This content may contain links to products and services. Please assume all such links are affiliate links which may result in me earning a commission (at no extra cost to you).
No matter how many different playgrounds you visit with your kids, you can always find a slide. Children love going down them (and sometimes climbing up them) when they’re by themselves or playing with a group of friends.
However, you might be surprised to know that there are many different types of playground slides at parks and play areas. There are straight slides, roller slides, family slides, curved slides and even tube slides. Some are more popular for children than others and some are more common than others. Let’s look at this topic more in depth.
What is a playground slide?
A playground slide is a piece of equipment which children can use for outdoor play. Kids climb up a ladder or some stairs, sit at the top and slide down to the bottom. Most children go down feet first, which is the safest way, but some kids go down on their stomachs or lie down on their backs. Slides are usually made from plastic or metal.
What are the parts of a playground slide?
Slide components are fairly standard really. You have the actual slide itself, some steps or a ladder to ascend to the top, and a raised platform where children can prepare themselves to go down the slide.
What is a good angle for a playground slide?
There are certain guidelines in place to ensure the safety of children when they’re using a playground slide. According to the Public Playground Safety Book, slides should have:
- An average incline of 24 degrees for toddlers, with no section greater than 30 degrees.
- An average incline of no more than 30 degrees for school age kids with no section great than 50 degrees.
Types of playground slides
Here are six different types of slides you can find at various playgrounds and parks:
Straight, stand alone slides
This is the most common type of slide and one which you will find in the vast majority of playgrounds. On a straight slide, it goes down at an angle with no bends or curves, and levels off horizontally towards the bottom. You access the top of the slide via a ladder or stairway.
We have one of these at our local playground and my daughter loves it. The spiral slide goes downwards around a central column like a helter skelter usually turning more than 360 degrees. Kids enjoy this because they can go quite fast and they can’t really see where they are going until they reach the bottom.
These aren’t very common, and you might find them more in adventure theme parks. What’s great about these slides is that it solves the problem of kids getting stuck half way down. This happens a lot with my daughter, especially if she’s wearing jeans! Roller slides contain horizontal mini rollers going down, which look a bit like something you’d see on a conveyor belt at an airport.
Although kids can go quite fast down a straight slide, adding a few curves can create some more excitement. Usually curved slides can curve left to right, but they can also go up and down a bit to form a wave shape.
These are slides that form part of a larger structure, such as a jungle gym. Rather than having a ladder or stairway directly attached to the slide, children will usually access it via another section of the structure. The advantage of a component slide is that children will be entertained for longer as they have other features such as swings and monkey bars to use.
In slightly bigger playgrounds, you may find a tube slide. These are a bit different from conventional slides as they are enclosed so it’s like going down a tunnel. Kids love tube slides as it really allows their imagination to take over so they can come up with some interesting games with their friends. According to the CPSC regulations, tube slides should have an internal diameter no less than 23”, with an exit region of at least 7-10” for toddlers and 11” for school age kids.
Metal vs plastic slides
The two main materials used in the manufacture of playground slides are steel and plastic. Here are some of the differences.
One advantage of plastic slides is that they can be easily manipulated to have curves and bends to create a fun experience for kids. Plastic is also a popular choice for smaller slides you can put up in your yard. However, as kids go down plastic slides they can pick up some static. I seem to always get a small static shock when I touch the slide in our local playground when I pick up my daughter at the bottom.
- Easier to shape into different types of slides.
- Fairly cheap.
- Easier to repair and clean.
- Kids can pick a static charge when using a plastic slide.
- Not as tough so they’re easier to damage
Steel is ideal for straight slides because it’s tough and very durable. However, they work best in cool, shady areas out of direct sunlight as the metal can become very hot, especially in the summer months. They are also more expensive than plastic slides. One advantage of metal slides is that they are faster, which makes them more fun for children.
- Faster, so more fun for children.
- Tough and durable so they last longer.
- More resistant to damage.
- Expensive to produce.
- Can get very hot on sunny days.
When were playground slides invented?
There is some debate about when playground slides were actually invented. In the UK, they appeared in 1922. However, some US sources claim that there is evidence of slides being built around 1902-03 in Washington DC and New York. I guess it all depends on what you consider to be a playground slide, an amusement park slide, or a slide for some other purpose.
Who made the first playground slide?
Charles Wicksteed is often credited with inventing the first children’s slide. It was built in Wicksteed Park in Kettering, Northamptonshire in the UK. It looked very different to the slides we see today, consisting of just planks of wood. There wasn’t much regard for health and safety!
Are slides good for children?
Just like other pieces of playground equipment like climbing frames, not only are slides fun and exciting for children to play, they also have some mental and physical benefits too. Kids using slides can:
- Develop their social skills by playing games with other children.
- Improve their balance.
- Improve overall body strength, gross motor skills and fitness (kids have to climb up to use the slide after all)
How do playground slides work?
Looking at the science of how a slide works, it boils down to simple physics. Gravity pulls the child down the slide, and friction slows them down. Obviously the steeper the angle of the slide, the faster the child will go down it, but if there is more friction, due to the slide material or clothing, then they will go slower.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.