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Our glossary is designed to equip you with the knowledge necessary to navigate industry terms. This invaluable resource will empower you with concise definitions and explanations of key terms, ensuring you stay informed and empowered in your plastic-related endeavours.

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Activity Panels:  Activity Panels are interactive and engaging elements found in playgrounds, designed to stimulate children’s cognitive, sensory, and motor skills. These panels can include various games, puzzles, mazes, and tactile experiences that encourage learning, problem-solving, and imaginative play. Activity panels not only add an educational aspect to playgrounds, but also provide opportunities for social interaction and cooperation among children.

ADAThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a comprehensive civil rights law passed in 1990 to protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in various aspects of life, including public spaces and facilities. In the context of playgrounds, ADA compliance ensures that playground equipment, surfacing, and overall design are accessible and usable by children with varying abilities. This includes providing ramps, transfer systems, and modified play structures that cater to children with mobility impairments, sensory challenges, and other special needs.

Age GroupIn the playground industry, age group refers to the specific age range for which a particular play area or piece of playground equipment is designed. There are typically three main age groups: toddlers (6-23 months), preschoolers (2-5 years), and school-age children (5-12 years). Each age group requires different levels of physical challenge, cognitive stimulation, and safety precautions, which are taken into consideration during the design and development of playground equipment and play spaces.

Age separationAge separation is the practice of designing and organizing playgrounds in such a way that play areas for different age groups are clearly distinguished and separated from one another. This helps to ensure that children interact with age-appropriate equipment and play experiences, reducing the risk of injury and enhancing overall safety. Age separation can be achieved through the strategic placement of equipment, the use of barriers or buffer zones, and clear signage indicating the intended age group for each play area.

All Inclusive PlaygroundAn All Inclusive Playground is a thoughtfully designed play space that aims to accommodate the needs of children with varying abilities and skill levels, fostering an environment where all children can play together. These playgrounds are built with accessibility, engagement, and safety in mind, incorporating elements such as wheelchair-friendly ramps and surfacing, sensory-rich play equipment, and adaptable swings. The goal of an All Inclusive Playground is to promote social inclusion, encourage empathy, and provide a fun and enriching experience for every child, regardless of their ability.


Cattle WatererA cattle waterer is a device used to provide livestock, such as cows, with a steady supply of fresh water. Cattle waterers are typically made from plastic and come in various shapes and sizes to accommodate different types of livestock. They are designed to be easy to use and require minimal maintenance.

ClimberA climber is a type of playground equipment designed to encourage children to use their physical strength, balance, and coordination to scale, traverse, or ascend various structures. Climbers come in many forms, including rock walls, rope ladders, vertical climbing nets, and dome-shaped climbing frames. By engaging in climbing activities, children develop gross motor skills, build confidence, and learn to navigate challenges and obstacles.

Composite StructureA composite structure refers to a large, multi-faceted playground equipment piece that combines various play elements into a single, interconnected unit. These structures often include slides, climbers, tunnels, bridges, and activity panels, offering children a diverse range of play experiences within one cohesive design. Composite structures are typically designed with specific age groups in mind, ensuring the appropriate level of challenge and safety for each target demographic.

CoordinationCoordination refers to the ability of children to control and synchronize their body movements to successfully engage in various play activities. Coordination is an essential developmental skill that involves the integration of fine and gross motor skills, balance, and spatial awareness. Playground equipment such as climbers, balance beams, and monkey bars help children develop and improve their coordination through repeated practice and play.

Creative PlaythingsCreative Playthings is a term that encompasses a wide range of playground equipment designed to inspire imaginative, open-ended play. These playthings include interactive elements that encourage children to create their own stories, scenarios, and adventures. Creative playthings foster cognitive, social, and emotional development by allowing children to explore their creativity, express themselves, and collaborate with others.

Critical HeightCritical height, also known as fall height, is a safety measure used in playground design to determine the maximum height from which a child could potentially fall onto the protective surfacing material without sustaining a life-threatening head injury. This measurement is crucial for selecting the appropriate playground surfacing material and ensuring that it meets safety standards for impact attenuation. Critical height varies depending on the type of equipment and surfacing material used.

Custom MoldingCustom molding, also known as rotational molding, is a manufacturing process used to produce large, hollow plastic components for playground equipment. This process involves heating a plastic resin within a mold, which is then rotated around two perpendicular axes, allowing the melted resin to evenly coat the interior surface of the mold. Once cooled and solidified, the finished product is removed from the mold. Custom rotational molding enables the creation of durable, seamless, and lightweight playground components in various shapes and sizes.

Custom Plastic PartsCustom plastic parts refer to specialized plastic components designed and manufactured specifically for a particular playground project or piece of equipment. These parts can include slides, tunnels, activity panels, and other unique accessories that enhance the overall play experience.

Custom PlaygroundA custom playground is a one-of-a-kind play space designed to meet the specific needs, preferences, and requirements of a particular community or client. Custom playgrounds often feature unique themes, color schemes, and equipment configurations that reflect the distinct character and identity of the location or organization. By collaborating with playground designers and manufacturers, clients can create a truly personalized and memorable play environment that caters to the diverse interests and abilities of its users.


Designated Play SurfaceA designated play surface is a specifically chosen area within a playground intended for children to engage in various play activities. These surfaces are typically made from impact-absorbing materials, such as rubber tiles, poured-in-place rubber, engineered wood fiber, or artificial turf, to provide a safe and comfortable space for play. Designated play surfaces are crucial for reducing the risk of injury from falls, enhancing accessibility, and promoting overall playground safety.

Directional AwarenessDirectional awareness is a cognitive skill that enables children to understand and interpret spatial relationships, including concepts such as up, down, left, right, forward, and backward. Developing directional awareness is essential for successfully navigating through playground equipment and engaging in various play activities. Playgrounds can help foster this skill by providing diverse opportunities for children to explore, climb, swing, and maneuver through different structures, thereby improving their spatial reasoning and body awareness.

Dramatic PlayDramatic play, also known as pretend play or imaginative play, refers to a type of unstructured play activity where children take on roles, act out scenarios, and use their creativity to make sense of the world around them. Engaging in dramatic play not only enhances cognitive and language development, but also fosters social skills, emotional intelligence, and empathy as children interact with their peers and express their feelings and ideas.


EntanglementEntanglement is a safety concern in playgrounds where a child’s clothing, jewelry, or body part becomes caught or entwined in a piece of playground equipment. This can result in injury, discomfort, or even strangulation. To minimize the risk of entanglement, playground equipment should be designed and maintained to eliminate potential hazards, such as open hooks, protruding bolts, or gaps that could catch drawstrings or fingers.

EntrapmentEntrapment is a playground safety issue that occurs when a child’s head or body becomes trapped in an opening or gap within a piece of playground equipment, leading to potential injury or asphyxiation. To prevent entrapment, playground designers adhere to strict guidelines and standards that define the allowable size and shape of openings in equipment, such as between railings, ladder rungs, or guardrails.

Exit RegionThe exit region refers to the area surrounding the point where a child leaves a piece of playground equipment, such as the bottom of a slide or the end of a horizontal ladder. Ensuring the safety of exit regions is crucial for preventing accidents and injuries, as children may lose their balance, collide with other children, or fall onto the ground upon exiting the equipment. To enhance safety in exit regions, adequate clearance should be provided, along with appropriate impact-absorbing surfacing materials and clear signage indicating potential hazards or areas where caution is needed.


Fall Height:  Fall height, also known as critical height, is a safety measurement used in playground design to determine the maximum height from which a child could potentially fall onto the protective surfacing material without sustaining a life-threatening head injury. This measurement is crucial for selecting the appropriate playground surfacing material and ensuring that it meets safety standards for impact attenuation. Fall height varies depending on the type of equipment and surfacing material used.

Fall Zone:  A fall zone, also known as a use zone, is the designated area surrounding a piece of playground equipment where a child might fall or land while playing. Fall zones are essential for maintaining a safe and injury-free play environment, as they help to minimize the risk of collisions and falls from height. To ensure adequate protection, fall zones should be clear of any obstacles or other equipment, and the ground should be covered with an appropriate impact-absorbing surfacing material, such as rubber tiles, engineered wood fiber, or artificial turf.

Fine Motor Skills:  Fine motor skills refer to the ability to control and coordinate small muscle movements, particularly those involving the hands, fingers, and wrists. Developing fine motor skills is crucial for children’s overall growth and development, as it enables them to perform tasks such as writing, drawing, buttoning clothes, and manipulating small objects. In the context of playgrounds, equipment like activity panels, puzzles, and manipulative toys can help children practice and improve their fine motor skills through engaging play experiences.

Footing:  Footing is the structural foundation or support system used to anchor playground equipment to the ground, ensuring stability and safety during play. Proper footing is essential for preventing equipment from tipping over, sinking, or shifting due to factors such as weather, soil conditions, or heavy use. Footing can be achieved through various methods, including concrete footings, metal anchors, or specialized mounting systems, depending on the type of equipment, site conditions, and local building codes.

Footprint:  In the playground industry, footprint refers to the total area occupied by a piece of playground equipment or an entire play space, including any required safety clearances and fall zones. The footprint is an important consideration during the planning and design stages of a playground project, as it helps to determine the layout, equipment selection, and overall capacity of the play area. By carefully assessing the available footprint, playground designers can ensure optimal use of space, accessibility, and safety for all users.


Gross Motor Skills:  Gross motor skills involve the use and coordination of large muscle groups to perform activities such as running, jumping, climbing, and balancing. Developing gross motor skills is essential for children’s overall growth, physical health, and independence, as it enables them to navigate their environment and engage in various types of play. Playground equipment, such as climbers, swings, slides, and balance beams, provides opportunities for children to practice and improve their gross motor skills through challenging and enjoyable physical activities.

Ground Level Play Component:  A ground level play component is a type of playground equipment that is installed at or near the surface of the ground, allowing children to access and interact with the play element without needing to climb or ascend to an elevated platform. These components are particularly important for inclusive playgrounds, as they provide accessible play opportunities for children of all abilities, including those with mobility impairments or other special needs.

Guardrail:  A guardrail is a protective barrier installed on playground equipment to prevent falls and ensure the safety of children while playing at elevated heights. Guardrails are typically found on platforms, ramps, bridges, and other raised surfaces where there is a risk of falling. To be effective, guardrails must meet specific height and spacing requirements set forth by playground safety standards and guidelines. Regular inspection and maintenance of guardrails are essential to ensure their structural integrity and functionality, keeping playgrounds safe and enjoyable for all users.


Imaginative Play:  Imaginative play, also known as pretend play or creative play, is a type of play in which children use their imagination to create scenarios, stories, and characters, often acting out roles and using props or toys to enhance the experience. This form of play fosters cognitive and social development, as well as problem-solving and language skills. Playground equipment that encourages imaginative play includes themed structures, playhouses, and imaginative play panels, which can help stimulate children’s creativity and encourage them to engage in collaborative and open-ended play experiences.

Impact Absorbing Surfacing (IAS):  Impact Absorbing Surfacing (IAS) refers to the materials used on playground surfaces to cushion falls and minimize the risk of injuries. IAS is a critical component of playground safety, as it helps protect children from potential harm caused by trips, slips, or falls from elevated equipment. Examples of IAS materials include rubber tiles, poured-in-place rubber surfacing, engineered wood fiber, and artificial turf. The selection of appropriate IAS depends on factors such as fall height, accessibility requirements, and budget considerations.

Inclusive playground:  An inclusive playground is a play environment designed to be accessible, engaging, and enjoyable for children of all abilities, including those with physical, sensory, or cognitive disabilities. Inclusive playgrounds prioritize universal design principles, ensuring that equipment, surfacing, and layout are suitable for diverse user needs, allowing all children to participate fully in play experiences. Key features of inclusive playgrounds may include ramp access to elevated structures, ground-level play components, sensory play elements, and accessible surfacing materials.

Independent Play Systems:  Independent Play Systems refer to standalone playground equipment pieces that are not connected to larger composite play structures. These systems provide opportunities for various types of play activities while catering to different age groups and abilities. Examples of independent play systems include swings, seesaws, spring riders, and free-standing climbers. Independent play systems can be an effective way to diversify a playground’s offerings, accommodate limited space, or supplement existing play structures.

Indoor Play Area:  An indoor play area is a designated space within a building or facility that provides a safe and controlled environment for children to engage in play activities. Indoor play areas are commonly found in shopping centers, restaurants, childcare centers, and recreational facilities. They offer a range of play equipment, such as soft play structures, ball pits, climbing walls, and interactive panels, designed to be suitable for indoor environments and provide engaging experiences for children regardless of weather conditions.

Indoor Playground:  An indoor playground is a fully enclosed play environment designed for children to explore, socialize, and engage in physical activities within a protected indoor space. Indoor playgrounds typically feature a variety of equipment, including climbing structures, slides, tunnels, trampolines, and imaginative play elements, all designed to meet safety standards specific to indoor use. These playgrounds offer year-round play opportunities, making them an appealing option for families, schools, and community centers in regions with inclement weather or limited outdoor space.


Livestock Water Trough:  A livestock water trough is a container designed to hold and supply fresh drinking water for farm animals such as cattle, horses, and sheep. It is an essential component of livestock management, ensuring that animals have access to clean and safe water sources. Livestock water troughs can be made from various materials, including the durable and corrosion-free polyethylene construction used by SPI. These troughs are designed with rounded corners to withstand livestock abuse while maintaining safety for the animals.

Livestock Waterer:  A livestock waterer is a specialized device or system designed to automatically maintain and regulate the water level in a livestock water trough. SPI’s livestock waterers, including their Electric, Energy free, and XL Series, feature insulated bases constructed of a double wall filled with insulating foam material. The water levels are controlled by a float-operated valve, which opens when the water level declines, allowing water from a pressurized line to flow and refill the trough to an adjustable, preset level. These waterers are low maintenance, easy to clean, and meet “Grade A” Dairy requirements.


Molding Plastic Parts:  Molding plastic parts is a manufacturing process used in the playground industry to create durable, lightweight, and low-maintenance components for play equipment. This process involves shaping molten plastic material into a desired form using a mold or cavity. There are various molding techniques employed in the production of plastic playground parts, such as injection molding, blow molding, and rotational molding. The choice of molding technique depends on factors like the complexity of the part, material type, and production volume. Molding plastic parts results in high-quality, long-lasting, and weather-resistant components that contribute to the safety, functionality, and aesthetics of playground equipment.

Molding Project:  A molding project refers to a specific undertaking within the playground industry that involves creating custom plastic components or parts through the process of molding. Molding projects can range from designing and producing individual pieces of playground equipment to developing entire play structures made from molded plastic materials. These projects typically involve several stages, including conceptualization, design, mold creation, material selection, and production. By collaborating with experienced manufacturers and utilizing advanced molding techniques, playground designers can bring their creative visions to life while ensuring that the final products meet safety standards, durability requirements, and aesthetic goals.


Outdoor Playground:  An outdoor playground is a designated open-air space designed for children to engage in physical activities, social interaction, and imaginative play. These play environments typically feature a variety of equipment, such as slides, swings, climbers, and play structures, that cater to different age groups, abilities, and interests. Outdoor playgrounds can be found in various settings, including public parks, schools, childcare centers, and residential communities.


Plastic Climbers:  Plastic climbers are playground structures made from durable, weather-resistant plastic materials designed to encourage children to engage in climbing activities. These climbers come in various shapes, sizes, and designs, such as rock walls, cargo nets, and geometric configurations, providing opportunities for children to develop their gross motor skills, strength, and coordination. Plastic climbers are a popular choice for outdoor playgrounds due to their low maintenance requirements, longevity, and ability to withstand various environmental conditions.

Plastic Manufacturer:  A plastic manufacturer is a company specializing in the production of plastic materials, components, or products for various industries, including the playground industry. Plastic manufacturers employ a range of molding techniques to create high-quality, durable, and weather-resistant playground equipment and parts. Partnering with a reputable plastic manufacturer ensures that playground designers and operators receive consistent, reliable, and safe products that meet industry standards and guidelines.

Play Type:  Play type refers to the classification of play activities based on their characteristics, goals, or developmental benefits. Common play types in playgrounds include physical play (such as climbing, sliding, or swinging), social play (interacting with peers), imaginative play (pretend scenarios and role-playing), and sensory play (exploring textures, sounds, and colors). Understanding and incorporating various play types into a playground design can help create well-rounded and engaging play environments that cater to diverse interests, abilities, and developmental needs of children.

Playground Components:  Playground components are individual pieces or elements that make up a playground structure or play system. These components can include slides, swings, climbers, activity panels, tunnels, bridges, and more. Playground components contribute to the overall play experience by offering various activities and challenges that cater to different age groups, abilities, and interests. When selecting playground components, it’s essential to consider factors such as safety, durability, accessibility, and compliance with industry standards and guidelines.

Playground Equipment:  Playground equipment like playground components refers to the structures, apparatus, and devices designed for children to engage in play, exercise, and social interaction within a playground setting.

Playsystems:  Playsystems are large, interconnected playground structures that incorporate multiple components and activities to create an immersive and engaging play experience for children. These composite structures often include elements such as slides, climbers, platforms, tunnels, and bridges, allowing children to move between various play activities and challenges. Playsystems are designed to encourage physical activity, social interaction, and imaginative play while catering to different age groups, abilities, and interests.

Polyethylene:  Polyethylene is a common type of plastic material used in the playground industry for its durability, weather resistance, and low maintenance requirements. Polyethylene is often employed in the production of playground components, such as slides, climbers, and play panels, using techniques like rotational molding. This material is known for its ability to withstand harsh environmental conditions, resist fading and cracking, and provide a safe and comfortable surface for children to play on.

Prototypes:  Prototypes are preliminary models or mock-ups of playground equipment, components, or entire play structures created during the design and development process. Prototyping allows playground designers to test the functionality, safety, and aesthetics of their designs before moving forward with full-scale production. Prototypes can be made from various materials, such as foam, wood, or 3D printed plastic, depending on the project’s specific needs and goals. By evaluating and refining prototypes, designers can optimize their playground offerings, ensuring that the final products meet industry standards and user expectations.


Rotational Molding:  Rotational molding, also known as rotomolding, is a manufacturing process commonly used in the playground industry to create hollow plastic components and products with uniform thickness and durability. The process involves heating a plastic material, usually in powder form, inside a rotating mold, causing the material to melt and evenly coat the mold’s interior surface. Once cooled, the solidified plastic part is removed from the mold, resulting in a strong, lightweight, and weather-resistant product. Rotational molding is particularly suited for producing large or complex playground components, such as slides, climbers, and play structures, due to its ability to create seamless, one-piece designs with minimal material waste.

Roto-Molded Plastic:  Roto-molded plastic refers to plastic components or products manufactured using the rotational molding process. In the playground industry, roto-molded plastic is widely used for creating durable, weather-resistant, and low-maintenance equipment, such as slides, climbers, tunnels, and play panels. Roto-molded plastic offers several advantages over other materials, including its resistance to fading, cracking, and peeling, making it an ideal choice for outdoor playground applications. Additionally, roto-molded plastic can be produced in various colors and textures, allowing for versatile and visually appealing playground designs that cater to diverse user needs and preferences.


Sensory Playground Equipment:  Sensory playground equipment refers to play components specifically designed to engage and stimulate children’s senses, such as touch, sight, sound, and smell. These elements contribute to the overall sensory experience of a playground, helping children develop their sensory processing skills and promoting cognitive, emotional, and physical development. Sensory playground equipment may include tactile panels, musical instruments, water play features, sandboxes, and visually stimulating elements like mirrors or colorful patterns. Incorporating sensory playground equipment into a play space can create a more inclusive environment that caters to children with diverse abilities, including those with sensory processing disorders or other special needs.

Slides:  Slides are a popular type of playground equipment that provide children with a fun and exhilarating sliding experience, typically from an elevated platform to ground level. Slides come in various designs, materials, and sizes, catering to different age groups, abilities, and preferences. Common slide styles include straight, spiral, tube, wavy, and double-racing slides. Materials used for constructing slides can range from plastic and metal to composite materials, each offering unique benefits in terms of durability, maintenance requirements, and surface temperature. Slides are an essential component of many playgrounds, encouraging physical activity, coordination, and social interaction among children.


Tooling:  In the playground industry, tooling refers to the process of designing, creating, and maintaining the molds, dies, or other specialized equipment used in the manufacturing of playground components and structures. Tooling is a crucial aspect of producing high-quality, durable, and safe playground equipment, as it ensures that parts are accurately shaped, sized, and finished according to design specifications. Tooling can involve various techniques, such as machining, casting, or 3D printing, depending on the type of manufacturing process employed (e.g., injection molding, blow molding, or rotational molding). Proper tooling helps achieve consistent results, reduce production waste, and maintain compliance with industry standards and guidelines.

TubesTubes are cylindrical or tunnel-like playground components that provide children with an enclosed space for crawling, climbing, or sliding. Tubes can be made from various materials, such as plastic, metal, or fabric, and come in different lengths, diameters, and configurations to accommodate diverse play experiences and abilities. Some tubes may feature windows or openings for added visual interest and interaction. Tubes can be incorporated into larger play structures or used as standalone elements in a playground setting. They encourage physical activity, spatial awareness, and social interaction while offering a sense of exploration and adventure for children.


Water Trough:  A water trough is a general term for a container or basin designed to hold water for various purposes, such as providing drinking water for animals or storing water for irrigation. In the context of livestock management, water troughs are essential for ensuring that animals have access to clean and safe drinking water. SPI’s water troughs, specifically designed for livestock, are made from FDA and HPB approved, food-grade, recyclable polyethylene plastic, offering a durable and corrosion-free solution for years of trouble-free operation.


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