Forget the regular old slide and jungle gym. Today's parks are enticing children to play - and get their exercise - with brightly colored surfaces and equipment that offer more ways to spin, climb and explore than ever before.
Consider the bold red OmniSpin spinner at Bernalillo County's Ladera Park in the North Valley. The modern take on the standard metal merry-go-round that many parents remember from the 1970s just plain looks fun. High-backed seats allow children of all abilities to sit comfortably; there's even a transfer point for a wheelchair or walker. Because someone must push, the OmniSpin encourages interactive play while giving kids vestibular sensory stimulation.
The playground, which also offers musical instruments, a net climber, a giant group swing and more, was designed by ExerPlay.
The award-winning company, based in Cedar Crest, has built a reputation as a leader in the outdoor recreation and playground industry. It plans, designs and installs playground equipment as well as skate parks and spray parks in Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
"We've come up with new and innovative designs," said company president Daniel J. Gardiner. "We've got a proven track record."
If you and your children have enjoyed the playgrounds at North Domingo Baca, Piedras Marcadas, Mariposa, Sandia Vista Park, Jerry Cline, Manzano Mesa or a host of other parks around town, you've got ExperPlay to thank.
"We are really fortunate in Albuquerque that we have some of the best playgrounds in the world," Gardiner said. "That's a hidden gem."
ExerPlay does not make the play equipment, but rather acts as a dealer for pioneering brands such as Landscape Structures and designs play areas.
To begin, the company considers what kids need to get from a playground setting such as fitness, connection to nature and auditory and sensory stimulation as well as how to compete in a technology-driven world for the attention of an average kid. The Evos equipment from Landscape Structures has become a game changer, Gardiner said.
"It looks like an outdoor sculpture. There's nothing traditional about it," he said. "When you get on there, you're very engaged. ... It's very intuitive."
And being engaged means kids stay active longer and get a better workout. The new structures with climbing cables, spinners and other new types of equipment challenge kids to position their bodies in new ways, use different muscles and work cooperatively with friends or other kids they meet at the playground.
"They want to be able to traverse from one location on the Evos to the other side without ever touching the ground, and there's probably 20 ways to do that," said Charles DeBuck, ExerPlay business manager.
Often children will say their arms or stomach hurt after using the equipment because they've been using different muscles.
"Those are the kinds of things we love to hear," DeBuck said.
The new playgrounds also are safer than ever, Gardiner said, adding that park planners like the fact that it's easy to see through the structures so there's nowhere to hide.
ExerPlay has created several playgrounds for the city of Albuquerque.
"When we get the opportunity to work with Exerplay, (their) staff consistently participates in project design support and provides outstanding customer service for both the city and end users, creating value-added benefits to our process of park design and construction," said Paul Hyso, marketing manager for the city Parks and Recreation Department.