The Developmental Benefits of Grounds For Play Components

Grounds For Play components are specifically designed with the child’s overall body and muscle development in mind. Join us as we explore just a fraction of our play components, including some of our climbers, overhead ladders, bridges, and tubes, and how they directly impact a child’s use of certain muscles and muscle groups.

Muscle Groups Considered in the Design of Grounds For Play Products


Developmental Movements Related to Grounds For Play Equipment


The climbers with the most play value provide maximum challenge (exercise benefit and fun) at minimum risk. Grounds For Play’s goal is to provide climbers with high challenge and low risk, making height a critical factor for differing age groups. As you read the following descriptions of some of our climbers, please note the variety of grip requirements, muscle group demands, and age recommendations.

The Bi-Pedal Climber, a relatively narrow, angled climbing log with alternating cleats, is designed especially for right and left motor control development work. The Bi-Pedal Climber is a core strengthener as all large and small muscle groups are used. Wrist and ankle ligaments, tendons, and muscles are activated because the child’s feet and hands are in a unique turned-out step and grip position. This challenging balance and climbing activity exercises toes, calf muscles, the lower back, and hamstrings and is for school-age use only.

The Half-Pipe Climber is an oblique climbing activity, making it easier to climb than a typical vertical climber. The 30° angle and the half tube shape make this climber an introductory level motor skill challenge appropriate for preschool and early school-age children.

The Lateral Rock Wall is a stand-alone climbing wall available in a 6’ or 7’ height. As an example, the 7’ wall has plastic rock climbing grips scattered on both sides. Grip placement on one side of the wall is closer than on the opposite side, providing two levels of climbing challenge. The wall is intended for lateral use since school-aged children will find the heights to be insufficient for vertical climbing. This climber exercises forearms, upper and lower body muscle groups, and demands coordination. Recommended for school-age use only. 

The Perceptual Motor Wall features a random spacing of blocks that enhances hand-eye coordination, motor planning, and targets most muscle groups. Because of the design, this climber requires an outward rotation of the arm in the grip position, which challenges postural muscles of the back and shoulder and strengthens the hands, forearms, and legs. The groove on the top of each block promotes finger and wrist strength. Recommended for older preschool and school-age children.

The 105° Perceptual Motor Climber is similar to Perceptual Motor Wall but specially designed for toddler and preschool groups. This climber promotes early proprioceptive and hand-eye development, as well as critical early core strength enhancement.

Similar to the Perceptual Motor Wall, the Rock Wall Climber features randomly placed rock shaped grips and steps. The uneven spacing of blocks requires hand-eye coordination, forces visual focus acquisition, release, and re-acquisition (similar to the visual skill required in reading), and develops motor planning. Hip and shoulder flexors and extensors are lengthened and shortened promoting strength and flexibility.  Recommended for older preschool and school-age children.

The Bi-Lateral Totem Climber forces unique foot and hand positions such as the supination of the foot and outward rotation of the hips and shoulders due to its unique design; this climber’s design features two vertical posts with blocks on facing sides and is the only climber requiring children to push out in order to climb. The wide stance required for this climber challenges balance and initiates the use of the inner and outer leg muscles. It also works the shoulders and tricep muscles, stretches the leg muscles, and involves motor planning. Recommended for older preschool and school-age children.

The Chain Wall consists of a slightly angled, cleated wall with a single plastic coated chain hanging down the center. Children use this climber by pulling on the chain and walking up the wall. This challenging upper body activity requires coordination, strength, and balance. Because it requires the child to climb the chain all the way to the top anchoring device, it maximizes the climbing benefit of the height of the deck. Recommended for older preschool and school-age children.

The Net Climber consists of a grid of nylon covered steel rope arranged in a vertical plane and stretched between two upright posts and an overhead pipe. The grid is designed to encourage both vertical climbing and horizontal shuffling. The rope size is smaller than typical metal rung climbers, consequently requiring more finger strength from the user. Because the grid is somewhat flexible, the user’s body will lean backward increasing the workout for the upper body including the biceps, shoulders, hips, thighs, and stomach muscles. This climber can be used simultaneously from either side of the grid and can be a stand alone event or connected to a deck as an access or egress climber.

The Mountain Climber consists of a series of pipe steps stretching from the ground to a deck at an approximate 30° angle. Users must ascend or descend in a series of side shuffle steps while holding to the angled pipe. This climber addresses hip muscles, balance, arm and hand strength. The Mountain Climber requires plenty of space and it's recommended that a brighter color is chosen as to be seen by children running under the pipe steps. Recommended for kindergarten and up.
The Chain Net Climber is a flexible grid of uncoated chain suspended from ground to deck at approximately 10° off vertical. While used like a ladder, the flexible nature of the grips creates an additional challenge.

The Totem Climber challenges core strength as well as muscles of the arms and legs.  An open task, the Totem Climber is a proprioceptive challenge because of the random placement of block steps.
The Tire Climber is available in two orientations: vertical or angled. Both orientations require reliance on leg strength but force children to use hands more for balance than for pulling. Flexing of the tires incorporates a slight movement challenge to the climbing event. The angled version is typically set at 30° from vertical so that hand contact is maintained. Recommended for preschool and school-age children.

The S-Loop Climber targets arms, legs, and flexors of the hips and shoulders. Random step spaces promote hand-eye coordination and stability development.

The Oblique Climber challenges core and balance. This angled climber requires more reliance on leg strength than arm strength. The fixed angle discourages climbing without hands and encourages children to maintain hand contact. Angled climbers, such as the Oblique Climber, are generally considered easier than vertical climbers and are much preferred over metal pipe arch climbers. Our preschool sized Oblique Climber has several planks no more than 3 ½” apart. For school-aged children, we span the cross bars further apart to stretch the skipping distance in order to challenge the age group uniquely.

Similar to the Oblique Climber, the Over Under Climber is an angled climbing wall with a solid plane overlaid with 1.5” high cleats.  This climber provides an easy climbing angle and the design eliminates the possibility that any portion of the child’s body can extend through the climbing plane. Recommended for young toddlers up.

The Vertical Ladder is one of our simplest climbers. This climber strengthens shoulder and arm muscles, while hips and legs are challenged. Specifically, the hip flexor group which raises the knee is targeted. As with many of our climbers, core strength is also challenged.

Our Steps, a standard staircase with handrails, are the simplest way for a child to climb onto a play structure. The Steps are a basic motor skill challenge that utilizes hip flexors and the muscles of the legs. Recommended for young toddlers up.

The ADA Transfer Station is an extension built into one of our deck platforms at a height that allows a child in a wheelchair to transfer onto the structure. While not necessarily a climber, children can, in fact, climb up on the play structure using this extension. Depending on the abilities of the child in a wheelchair, this extension can help improve balance and upper body strength. Recommended for children two years old and up.
Ladder Panel Climber targets shoulders, arms, and flexors of the hips. Gluteals are also engaged and strengthened.

The Shape Climber, which features random geometric shaped climbing holes, targets the arms, legs, and flexors of the hips. Additionally, this climber promotes hand-eye coordination and enhances awareness of the names of shapes.

One of our more advanced total body challenges is our Bannister Slide.  Angled at 30°, these bars promote two unique challenges. First, they can be used with the legs extended over both bars, allowing the outer (adductor) leg muscles to be engaged. Second, a child can “hand walk” down the bars, which helps to develop hand-eye coordination. 

While not necessarily a climber, our Slide Pole features the obvious appeal of sliding down a fireman’s pole. The pole challenges the core as the child supports his body upright. Additionally, the inner leg (adductor) is strengthened, the upper body is challenged, and balance is tested.

Much like the Slide Pole, our Turn and Chin Bar is not necessarily a climber. However, it is one of our most basic, yet most effective, strengtheners. Almost all muscles of the body are engaged.  Optimal strength training results when the child pulls up his own body weight. An underhand grip targets large and small muscle groups of the chest (pectorals) and biceps (arms). Forward palm placement targets arms and postural muscles of the back as well as triceps.

Bridges & Tubes

Our bridges and tubes act as connectors between decks creating needed space between the structure’s decks and the climbers that are featured on them. Our bridges and tubes also provide new play experiences for children.

Our Tire Bridge consists of a flat ramp embellished with tires bolted onto the surface of the bridge. Flexing of the tires creates balance challenges, while the voids inside each tire create opportunities for motor planning and eye-foot coordination. The Tire Bridge might serve to reduce the speed with which users cross the bridge as compared to regular bridges.

The Fixed Lily Pad Bridge consists of a series of stepping pads suspended between two decks and attached to an overhead bar by vertical pipes. Steps are fixed to provide a relatively stable step for the user. The vertical pipe in each step provides for hand grips and prevents rapid stepping from pad to pad as the child traverses the bridge. This bridge addresses balance, grip strength, coordination of upper and lower body muscle systems, and motor planning. The vertical pipe is integral to safety. Recommended for older preschool and school-age children.

The Suspended Lily Pad Bridge is much like the Fixed Lily Pad Bridge but the vertical pipes are suspended from a top beam using a movable bearing. Additionally, it is attached to a mooring below the resilient surface using a heavy duty chain and clevis connection. This allows for each step to move within a prescribed distance (not more than 4” in any direction). The added motion presents an additional balance challenge and a heightened hand-eye and eye-foot coordination challenge to the user. This bridge also addresses hips, coordination of the lower and upper-body muscle groups, dynamic and static balance, grip strength, motor planning, and stretches and strengthens pectoral muscles. Recommended for school-age children.

Our Crawl Tubes consist of 30” diameter polyethylene tubes, which are used to connect decks or to provide entry from the ground to the lowest deck of a structure. Users move between decks in a crouching or crawling position, placing emphasis on the neck and shoulder muscles as children hold their heads in an upright position. Tubes with vertical changes add strength challenges as children use hand holds to pull themselves up along the course of the tube. Crawl tubes also address back and abdomen muscles, arms, buttocks, and hamstrings. Enclosure presents the opportunity to experience echoes and different sound and light effects.

Upper Body Challenges

Grounds For Play takes a more conservative stance compared to the national guidelines on upper body challenges. For example, national guidelines allow overhead activities to launch from decks up to 36” for 5–12-year-olds; Grounds For Play limits these decks to 24” in height. Grounds For Play also seeks to use the maximum reaching height above these decks so children enter these activities with outstretched arms. This way, children do not launch from a crouched position. Additionally, an added benefit of this design guideline is that the overhead structure is harder to climb onto (an inappropriate, unsafe, but commonly seen behavior when the overhead bars are easily reached.) We believe that with these additional design guidelines in place, overhead activities can safely be used by not only school-aged children but also older preschool children.

Our D-Loop Ladder utilizes a wide variety of strength and motor movements. Additionally, hand-eye coordination conditioning is optimized.

With the Dual Balance Chain, a range of fundamental movements are challenged. In order to complete this unique challenge, a wide stance, external rotation of hips, and supination of feet are needed. As the chain below wiggles, the child must lose and correct his balance while working the length of the chains.

With the Overhead Ladder, the lateral rotation (palms forward) as the child reaches hand over hand strengthens postural muscles of the back, core strength in general, and challenges hand-eye coordination. Incline and decline positioning of the Overhead Ladder provide advanced shoulder strengthening.

A mixture between the Overhead Ladder and the Dual Balance Chain, the Dual Overhead Ladder is used with the palms facing each other, allowing for the child’s grip to strengthened and an upper body challenge.

With the Curved Dual Overhead Rails, the child has an external rotation of their hand grip as he or she makes their way along the bar. The Curved Dual Overhead Rails strengthen postural muscles of the back, triceps, and biceps.

With the Curved Overhead Ladder, the lateral rotation (palms forward) as the child reaches hand over hand strengthens postural muscles of the back, core strength in general, and challenges hand-eye coordination. 

The Track Glide facilitates upper and lower body strength building challenges. The leg muscles (hamstrings and quadriceps) are called upon for push-off power, while proprioceptive senses are challenged as the child approaches the landing platform.

Our Trapeze Rings helps to strengthen the grip, works the upper body, and helps to improve hand-eye coordination.

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