Little Tikes Commercial is a recognized brand of outdoor commercial playground equipment that provides innovative and developmentally appropriate children’s play events that promote healthy minds and bodies. They offer complete play systems, modular play events, free-standing playground equipment, playground surfacing, and playground amenities.1
The history of Little Tikes Commercial traces its beginnings to Iron Mountain Forge, now PlayPower LT Farmington, Inc., a business that started operations manufacturing park amenities in 1979 inside a 2,000 sq. ft. warehouse located in Farmington, Missouri. One of the company’s earliest sales was an order of barbecue grills that were sold to the State of Arkansas Parks and Recreation Department. By the following year, the business was thriving and moved to a 30,000 sq. ft. warehouse.2
Iron Mountain Forge entered the commercial playground industry in 1985 with the introduction of the Kid Builders Play Structures line. Five years later, in 1990, their One Piece Spiral Slide won the Product of the Year and the First Place award in the Large Category given by the Worldwide Association of Rotational Molders.3
In 1993, Rubbermaid purchased Iron Mountain Forge and changed the name to Little Tikes Commercial, and in 1994, Little Tikes Commercial launched the PlayCenter line of large playgrounds and added some of the industry's first three-dimensional theme components to the Kid Builders Play Structures - the Ship, Frontier, and Castle components. In 1995, Little Tikes Commercial added an epoxy primer to their paint process that resulted in superior paint adhesion. The company also purchased Canadian-based Paris Playground Equipment that year.
In 1997, Little Tikes Commercial launched a value 5” post structure called MaxPlay®. MayPlay systems were designed with child development experts and offer maximum play value with easy installation.
A devastating fire completely destroyed the rotational molding area in 1998, but production continued with the help of other Rubbermaid facilities. Little Tikes Commercial’s new custom rebuilt and re-engineered facility was operational in early 1999. In the same year, they introduced the Kid Kubes Play Structures and the Wood Builders Play Structures, which were being used for parks, schools, indoor family entertainment centers, and fast food restaurants. This gave them a complete line of park service equipment.4
In 2003, Little Tikes Commercial introduced the Infinity Climber, a “free-form flowing shape (that) defies flat planes ... and challenges children to play in a different way.” It was awarded a 2004 Gold International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA).5
Meanwhile, their parent company, Rubbermaid merged with Newell Corporation to form Newell Rubbermaid. In 2004, PlayPower Inc. acquired Little Tikes Commercial to expand its family of brands as a recreational play company.
In 2005, Little Tikes Commercial released their SkyBuilders® fully-enclosed towering play structures. With 17’ slides, the SkyBuilders® product line encourages adventure while delivering a thrilling ride for children.
Little Tikes Commercial was one of the first playground companies to offer LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification points in 2008. They also obtained both ISO 14001 and OSHAS 18001 that same year, another first for the industry.
In 2009, Little Tikes Commercial integrated patented musical sounds into playground platforms and decks with the introduction of the Tap a Tune Activity Panel (now referred to as the Melody Maker) and the Bell Deck.
The Gelefish™ play system was released in 2011. Featuring 8 interchangeable play event locations, four ground-level play events, a 32” accessible spiral staircase and the innovative Gele Roof design, the Gelefish system allowed customers a play system option with a maximized footprint with customizable options. The contemporary Hoop-La climbing system and the accessible Rock’N Ship Glider were also released that year.
Launched at the 2011 NRPA Expo in Atlanta, GA, the NU-edge™ product line featured Little Tikes Commercial’s patented Naturtek™ material, which simulates the look and feel of real rock and wood textures. Fusing natural play components with sleek, urban design creates the eye-catching design known as Natural Urban Edge.6
Little Tikes Commercial currently offers complete play systems, modular play events, free-standing playground equipment, sports and outdoor play equipment, playground surfacing, shade structures, and playground amenities.
- 1. “Company Profile.” Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals. 14 May 2012.
- 2. “From Bantam Beginnings to luminous Little Tikes playgrounds.” Today's Playground July 2007: 38-39.
- 3. “Our Legacy.” Little Tikes Commercial. < http://www.littletikescommercial.com/company/history.aspx > 12 Oct. 2010.
- 4. Op. cit., “Company Profile.”
- 5. “IDEA 2004 Gallery: Gold.” Industrial Designers Society of America. < http://www.idsa.org/category/tags/idea-2004-gold?page=2 > 24 May 2012.
- 6. Personal correspondence to Playground Professionals. 18 April 2013.