A ball pit (originally called "ball crawl" and also known as a ball pool or ball pond) is a pit, usually rectangular and padded, filled with small (generally no larger than a baseball) colorful hollow plastic balls. Instead of balls, other spherical objects can be used, such as balloons. It is typically employed as a recreation and exercise for small children.
Ball pits are often found at nurseries, carnivals, amusement parks, fun centers, fast-food restaurants, and large video arcades. Chuck E. Cheese's and (now defunct) Discovery Zone formerly had ball pits and they were frequently incorporated into larger play structures, such as mazes, slides, and jungle gyms. In the early 2000s, Chuck E. Cheese's removed their ball pits due to safety concerns and because the pits were a drain on resources, since children would frequently steal individual balls until the pits were far below capacity and unusable.
Ball pits may be rented for parties, and smaller versions are sold for use in the home. While ball pits are traditionally regarded as a children's plaything, some are large enough to accommodate adults.
The first known ball pit was installed in 1976 at the Captain Kids World area at Sea World San Diego. It was designed by playground specialist Eric McMillan, who is often considered the "father of soft play".
Beginning in the late 1990s, a number of urban legends arose about children being severely injured or even killed due to ball-pit encounters with things such as venomous snakes or hypodermic needles. However, no such report has been verified.
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