The Ball Pit Disaster: How a Tumblr Convention Went Wrong with a Tiny Pool and a Meme
The Ball Pit: A Fun and Colorful History
If you have ever been to a children's playground, a fast-food restaurant, or an amusement park, chances are you have seen or even played in a ball pit. A ball pit is a large container or pool filled with thousands of small, colorful, plastic balls that kids can jump into, crawl through, or toss around. But where did this simple yet brilliant idea come from? Who invented the ball pit and why? And what are the benefits and challenges of having a ball pit at home or in a public place? In this article, we will explore the history, science, and fun of the ball pit, as well as give you some tips on how to make your own or find the best ones to visit in 2023.
What is a ball pit and why do kids love it?
A ball pit is a padded box or pool filled with small hollow plastic balls generally no larger than 3 inches (7.6 cm) in diameter. They are typically marketed as recreation and exercise for children, but adults can also enjoy them. A ball pit can be part of a larger play area or a standalone attraction. Some ball pits may have slides, tunnels, nets, or other features to make them more fun and challenging.
the ball pit
But what makes a ball pit so appealing to kids? According to experts, there are several reasons why children love playing in a ball pit. Some of them are:
A ball pit stimulates the senses. The bright colors, the soft texture, the sound of the balls moving, and the feeling of being surrounded by them all create a sensory-rich environment that attracts and engages children.
A ball pit encourages physical activity. Playing in a ball pit involves jumping, crawling, throwing, catching, and balancing, which are all good for developing motor skills, coordination, strength, and endurance.
A ball pit fosters social interaction. A ball pit is a great place for children to meet new friends, share toys, cooperate, communicate, and have fun together.
A ball pit sparks imagination. A ball pit can be anything that a child wants it to be: a treasure chest, a spaceship, a castle, a jungle, or anything else. A ball pit allows children to create their own stories and scenarios and express their creativity.
The origin of the ball pit and its inventor
But who came up with the idea of filling a box with plastic balls and letting kids play in it? The answer is Eric McMillan, an English designer who is sometimes referred to as the "father of soft play". McMillan rose from a rough upbringing in Manchester to become the world's leading designer of children's play centers. His vision blended colors, textiles, and physical exercise, converging in spaces that formed millions of childhood memories.
McMillan invented the ball pit in San Diego more than 40 years ago, when inspiration struck after looking at a container of pickled onions in the kitchen. "There was a jar of onions, and we were sort of saying: 'wow, how about if you could crawl through those? And then ding we decided wed try it," he says. The benefits of playing in a ball pit
Playing in a ball pit is not only fun, but also beneficial for children's development. According to various sources , some of the benefits of ball pit play are:
It stimulates the senses. The bright colors, the soft texture, the sound of the balls moving, and the feeling of being surrounded by them all create a sensory-rich environment that attracts and engages children.
It encourages physical activity. Playing in a ball pit involves jumping, crawling, throwing, catching, and balancing, which are all good for developing motor skills, coordination, strength, and endurance.
It fosters social interaction. A ball pit is a great place for children to meet new friends, share toys, cooperate, communicate, and have fun together.
It sparks imagination. A ball pit can be anything that a child wants it to be: a treasure chest, a spaceship, a castle, a jungle, or anything else. A ball pit allows children to create their own stories and scenarios and express their creativity.
The challenges and risks of maintaining a ball pit
However, playing in a ball pit also comes with some challenges and risks that need to be addressed. One of the main concerns is hygiene. Ball pits can become contaminated with dirt, germs, and other substances that can pose health hazards for children and adults alike. A study by researchers from the University of North Georgia found that ball pits used in physical therapy clinics were teeming with bacteria, some of which were associated with infections, sepsis, and meningitis. Another study by an online stem cell bank claimed that 99.9% of public play areas, ball pits and toys were "a hive of germs" based on surveys of pub managers and parents. While these studies may not be conclusive or representative of all ball pits, they do highlight the need for proper cleaning and maintenance of these play areas.
Some of the best practices for keeping a ball pit clean and safe are :
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Regularly washing and sanitizing the balls with warm water and mild detergent or disinfectant solution.
Removing any debris, food particles, or foreign objects from the ball pit.
Vacuuming or wiping the floor and walls of the ball pit with a damp cloth.
Using a cover or tarpaulin to protect the ball pit from dust, rain, or insects when not in use.
Replacing any damaged or missing balls.
Checking for any tears or holes in the ball pit enclosure and repairing them promptly.
Limiting the number of children allowed in the ball pit at a time.
Enforcing rules such as no eating, drinking, or wearing shoes in the ball pit.
Encouraging children to wash their hands before and after playing in the ball pit.
How to make your own ball pit at home
If you want to have your own ball pit at home without spending too much money or space, there are some easy and creative ways to do it. Here are some steps to follow:
What you need to create a DIY ball pit
The main things you need to create a DIY ball pit are:
A container or enclosure to hold the balls. This can be anything from an inflatable pool, a playpen, a cardboard box, a laundry basket, a tent, or even a bathtub.
A lot of plastic balls. You can buy them online or in stores in bulk or use any balls you already have at home. Make sure they are clean and safe for children to play with.
A soft padding or cushioning for the bottom and sides of the container. This can be anything from foam mats, blankets, pillows, towels, or bubble wrap. This will make the ball pit more comfortable and prevent injuries.
How to choose the right size, shape, and location for your ball pit
The size, shape, and location of your ball pit will depend on your preferences, budget, space availability, and number of children who will use it. Some factors to consider are:
The size of your container. You want it to be big enough to fit enough balls and children comfortably but not too big that it takes up too much space or becomes hard to manage.
The shape of your container. You can choose any shape that suits your container such as round, square, rectangular, oval, or irregular. You can also use multiple containers to create different sections or The most amazing ball pits around the world
If you are looking for a ball pit that you can visit in a public place, here are some of the most amazing ones that you can find around the world:
The Beach by Snarkitecture in Washington DC
This is a massive ball pit that mimics the experience of being at the beach. It contains nearly one million recyclable translucent plastic balls that create an ocean-like effect. It also has deck chairs, umbrellas, and a snack bar. It is located at the National Building Museum and is open to visitors of all ages. It measures 929 square meters (10,000 square feet) and costs $16 for adults and $13 for children.
The Ballie Ballerson in London
This is a unique ball pit that combines art, music, and cocktails. It features three different ball pits with different themes and colors: the Glow Pit, the Retro Pit, and the VIP Pit. It also has a DJ booth, a bar, and a pizza menu. It is located in Shoreditch and is open to visitors aged 18 and over. It measures 280 square meters (3,000 square feet) and costs 7.50 for general admission and 20 for VIP access.
The Color Factory in New York City
This is a colorful ball pit that is part of a larger interactive exhibit that celebrates color and creativity. It contains 500,000 blue balls that create a contrast with the yellow walls and floor. It also has a conveyor belt that transports visitors to the exit. It is located in SoHo and is open to visitors of all ages. It measures 46 square meters (500 square feet) and costs $38 for adults and $28 for children.
Conclusion and FAQs
A ball pit is a fun and colorful play area that can stimulate the senses, encourage physical activity, foster social interaction, and spark imagination. It can also have some challenges and risks such as hygiene, safety, and maintenance. Whether you want to make your own ball pit at home or visit one in a public place, there are many options available for different budgets, preferences, and occasions. Here are some frequently asked questions about ball pits:
What are the best balls for a ball pit?
The best balls for a ball pit are those that are soft, durable, non-toxic, and easy to clean. They should also be colorful and varied in size to create more visual appeal and stimulation. Some of the best brands of ball pit balls are Click N' Play, Kiddy Up, Playz, and Wonder Playball.
How many balls do I need for a ball pit?
The number of balls you need for a ball pit depends on the size of your container and how deep you want your ball pit to be. A general rule of thumb is to multiply the length, width, and height of your container in feet by 12 to get the volume in cubic feet. Then multiply that by 5.5 to get the number of balls you need. For example, if your container is 5 x 4 x 2 feet, you will need 5 x 4 x 2 x 12 x 5.5 = 2640 balls.
How do I clean my ball pit balls?
You can clean your ball pit balls by washing them with warm water and mild detergent or disinfectant solution. You can use a mesh bag or a colander to rinse and drain them. Dry them thoroughly before putting them back in the container.
Where can I buy or rent a ball pit?
You can buy or rent a ball pit online or in stores from various retailers or suppliers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, Wayfair, Party City, or Bounce House Rentals.
Are ball pits safe for babies?
Ball pits can be safe for babies if they are supervised by an adult, have soft padding and cushioning, have clean and non-toxic balls, and have no sharp edges or objects. However, some experts advise against letting babies under one year old play in ball pits due to the risk of choking or suffocation.