Playgrounds, Their Administration and Operation

Playgrounds, Their Administration and Operation was published in 1936 by A. S. Barnes and Company. Edited by George D. Butler for the National Recreation Association, the book addresses the concerns of playground administrators and their day to day operations.

When written, the playground movement was still in its early stages of development. The function of the playground was seen as meeting several needs for the community: a place to have fun, to acquire life skills, to play safely, to build a healthy body, to improve mental health, to develop character, and to reduce delinquency.

The book proposes that the ideal playground is a place where:

  1. All the children in the neighborhood have room enough to engage in their favorite play activities.
  2. Attractiveness, orderliness, and good design afford a pleasant setting for play.
  3. Boys—and girls too—can “let off steam” and use their energy without repression by or annoyance to their elders.
  4. Due to wise planning and leadership each age is given a chance to play.
  5. The girls have an equal chance with the boys.
  6. A variety of skills are developed—skills in crafts, team games, individual sports.
  7. All kinds and degrees of abilities are recognized.
  8. A wide variety of interests find opportunities for expression.
  9. New acquaintances are made.
  10. Children are given opportunities for service.
  11. Fair play is the rule.
  12. There is always something interesting to do.
  13. Children may have a good time, with a minimum of danger of being hurt.
  14. Activities are carried on in such a way as to develop strong healthy bodies.
  15. Every child, including the physically handicapped, receives fair consideration and has an opportunity for happy, satisfying play activity.
  16. In so far as space and facilities permit, the playground is a place where families and neighborhood groups may play together.

The function of playground administration is to bring these ideals to reality and to develop their operations to ensure ongoing benefits.

The first section of the book discusses the playground plant with its layout considerations, equipment options, and supplies. This is followed with the playground leadership topics of selecting, training, and rating playground workers as well as junior leaders and volunteers.

Activities and programs are discussed in the third section taking into consideration varying factors such as types of activities, seasons, ages, gender, space, numbers taking part, place of play, skill required, time involved, cost, and method of organization. Suggestions in program planning and methods of organizing and conducting activities are given.

The section covering administrative problems addresses the issues of administrative control of playgrounds, playground staff organization, personnel regulations, regulating the use of areas and facilities, playground finance, and records and reports. Also discussed are suggestions for informing the public about playground facilities and activities as well as the relationships and cooperation with municipal departments and private organizations.

The last section of the book addresses the problems of operations, such as safety on the playground, conduct issues, award programs for activities, city-wide inter-playground activities, and playground workers’ duties.1

The book ends with a challenging quote from Dorothy C. Enderis in The Playleaders’ Guide to those who are involved with playground work:

“A playleader who perfunctorily carries on activities and guards his playground against physical mishap has a job. He who adds a skill and technique to these duties creates a profession, but he who crowns his profession with consecration and devotion performs a mission, and the children, youths and adults who come to him for play and sport carry away deeper values and greater riches than the mere memory of a happy day, and the community which has intrusted to him the leisure hours of its citizenry shall call him blessed.”2

  • 1. Butler, George D., editor. National Recreation Association. Playgrounds, Their Administration and Operation. New York: A. S. Barnes and Company Inc. 1936.
  • 2. The Playleaders’ Guide. Milwaukee: Public Schools. 1935.