Playworld was started in 1952 by owner and founder Robert Miller as QE Manufacturing Company, a producer of precision machine parts. In 1959, QE branched out to manufacture playground equipment. Because of the high demand, Robert’s son Dale introduced the company’s own line of precision playground products and launched Playworld Systems in 1971 (now known as Playworld).1
Playworld was acquired by PlayPower in August, 2016. Headquartered in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, the company has over 300 employees and a global network of representatives throughout the world.
The company offers a variety of playsystems for all ages, including children in preschool through adulthood. NEOS is an electronic playsystem, which combines reflex action and aerobic exercise intended to encourage children, their parents, and grandparents away from sedentary lifestyles. In an independent study by the Geisinger Center for Health Research, NEOS has been shown to raise heart rates to the equivalents of a child jogging or playing soccer. Another playsystem, inspired by the iconic play structures of past decades, is Playworld’s Unity® Collection. The Collection is designed so that the "always connected" feeling children now expect meets the physical, outdoor world of play which offers more tangible opportunities to make real connections.2
Playworld also offers products to encourage physical activity and fitness, such as motion play equipment for children and ENERGI™, fresh-air total body fitness systems for ages 9-14 and 13 and up that engage the entire community. Various stations offer diffferent benefits: static and dynamic stretches; pulling, angle bar, and hurdle exercises; squats, dips, push-ups, and balance exercises; power and agility step exercises; and core, torso, and balance disc exercises. ENERGI was designed in accordance with principles endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.3
Developed in collaboration with American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA) Functional Fitness Certified gerontology and kinesiology specialist Danielle Du Vall, Playworld designed LifeTrail®, a wellness system with 21 functional fitness stations designed to meet the needs of older adults. Using the person’s own body weight as resistance and real-life body positioning, the LifeTrail Advanced Wellness System focuses on building the strength and energy required to accomplish routine activities. Tests conducted in 2009 showed that LifeTrail helped to increase strength and dynamic balance among older adults.4
Realizing the need to encourage more nature play for children, Playworld offers nature-inspired play elements such as hillside slides, rock-like climbing boulders and rope bridges along with T-Rex bones and eggs that encourage climbing. Digging for fossils in sand helps to reinforce children’s connection to nature.5 Branch Out, launched in 2016, is the company’s newest nature-inspired addition, giving kids an experience similar to that of climbing trees.
Playworld strives to achieve the barrier-free principles of universal design to provide accessibility to children of all abilities. The company has partnered with Mara Kaplan and Let Kids Play!, an organization that specializes in designing play spaces for children with special needs.6 Working with a team of cross-cultural experts, including Kaplan, the company developed the Inclusive Play Design Guide. It's a step-by-step, manufacturer-neutral guide that educates readers on incorporating inclusive play principles into an existing or new playground including design tips.
The company has measurably reduced its carbon footprint, from eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to enhancing its lean manufacturing, waste management, and recycling programs. Playworld is one of the first major U.S. playground manufacturers to remove PVC from its products through the use of Eco-Armor®, the company’s durable, thermoplastic polyethylene (PE) coating. PE coatings like Eco-Armor average a 38 percent lower carbon footprint than PVC coatings. The company is ISO 14001 certified, because it meets the highest standards for responsible environmental manufacturing practices. PlayPower President, North America Play, Matthew Miller said, “We have a responsibility to the environment and the children who use our playgrounds to do everything in our power to use the most environmentally friendly substances.”7
In 2011, Playworld achieved the Cradle to Cradle certification, which is recognized by environmental experts worldwide for its innovation in sustainability. The Cradle to Cradle Certified program provides guidelines to help businesses evaluate all materials in their supply chain and focus on using safe materials that can be disassembled, recycled, and repurposed once their useful lifecycle is complete.8
Playworld has received numerous awards throughout the years, including three International Industrial Design Excellence Awards, a gold medal from International Design magazine, two News Directors’ Choice Awards on Early Childhood, the Pennsylvania Governors’ Award for Safety Excellence, a KAPi Award for Innovation, as well as a Best of Products Award from the Architect’s Newspaper. Along with these awards, Playworld was a consultant to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to write a cost benefit and regulatory assessment for the proposed guidelines on access to play areas. Playworld’s leaders are founding members and active participants in the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA). The company has also been recognized six times as one of the best places to work in Pennsylvania.9
In 2011, a Playworld playground was chosen to be built as the 2,000th build of KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit, at Southeast Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. First Lady Michelle Obama joined KaBOOM! in the build and celebration.10
Playworld sponsored a national touring exhibition and education program called Extraordinary Playscapes. Presented in conjunction with the Design Museum Foundation, the exhibition explores the importance of play in childhood development while showcasing how designers translate play objectives into innovative, extraordinary, and outdoor play environments. The touring exhibit launched in Boston in the summer of 2016 and moved to Portland, Oregon in the fall, later traveling to San Francisco and Chicago. Pieces of play sculpture featured in the exhibit include Playworld’s PlayCubes™ and PlayForm 7. PlayCubes, iconic sculptural play structures originally introduced in the 1960s, were revived through an exclusive partnership with Architect Richard Dattner, FAIA. PlayForm 7 is play sculpture that serves as interactive art, designed to spark unique play experiences and meaningful conversation.11
- 1. “Playworld Systems, Inc.” National Playground Contractors Association, Manufacturer’s Profile. Summer, 2001. pg. 4.
- 2. Information received from Playworld via email. 30 Sep. 2016.
- 3. “ENERGI.” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/products/fitnessandwellness> 27 Aug. 2010.
- 4. “Adult Fitness.” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/products/fitnessandwellness> 27 Aug. 2010.
- 5. “Playworld Systems Introduces Origins – Elements Integrate Play Activities With Nature.” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/why_playworld/about_us/press/news/playworld_systems_introduces_origins_elements_integrate_play_activ> 9 Sep. 2011.
- 6. “Playworld Systems Deepens Commitment to Accessibility through Partnership with Let Kids Play!” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/why_playworld/about_us/press/news/playworld_systems_deepens_commitment_to_accessibility_through_part> 9 Sep. 2011.
- 7. “Playworld Systems, Inc. is first Major U.S. Playground Manufacturer to Eliminate PVC from Products.” PR-inside. Business Wire, 11 Aug. 2008. < http://www.pr-inside.com/playworld-systems-inc-is-first-major-r747819.htm > 23 Sept. 2009.
- 8. “Playworld Systems Becomes First Playground Manufacturer to have Products Cradle to Cradle Certified for Ongoing Commitment to Sustainability.” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/why_playworld/about_us/press/news/playworld_systems_becomes_first_playground_manufacturer_to_have_pr> 9 Sep. 2011.
- 9. “About Us.” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/why_playworld/about_us> 27 Aug. 2010.
- 10. “KaBOOM! Celebrates 2,000th Build With Long-time Partner Playworld Systems.” Playworld. < http://playworld.com/why_playworld/about_us/press/news/kaboom_celebrates_2000th_build_with_longtime_partner_playworld_sys> 9 Sep. 2011.
- 11. Information received from Playworld via email. 30 Sep. 2016.