Playgrounds and outdoor spaces are an integral part of early childhood and education settings, which is why our Playground by Kaplan team makes it their mission to provide fantastic customer service and help you with your project from beginning to end. We recently talked with Mark Zimmerman, Kaplan’s Playground Sales Manager, and asked him a few questions about what current and potential customers should know about Playgrounds by Kaplan.

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1. The 2016 Playgrounds by Kaplan catalog just recently came out. What are your favorite new products? Is there anything else you want to say about the catalog?

Mark: My favorite product is the Discovery Center Sapling. This product is perfect for the infant and toddler age group and adds to our expanding line of products that meet the developmental needs of infant and toddlers. We also have some excellent choices in the music category as well as a very nice selection of Earth Friendly products that utilize a lot of recycled materials. In regards to our new 2016 catalog, we are very excited about our Infant & Toddler section.  Many companies do not place a lot of emphasis on this age group, so the offerings can be very slim. However, we do choose to focus on this group, and we have many wonderful products available for their specific needs. 

2. What is the biggest misconception people have when they start the process of building a playground or finding new equipment? What do they forget to ask or address?

Mark: In my experience, there are two major misconceptions that people generally have about building a new playground:

  1. Many people believe that building a new playground is like ordering new furniture for the classroom, but building a new playground is more like a construction project. You can’t just order the equipment and place it on the playground once it is delivered. It is a much more complicated and time consuming project. You have a totally different set of timelines to deal with, and some projects can take 6 to 10 weeks to even start when you take into account manufacturing timelines, scheduling and logistical concerns, etc.
  2. Another common misconception is the full cost of the project. Catalog prices only take into account the cost of the equipment—they do not include installation, freight, and taxes. The cost of surfacing is also not included. If you go with a type of unitary surfacing (PIP, Bonded Rubber, Synthetic Turf, or Tiles), the surfacing can cost more than the equipment itself, especially when you consider any sub-base needed, site prep, or other additional work. 

3. Are there any current trends in the playground industry? I’ve heard that Early Head Start programs, especially EHS-CCP grant participants, are interested in moveable playground units.

Mark: Relocate!  With so many dollars being made available to Early Head Start – Child Care Partnership Programs, the ability to move or relocate equipment is a major incentive when considering the purchase of equipment for infant and toddlers. We have over 20 items for this age group that can be relocated very easily. 

4. What tips do you have for making playgrounds more accessible to children of all abilities?

Mark: Accessibility is clearly defined in ADA guidelines on what is acceptable and not acceptable.  There are multiple pages in the guidelines about what is allowed, but in a nutshell, there are a number of accessible surfaces ranging from loose fill wood and rubber mulch to unitary surfaces such as PIP Rubber Surfacing, Synthetic Turf, and Rubber Tiles. Two surfaces that will not meet ADA Standards are sand and pea gravel. In addition, not only must you have an acceptable surface, you must also have an acceptable route from the building to the playground. For example, if you are using timbers on your playground, you must provide a ramp to access the playground area. 

5. Why do you think a customer should choose Playgrounds by Kaplan? What services and/or products make Playgrounds by Kaplan stand out from the competition?

Mark: Customer service! We have a staff of highly skilled Playground Professionals that can help and assist you on your project from beginning to end. Our Designer and Sales Professionals are CPSI Certified. We can provide site walks, suggestions, and designs at the beginning of the project. We can also provide a turnkey installation solution including any kind of playground surfacing to complete the project. For more information about the playground building process, visit the Playground resource page on the Kaplan website.

6. When a customer contacts Kaplan Early Learning Company, what can they expect?

Mark: They can expect the good name of Kaplan Early Learning Company to be there for them before and after the completion of the project. Kaplan Early Learning Company is a family-owned company that started in 1968. We are not one of the “here today-gone tomorrow” companies that you see pop up continually in our business. We are here to serve our customers and to provide quality materials for the children that they serve. If you provide Kaplan Early Learning Company the opportunity to work with your program, I know all of our employees will provide the best and most wonderful experience—whether it be with your playground needs or your classroom needs. 

More About Mark:

Mark Zimmerman began working at Kaplan Early Learning Company in 1989 and moved into the playground department in 2005. While serving in various sales capacities over the years, playground sales has been his most enjoyable position because every day is different and presents its own unique challenges. Mark has met many wonderful people over the years and is thankful that he has had the opportunity to work with so many dedicated individuals. Feel free to contact Mark or other members of the Playgrounds by Kaplan team with any questions you may have about building a playground.

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