Increasingly, more family daycare businesses are becoming environmentally safe and responsible. Child care providers are special taking measures (as an important component of their daycare jobs) to ensure that the environment provides the best in health for children, offer locally-grown or organic food, and celebrate multiculturalism.
Matt Haugh directs sales and marketing for BigToys, Inc., a commercial playground equipment manufacturer based in Olympia, Washington. In Part 2 of our interview with Haugh, Haugh describes the types of equipment necessary and safe materials for green daycare centers.
OwnADaycare: What kind of equipment would a small family childcare business require? What types of materials should a small family childcare business avoid?
Matt Haugh: There are many factors that contribute to creating a safe and developmentally appropriate playscape, and regional differences make it difficult to generalize. Fortunately, BigToys has a network of professionals who can answer any question, and we’ve also created a helpful guide to early childhood play spaces, which can be found here as a PDF, where you’ll find many ideas for natural playscapes that we like to think of as “pockets of play along a path.”
Obviously all playground designs should begin with safety, and it’s important to consider supervisor visibility (lines of sight), sun exposure, pooling water, and many other factors. Beyond core safety, well-designed playgrounds incorporate as many natural elements as possible while creating exploration and growth opportunities for developing minds and bodies. From a safety, durability, and design perspective, commercial manufacturers can play a critical role, but it’s also worth consulting with local landscaping and materials experts to come up with a total design that can be comfortably maintained while giving kids maximum exposure to nature.
For many customers (especially small centers) it makes the most sense to start small, and slowly add more natural and environmentally friendly materials as budget allows. This also lets learn how the kids interact with new elements, which supports decisions about future changes and additions. Thinking of it as an ever changing, organic growth and learning process can be very liberating compared to the more traditional “rip out and replace” mindset.
OwnADaycare: When selecting playground equipment many daycare providers have been told to avoid items that are made of treated wood. Is this correct? Can you elaborate on this?
Matt Haugh: BigToys’ wood structures are conditioned with copper azole (a water-based wood preservative comprised of 96% copper and 4% azole) which prevents fungal decay and insect attack. Our conditioning process provides lasting durability, releases no air pollutants or wastewater, and uses recycled materials. Furthermore, our wood conditioner contains no heavy metals, is arsenate free, won’t leach out, won’t dissolve, won’t stain, and won’t pollute. Copper azole is approved by the EPA and CPSP for use on playground equipment.
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