Do you remember when an afternoon at the playground looked a lot like the Cross Fit class you find yourself huffing and puffing through these days? If so, then you’re going to love this trip down memory lane. We’ve found the coolest blacktop equipment only kids from a generation raised on Twinkies and cheddar cheese balls can remember. From thunder-domes to wobbly rocking horses, we’ve got the retro gear you used to love to twirl around, jump on or slide down!

photo: Nels Olsen via flickr creative commons

High Speed Merry Go Round
Spin around as fast as possible and try not to throw up. To most kids these days, this may not sound like a game, but to anyone that grew up in the 70’s and 80s, it was a favorite pastime. Old school, metal merry go rounds picked up serious speed, so you needed to time your jump onto the hot metal carefully, or you’d be tossed. But, that was the fun of it. Right?

photo: Peter Griffin 

Wobbly Horse
What do you do when you don’t have an interactive iPad game to keep you thoroughly entertained? You jump on a heavy duty, totally battered, wobbly horse and pretend your’e an award winning jockey. We still remember how thrilling it was to be in the middle of the playground winner’s circle.

photo: Retro Crush

Log Crush
Back in the day, kids weren’t practicing tree pose to perfect their balance. It was all about the log crush. Jump on and move your feet and see how long it takes you before you fall. Then repeat.

photo: Bart Everson via flickr creative commons

Towering Metal Slides
Modern day slides are usually made of molded plastic, with just a faint slope and a definitive height restriction. Someone must have decided sky-high, burning hot metal might result in serious injury, but we have to admit, those towering metal slides did prep kids for a challenge. They may have also cured more than a few people’s fear of heights before they even knew to be afraid.

photo: Mental Floss

Flat Wooden Swings
If you sat on one of these flat wooden swings there’s a strong possibility your name is Jennifer, Amanda or Jessica (the top three names in 1980!). These popular 80’s swings weren’t made for softies. They didn’t curve to fit your seat and the chain-link handles could cause a nasty blister, but they did gain speed and go high. High enough that when you jumped off you could go really, really far.

photo: Scott Ackerman via flickr creative commons

Tether Ball
Tether ball was schweet! Sure you might get smacked in the face or deal with a jammed finger, but you and a friend could also have hours of fun on the playground with nothing more than a ball, tied by a rope to a metal post. It really was that easy.

photo: Sludge G via flickr creative commons

Rocket Monkey Bars
Maybe it was our obsession with NASA in the 70’s, but it seemed like every playground worth it’s salt had a version of rocket monkey bars. And, what better way to spark the imagination than climbing up, onto, and off of a rocket.

photo: haru_q via flickr creative commons

Tire Training
Got a discarded tire? Bring it to the playground. In the 70’s and 80’s if you went to the playground it seemed like at least half of it consisted of stuff made from tires. Tire swings, tire bridge, tire wall! It all worked, and provided hours of fun.

photo: Pax Holley 

Horrifying Clown Swings
Clowns are scary, especially for anyone who’s seen the horror classic, It. So, a skinny clown swing set was a double dose of creepy when it was all the rage in the 80’s. Luckily Madonna was around belting out Papa Don’t Preach to make us all feel better.

photo: Nels Olsen via flickr creative commons

Miracle Dome Whirl
It was like your very own version of Gravitron, the classic gravity-defying carnival ride. The real challenge was keeping your head down and your legs from dragging when you and your crew really picked up speed.

What long-gone piece of playground equipment was your favorite? Share with us in a Comment below. 

— Aimee Della Bitta

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