Why Is Playground Equipment Important in Developing Countries?

In 2014, my friends, colleagues, family, and I have installed playground equipment in Ecuador, Peru, Ethiopia, Uganda, Cambodia, and the Navajo Nation.  In the last 6 years in Uganda alone, we have installed swing sets and other playground equipment at over 30 sites.  Installing playground equipment is important for a variety of reasons.

Installing Playground Equipment at a School near Lira, Uganda

Installing Playground Equipment at a School near Lira, Uganda

A group working in Kenya called Grassroots Alliance for Community Education (G.R.A.C.E.) recently published a promotion that explains why outdoor playgrounds and recreational activities are important:

Article 31 of the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Children states that countries should recognize the right of children to rest, leisure, play and recreational activities and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.

Play is a means of developing the skills needed in adult life, as it helps children interact with each other, develop language, learn how to set and adhere to group rules and develop physically.

A [large] number of poverty stricken children are forced to engage in farm work and heavy domestic work.  [And I would add activities like rock crushing.]  This is compounded by the shortage of safe spaces within the communities where children can play and interact in a relaxed and meaningful way.  These factors are major obstacles to exercising their right to play, rest and recreation.

During our January 2015 trip to a community in Rwenzori Mountains of western Uganda, we installed a 4-seat swing set.  I recently received the following email from the community leader:

Due to the installation of the swing set in the school, the number of students has increased from 240 to 287 this first term of 2015. My finding therefore is that there is high competition of pupils for the swing set during playing hours. And so there is also a need of another type of game to occupy some of the pupils during play hours.

So swing playground equipment in developing countries can serve as important kid-magnets, encouraging younger students to stay in school.

Installing a Swing Set at a School in Kyarumba, Uganda

Installing a Swing Set at a School in Kyarumba, Uganda

In my humble opinion, the value of installing playground equipment in developing countries is seriously undervalued.

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3 Responses to Why Is Playground Equipment Important in Developing Countries?

  1. Nathan says:

    Nice article and I agree playground equipment is important. Do you have any suggestions for types of equipment? I’m construction manager for UNICEF Rwanda and we’ve been adding playground equipment (a slide, merry-go-round, swing set, and teeter totter) to our early childhood development centres. The kids love them, but they haven’t been lasting very long. Swing sets all over the country have the seats missing and the chains tied in knots. Teeter totters have broken handles. The metal on slides starts to come un-welded and rust. Most merry-go-rounds break quickly from 20 to 30 children piling on simultaneously. Etc. We’re having the equipment made in country and of course are very limited in our options and quality available. We’re using hard wooden seats for slides despite them being a hazard for small children because no plastic options exist (though we have tire seat prototype testing now). Considering now switching to all non-conventional equipment with things that are guaranteed to last and are meant for lots of kids at the same time since the idea of one child on a swing will never work in our context. Any suggestions / lessons learned?

  2. rogerdhansen says:

    I’m headed for Uganda on May 27th. Any interest in meeting up? I have some work I would like to do in southern Uganda. The border and Kilgali are nearby.

    I build the swings out of pipe 2-3/8 inch outside diameter (preferable schedule 40). I have the corner connectors made in Uganda. I’ve had reasonably good luck with those. The swing seat hangers are a different matter. On my upcoming trip, I’m bringing a bunch with me. In Ecuador, I saw swing seats made of cloth and/or rubberized belt material. They were strong and safe. I’m just not sure I can find the belt material in sub-Saharan Africa. Right now, I’m using wooden seats in Uganda and getting the corners rounded.

    The principal problem I’ve had is finding pipe that is strong enough. The pipe I have found is strong enough for the legs, but occasionally not strong enough for the horizontal bar. I going to try and find schedule 40 pipe in Kampala. I’ve had no problem finding chain.

    Thus the problems: 1. strength of the horizontal pipe, 2. quality of the swing seat hangers. 3. quality and potential concern of wooden seats. We’ve constructed over 30 swing sets in Uganda and the vast majority are in good working repair, requiring only occasional minor repairs.

    If you have stuff shipped from Europe, United States, or China, could we share a shipment? My email is: rogerdhansen45@gmail.com

  3. tom gill says:

    Hi Guys,

    I have just found your blog online. I run a charity base din Uganda called East African Playgrounds. We have built over 100 playgrounds there and have a playgrounds builds team and two work shops building over 100 designs. If you want any help, especially with pipe and/ or hangers then let me know as we will be able to help. My email is tom@eastafricanplaygrounds.org , number in Uganda is +256781678932. Check out our website and facebook pages to see what we do and if you like it lets do something together.

    Tom

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