Because equipment is so expensive and has such limited play value, we rarely recommend it. Sometimes, however, our clients want it because it offers play experiences not otherwise available (swings are an example). In this example, our playground designers incorporate alternative options. For the vestibular motion achieved by swinging, we use low impact porch/arbor swings and hammocks, both of which are available through our store.
Our Guidelines: What’s important to keep in mind, is that the natural features of the site should be the framework within which play is experienced. No play component (natural or manufactured) should dictate the design of the site, or force the site to do something that doesn’t befit its general nature.
Whereas a site will naturally dictate the design of natural play and recreation opportunities (an obvious example is a hillside that easily becomes an amphitheater, or a place for sledding or rolling down a hill, or a place where an embankment slide can be installed), equipment and its typically large safe zone requirement often dominates a site and destroys its natural character.
All too often, equipment companies will remove trees and other vegetation so they can level a site to make way for their equipment, an action which is both environmentally disrespectful and needlessly expensive.
Sales reps ("playground designers") from large equipment companies, whose clients ask for natural playgrounds, tell us they have no equipment options that offer natural play experiences, but that doesn’t stop them from trying.
In response to this growing interest in natural play, you’ll now find in most equipment company catalogs a section entitled something like “nature inspired” play elements, which to them means plastic, metal, or concrete stumps and trees, plastic tree houses, etc. etc.
Please don’t be persuaded by these manufactured substitutions which aren’t real, don’t look real, don’t smell real, and are in no way a substitute for real.
Playing with a plastic log is very, very different from playing with a real log that has a natural smell, natural bark, natural wood, real growth rings, real bugs on it, and so on.