little boy crawling across playground steppers

How to Choose a Playground Slide

How to Choose a Playground Slide

When kids visit a playground, they often get most excited about a colorful slide that gives them an adrenaline rush. Slides are a staple in commercial playgrounds and are usually one of the first play pieces kids are eager to use.

An exhilarating slide is a playground must-have that adds years of fun to any space. Whether you’re designing a new playground from scratch or are looking for ways to add excitement to an existing playground, it’s important to know how to choose slides. What questions and considerations should you think about before making a purchase?

We’ll help focus your search and answer the important questions to ask, like how slides can be beneficial for young kids.

5 Factors to Consider When Choosing Commercial Playground Slides

Part of the fun associated with slides is all the different options and possibilities for configurations. There are many ways playground slides can vary or be customized, which means it can take time to find the right one. Knowing how to choose slides for a playground is much easier when you consider the size, material, shape, color, and cost of your options.

Triple Playground Slide

1. Sizes

One of the biggest considerations to keep in mind when choosing a playground slide is the size of the slide. Slides for playgrounds can come in a variety of heights and widths to create different play experiences.

The right height for a slide in your playground will largely depend on the age group the playground is intended for, as well as the space available for a slide. For example, taller slides are more suitable for school-aged children, while shorter slides are favorable for young children. It’s also important to consider how the width of a slide can contribute to the enjoyment of the user.

Standard slides allow a single user to slide down at once. As slides increase in width, they can be made to allow multiple kids to slide at once. Wider slide options provide fun play options for kids. Double-wide slides provide kids the chance to compete against their friends to see who can reach the bottom of the slide first.

tall spiral tunnel slide

2. Materials

Slides can be made from several types of materials, including fiberglass, plastic, and metal. Commercial playground slides are most commonly made using either plastic or metal because these materials tend to be durable under frequent use and outdoor elements.

Metal slides are commonly made using steel. This material is durable, ensuring the slide will last. Metal slides also tend to be slicker than plastic slides, giving kids an exciting and fast ride. Keep in mind that metal slides can absorb heat, so putting them under play shade will make them more usable.

While plastic slides aren’t quite as durable as metal slides, they tend to be most cost-effective. Plastic can still get hot under direct sun exposure, but it tends to be more heat-resistant than metal. Because of this, plastic slides are the most common material used for commercial playground slides. Plastic slides are also much easier to make in different shapes and colors.

short spiral slide

3. Shapes

Slides can come in a variety of shapes and designs to create fun and exciting playgrounds. While there are many more options out there, consider the following slide designs when planning your playground to get you started:

  • Straight: This classic slide design is simple and easy to install yet gives kids of all ages an enjoyable ride. Look for angled slides that are sure to give kids a rush.
  • Spiral: Spiral slides can add some height and a twist to your playground. Spiral slides send kids on a winding ride while taking up a minimal amount of space.
  • Wavy: Wavy slides feature waves or humps in the slide that give kids the sensation they’re gliding over hills.
  • Tunnel: Also known as tube slides, tunnel slides are enclosed or partly enclosed slides. Almost any slide shape can become a tunnel slide — like a straight tube slide or a spiral variety — adding a daring element to even the simplest playgrounds.
  • Roller: Roller slides are a unique option that feature metal rods that turn under kids as they descend. These slides are exciting for kids, and they provide tactile and auditory sensory experiences.

Each slide shape can either be a component slide or a free-standing slide. Component slides are connected to other playground equipment parts. This allows you to incorporate slides into elaborate jungle gyms where kids can climb from piece to piece. Free-standing slides are their own entity, unattached from other aspects of the playground. While the setup for your playground may depend on the amount of available space, there are fun slide options for all playgrounds.

Green playground slide

4. Colors

The colors of a playground add to the fun and excitement. Luckily, playground slides are made in a wide range of colors. A variety of color options allows you to choose a color that will both appeal to children and complement the other pieces of playground equipment.

Children are more likely to be interested in objects that are visually pleasing. For example, a young child will get much more excited about blue or yellow playground equipment than black or grey pieces. When choosing a playground slide, be sure to consider the impact color can have on the appeal to kids.

Whether you’re designing a new playground or are adding a new slide to an existing playground, you may also want to consider whether your playground has a theme or a color scheme. If this is the case, you may want to choose a slide color that will coordinate or complement the other pieces of the playground.

If your playground is nautical-themed, a purple slide may not be the most effective option in terms of your theme. While there are no rules about what colors should or shouldn’t be used together, they are important to consider so you can attract users with an aesthetic appearance.

orange and blue playground slides

5. Cost

Another important factor to consider is the cost of commercial playground slides. The cost of your slide will vary depending on the shape and size you choose, as well as whether it will be free-standing or a component. While you should always keep your budget in mind, it can be a good thing to dedicate a generous budget to a playground slide. Low-cost options tend to be made of lower-quality materials that may deteriorate or become damaged more quickly.

If you’re looking to create a quality playground, think of the equipment as an investment. Slides are popular at most playgrounds, which means they’ll get used frequently. For the safety of all the playground users, you may want to consider spending a bit more on a high-quality slide from a reputable manufacturer to ensure you’re getting a good product. While higher prices often indicate higher quality, this may not always be the case. It’s important to do research and compare your options before settling on a price.

4 Questions to Answer Before Choosing a Playground Slide

As you prepare to choose a commercial playground slide, you’ll likely have several questions to ensure you find the right fit for your playground. You can prepare a list of questions to ensure you cover the most important factors when choosing a slide. Here’s what you’ll want to know before purchasing a new playground slide.

1. What Is the Best Material for a Slide?

We’ve already mentioned that plastic and metal are the most common materials used for playground slides. How do you know which one is the best for your playground? To better answer this question, it’s helpful to compare the pros and cons of both materials.

Pros of metal slides include:

  • Durability: Metal is a very durable material in general, which can make it a great slide material. Slides need to be resistant to a number of things, including normal wear and tear, weather, and vandalism. The durability of metal slides is one of their greatest advantages.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Metal slides have a very classic look and can be aesthetically pleasing to look at.
  • Fast speeds: Metal surfaces are slicker than other options, which allows kids to have a fun and fast ride. Fast slides are thrilling for kids, making this material a great option for kids looking for an adventure.
  • No static: Plastic slides tend to put off static. Metal slides don’t, making them better for kids with cochlear implants, as the static can interfere with or potentially damage their implants.

Considerations to make with metal slides include:

  • Hot temperatures: One of the biggest disadvantages of metal slides is the potential for the metal surface to reach hot temperatures when exposed to the sun. While metal slides can be treated to resist high temperatures, they still tend to get hotter than plastic slides. Place them under cover to avoid this potential drawback.
  • High cost: Metal slides can have a higher upfront cost depending on their size, any metal treatments, and where you purchase it.
  • Potential for rust: While metal slides are durable and resistant, there is still a potential for rust. Rust can deteriorate a slide and may be difficult to repair. Choose rust-proof stainless steel or slides that are treated to resist corrosion.

Pros of plastic slides include:

  • Versatility: One of the biggest advantages of plastic slides is the ability to change the material to create different shapes. Slides with fun shapes and designs are typically made of plastic and can be created in sections to allow for easy moving and installation.
  • Ease of repair: Plastic is much easier to maintain, clean, and repair. This may help the slide last longer, even under harsh elements.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Plastic slides tend to be cost-effective and appeal to a wide range of playground users. Plastic commercial slides are made with thick plastic for durability.
  • Safety: Plastic slides are better at resisting heat and can be more user-friendly for young kids.

Potential drawbacks of plastic slides include:

  • Ease of defacing: Plastic slides are more prone to vandalism because they are easy to damage and deface.
  • Degradation: While the thick plastic used for commercial playground slides is still very durable, it will degrade over time. However, this does take many years, and plastic slides are easily repairable.
  • Static: Plastic slides generate static electricity, which can interfere with cochlear implants and be generally uncomfortable for many kids.

Despite the pros and cons of both materials, plastic tends to be the more widely used material for slides because it’s more readily available, and more affordable. However, the best slide material may differ depending on the needs of your playground and its users. Consider implementing a mix of slides in different materials if it makes sense for your design and space.

handicapped child going down roller slide

2. What Is the Best Slide Shape?

The best slide shape will vary for each playground. While there is no one best slide shape, there are shapes that may work better in some situations than others. Spiral slides have a smaller footprint than other options, making them one of the best slide shapes for playgrounds with limited space. Straight slides work best in playgrounds for young kids because they’re simple and allow adults to easily supervise the fun.

The best slide for a playground can also depend on the preferences and abilities of the children who use the playground. Unique shapes and designs like the colossus slide or slalom slide tend to be more exciting and engaging for kids than traditional straight slides. So, it may be best to go with something a bit different. Doing so can also make your playground stand out in comparison to others.

little girl coming out of orange tube slide

3. What Slides Are Safe for Commercial Playgrounds?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has regulations to ensure commercial playground slides and other equipment are designed and constructed for safe use. To ensure you’re purchasing safe equipment, confirm that the manufacturer is CPSC certified so you know the slide you choose is compliant with safety guidelines. Keep in mind that a slide must be manufactured and installed with safety guidelines and standards for it to be safe in commercial playgrounds.

It’s also helpful to understand what the standards are for a safe slide. Look into CPSC and other guidelines for information about:

  • Platforms: Ensure your platform meets proper height and drainage requirements, among others.
  • Barriers: Barriers or guardrails serve as railings and have certain opening dimension requirements.
  • Sides for straight slides: Open, flat slides should have sides that meet the necessary height and other requirements.
  • Slope: The slide itself as well as ramps, ladders, and stairs have to meet certain degree requirements.
  • Tube slide diameter: Tube slides should have a certain internal diameter.
  • Slide exit: Slide exit height requirements may vary for toddlers’ and school-aged kids’ slides.

Benefits slides offer

4. What Benefits Will These Slides Offer?

Playground slides may seem like just another way for kids to play. However, like most other playground equipment, slides offer several benefits to growing and developing kids. Consider how a commercial slide could benefit the kids on your playground.

Promote Sensory Experiences

There is a lot to take in during a ride down the slide, and kids can gain a new perspective of their world. During their descent, kids are able to feel the wind in their hair, which is something that may be a first for young kids. Slides with textured surfaces provide tactile experiences. Tall slides allow kids to reach new heights, and many kids enjoy looking over everything below them from a new perspective. This experience engages a child’s sense of sight.

Develop Social Skills

Slides are often the center of attention at a playground, and many kids can be drawn to them at once. This creates an opportunity for kids to practice and develop social skills and communication. As kids work to communicate with others using the slide, they’ll learn how to take turns, be patient, share, and build tolerance and awareness of others’ abilities and skills.

Playing on the slide and waiting in line is also a great opportunity for kids to interact and make new friends. Often, kids do this without thinking about it, especially when they see someone enjoying the same things as them.

Build Balance and Coordination

Slides are an effective way for children to practice and develop balance and coordination. Climbing the ladder or stairs to the top of the slide requires hand-foot-eye coordination to successfully make it to the top.

Climbing and sliding also teach kids spatial awareness. Actions like determining how much to move their hands and feet to reach the next ladder rung and figuring out where to sit down help children learn where their body parts are in relation to the parts of the ladder or slide. Judging when they can put their feet down at the bottom of the slide has a similar effect.

Additionally, the motion of sliding downwards helps develop a child’s vestibular system or their sense of balance. As gravity pulls their body down, the motion of the slide can catch young kids off guard, causing them to lean back and slide down on their backs. As kids play on a slide, they’ll learn to hold themselves up and balance themselves as they slide down.

Strengthen Muscles

Kids can build and strengthen muscles as they climb to the top of a slide. Climbing a ladder requires arm, grip, and upper body strength for kids to be able to pull themselves up to the next rung. Kids can also increase their cardiovascular flow when they raise their arms above their shoulders to grab and hold the ladder rungs. Stretching their arms up can even increase flexibility, too.

Climbing slide ladders also strengthens leg muscles. As kids use their legs to push themselves up, they build leg muscle. As they keep going up and down the slide, they’ll begin to find it easier and easier.

little girl jumping in front of slide

Choose Little Tikes Commercial for the Best Playground Slides

Now that you know what you should consider when choosing commercial playground slides, you know you should partner with a reliable company to get the best slides. Little Tikes Commercial has the slides and playground solutions you’re looking for.

We offer a number of playground slide options ranging from curved slidesquantum slides, and morphous slides. Our team can help you find a playground design that incorporates slides into your space. We’re here to help you give kids playgrounds that enable them to learn and develop valuable life skills as they grow.

Encourage healthy play and strong childhood development when you transform your playground with the best playground slides from Little Tikes Commercial. Explore our design ideas or consider our selection of free-standing slides. Find out how we can work with your budget and needs when you request a quote.