A large tub full of colourful balls, adventure, and fun. This is a basic description of a ball pit for children. There are different kinds of ball pits. It can either have a theme or the basic setting — a large tub where kids and adults swim or dive through a pool of colourful balls.
Everywhere you go, it’s a staple to indoor playgrounds. Pizza parlours all around added playgrounds to their marketing to have more people come in. Even a certain fast food restaurant tapped into the idea decades ago to entice children and urge parents to visit that establishment with the big yellow “M.”
It’s a hit. People love it. From adults to children, there are ball pits available for different age brackets and a communal one where everyone can enjoy and have fun. Now, it’s everywhere and making a comeback from the hit it was from the 1980s and ’90s.
The 1970s: The Beginning
The start always leads back to Eric McMillan. Born in England, McMillan, an industrial designer by training at that time, moved to Canada and worked as an exhibition designer. In 1971, he became the chief designer of Ontario Place, a popular waterfront attraction in Canada.
“One of the ‘mistakes’ was the project’s lack of child appeal. I was invited to present concepts for the development of a children’s play attraction,” McMillan stated on his website. Getting the position as chief designer, he was tasked to remedy the mistakes done on the attraction. Together with his assistant, Dave Lloyd, they were able to come up with wonderful ideas that became a hit.
The Children’s Village opened in 1972. It propelled into a top attraction at Ontario Place and suddenly making McMillan into “the world’s expert on child’s play.” One of the attractions of Children’s Village is what is known today as the ball pit or “ball crawl” during that time.
But the Ontario Place project was what propelled the career of McMillan in the soft play industry. According to him, the first “ball crawl” was actually invented in 1976 at SeaWorld Captain Kids World in San Diego, also one of his projects. Among his works, the most famous was Sesame Place in 1980, which was located on the outskirts of Philadelphia. With his use of rubber, foam, vinyl, and plastic on his playground designs, he was labelled as the “father of soft play.”
Today and Tomorrow
In the past, children were urged to go out and play outside. With this, outdoor playgrounds were established to urge children to play. However, the 1970s changed the perception of parents for their children. According to a report by Vox, parents became cautious about their children playing outside. Indoor playgrounds were born out of this, which is definitely the perfect place for ball pits we know in the past and today.
“In the 1970s, we became really risk-averse,” play historian Susan Solomon told Vox. “After World War II, there was a tremendous interest in unique, architect-designed playgrounds, but things changed when people became concerned about abduction.” It was around this time that play was moved indoors, where it’s safer, “at least psychologically.”
Aside from creativity, playground manufacturers should also consider the safety of the children playing with their equipment. Both manufacturers and operators should be vigilant in checking and maintaining the equipment on a regular basis to avoid accidents and injuries.
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Add fun and adventure to your playgrounds with our indoor playground equipment. Call +63 047 250 2779 / +63 047 251 3139 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to start making your indoor playground a reality.