What Ever Became of…Playground Merry-Go-Rounds?


This one may seem too easy–whirling metal death wheels, sue happy society, why wouldn’t these disappear? But come on now, we are talking about a country that landed a man on the moon, that perfected 30-minutes-or-it’s-free pizza delivery, that invented the internet! There shouldn’t be anything insurmountable! Especially not figuring out how to capture the joy of spinning until you puke while exploring the principles of momentum, all in a manner deemed at least as safe as a 20 foot tall slide perched over a smelly pile of pea gravel. What ideas do you have, can we bring back the fun, or is it good riddance? What ever happened to playground merry-go-rounds?

Image via Flickr.

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    Back in the days of playground merry-go-rounds someone at The Exploratorium built this simple demonstrator of centrifugal force (and parabolic curves.) We had to cover the edges of the tank in foam padding to prevent injury (ours didn't have the extra skirt.) How much padding? Well, when asked if there was enough foam padding, Frank Oppenheimer gave the thing a mighty spin, leaned in and stopped it with his head, and pronounced it safe. Guy was an experimental scientist to his core.

    We did have this thing for a while, try to stay on the chair in the middle.

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    • Vairship

      These guys built a "simple demonstrator of centrifugal force" too. This kind of innovation may have hastened the demise of the merry-go-round in litigious places: [youtube btxMd5mbPeM youtube]

  • skitter

    I tend to think of playgrounds as nice controlled environments to learn about dangerous things.
    And try to treat my life as if it is one.
    Except for the control delusion.

  • chrystlubitshi

    merry-go-rounds are fun and all, but my favourite park had a "push-me, pull-you, we spin faster the harder we push on the handles" kinda thing. I haven't been able to find a pic…. but picture a 10 foot (corner to corner) x shape. a seat at the end of each arm. and a rocker handle (hinged on the central x beam) that allows you to push and pull with both your hands and feet. the push and pull handles and pegs are all connected to a planetary gear set at the center. you could spin soooooooo fast… even if you were the lonely kid that no pne wanted to play with I'll keep looking and will post a pic if I can find one

    • Felis_Concolor

      Oh yes, I remember those well. I saw both 2 and 4 seat versions, the latter of which could generate some ferocious forces when all present were working in perfect synchrony.

  • cruisintime

    Fun has been curtailed by Liability.

    • rodzilla

      I came here to make a similar comment. Nowadays, if someone’s child suffers so much as a scratch from your playground equipment, they will bankrupt you to get revenge. Meanwhile their precious child grows up with no sense of danger, having never been hurt, due to its bubble wrapped existence.

      • FЯeeMan

        And no idea how to deal with adversity once it hits – that's why there are so many 30 year olds living in mommy's basement.

  • Metric Wrench

    As our bible belt midwest small town does not believe in evolution, our town playground still has the good stuff – diamond plate steel merry go round, galvanized jungle gym eight feet off the grass, oh yeah. Our kids have tasted blood and fear.

  • Gary

    You should check out the new "ten-spin" from Miracle Recreation. Its solves the problems.

  • Blues

    No, No it doesn't.

    Slow and safe!

  • Cindy

    We still sell Merry Go Rounds, we call the The Whirl, we also have the Ten Spin, both by Miracle Recreation

  • Slow_Joe_Crow

    For the most part, lawsuits or fear of lawsuits. The same thing happened to the large wood play structures that were popular in the 70s, due to splinters and possible arsenic poisoning. My large well funded parks district/school district has replaced almost all of the old wood and metal structures with newer "safer" stuff. On the other hand some smaller places in my are still have them. As far as I know Metzger Oregon's city park still has a metal merry go round and several old style climbing things and Durham City Park still has a home made wooden climbing structure with a metal slide.