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Study: Adults are comfortable returning to playgrounds this summer; kids are too

As vaccine rates increase and warm weather rolls out across the country, parents across the midstate are eager to get outside after a long stretch of indoor activities. Any worries they have about the safety of heading for the nearest kids’ playground may be dispelled, at least partially, by a study released Thursday.

According to the study commissioned by Landscape Structures Inc., an employee-owned playground equipment manufacturer based in Minnesota, 1 in 3 adults feels comfortable returning to public playgrounds, and the level of comfort increases as the summer months approach.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents indicated they visited a playground during the pandemic; of those who visited, 56 percent have children under 12. The reasons they went included getting some exercise, socializing with others, spending time on their phones and reading a book. However, the most popular activity, if they were parents, was to play with their children.

Playground visits have a significant impact on the health and happiness of children. The study found that a large majority (66 percent) of trips to the playground over the last year were to provide exercise and because children have fun at playgrounds; half would visit for their child’s mental health, socialization, and to get outdoors.

Children felt the impact of the pandemic too, appearing to be the main driver behind the return to outdoor activities. The onset of COVID restrictions realized only a 27 percent drop in visits to the playground, suggesting that outdoor play remained a priority for those with children. And for those that did head out to a playground during the height of the pandemic, 56 percent wore a face mask and the same percentage brought hand sanitizer.

“Play is an integral part of childhood, and playgrounds enable those moments for children to grow and develop, whether working on socialization skills, finding the courage to go down the slide or imagining new worlds,” said Lynn Pinoniemi, vice president of marketing at Landscape Structures, in a press release announcing the study’s findings.

“Parents did the best they could to supplement the experience amid COVID-19, but the playground experience and the benefits children get out of it just can’t be recreated. We are excited to see that adults, parents and children are fully embracing the return to play.”

The survey was commissioned by Landscape Structures and conducted by SMS Research. It took place in April 2021 and consisted of 1,080 adults over the age of 18.