too. Firstly it is a place to climb up as well, depending upon the construction of a slide. The other aspect is that the slides themselves become creators of space. Underneath the slide is a place for a den or to hide, out of sight of an adult.
Dark tunnel slides have become fashionable. In my day, helter skelter slides were considered fairground attractions and very glamorous. Sadly hessian sacks seem no longer to be a big thing. But they do increase the speed at which you slide and can stop the burn on a hot day.
Very often slides come in pairs so that children can go down together or race each other. The cooperative physical play is much more fun.
Perhaps the most unusual slide I’ve seen this year was in a pre-school centre in Brisbane. The material used for the slide is a rubber mat. I didn’t get to see any child use it but my curiosity has been piqued.
Finally, I have to flag up the lovely entrance to Highway Farm for the children arriving for the after school club. The gate is opened and the children slide right in! Now that’s the right sort of entrance.
All-in-all, I’m sure slides will never go out of fashion. They may change size, shape and length but they will hopefully remain a core part of any playground. What do you think?