Merry-go-rounds are the most popular rotating equipment on playgrounds. The equipment is meant for children to sit/stand while children or adults push it to rotate. Sometimes children get on and off the piece of equipment while it is rotating. These can be dangerous because it is hard for children to know how to get on and off while the merry go round is moving. It is important that children are always supervised while on them because of the hazards they pose.
While merry-go-rounds can be hazardous, if used properly they can have several benefits for children. According to Angela J. Hanscom in Balanced and Barefoot, they are extremely therapeutic. This is because they give children confidence and courage each time they hop on and as the equipment spins faster. It also helps develop their strength as they hold on and push the rotation. Hanscom says that children’s utricles, the fluid cavities in inner ears with hair cells, reach maximum activation. These send messages to the brain which have therapeutic effects. They make children calm and improve their attention. It is often quite hard for children to give their teachers their full attention, and they are actually more likely to be attentive in the classroom after using merry-go-rounds. Merry-go-rounds are now harder to find because they are seen as dangerous. Children’s safety is the most important thing to think about when building a playground.
At Trassig we have merry-go-cycles. They are a great piece of play equipment for 2 to 5 year olds. They allow up to 5 kids to pedal around, making it perfect for social play. Merry-go-cycles allow children to build muscle strength and coordination because they must pedal to make it go. It is small so it does not require much space and it is easy to assemble. For younger kids it is a much safer option and kids still get the benefits of merry-go-rounds.
If the merry-go-round is 20 inches or more in diameter they should not be used for toddlers. The standing and sitting surfaces should be no more than 14 inches above the surface for preschool age children and no more than 18 inches above the surface for school age children. For non-circular platforms the difference of the min. and max. radii should be no more than 2 inches. No materials that have the power to crush and shear should be accessible in the undercarriage. There should always be something to grab on to, such as a handgrip. Nothing on the equipment should go beyond the perimeter of the platform. The motion of merry-go-rounds is just to rotate and should never have the ability to go up and down. The fall height is the distance between the perimeter of the standing/sitting section of the platform and the safety surfacing underneath the equipment.
The use zone of merry-go-rounds is at least 6 feet beyond the perimeter in every direction. The use zone should never be in contact with another use zone unless it is less than 20 inches in diameter and the piece of equipment near it allows it.