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There’s a lot to consider when coming up with a playground design. You need to think about everything from its look and safety to your budget and available space. With so much to take into account, where do you start?
You don’t have to begin with stress! We have years of experience in helping people design playgrounds, whether it’s updating an existing playground or creating a new one for the community. Here’s why a thoughtful playground design matters and our favorite tips to help you in the quest for your dream playground.
Playgrounds are essential, safe places where children can get out and be active while developing cognitive, physical, social, and emotional skills. They’re also great for the entire community, as they provide people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds with a gathering place to enjoy the outdoors, exercise, and interact with one another in meaningful ways.
Without a well-thought-out playground design, your community won’t be able to reap the benefits of playgrounds. Children won’t get the much-needed opportunity to learn through play, exercise daily, explore their imagination, and build their confidence. Parents won’t be able to feel at ease knowing their child is safe and that they’re having fun. Many playgrounds take it a step further and let everyone feel included and comfortable with an inclusive playground.
A playground constructed without any intention behind it won’t serve the children and the rest of your community very well. This is why it’s crucial to think about your playground design every step of the way.
So, how can you do that to ensure you build a playground that excites kids and stands the test of time? Keep reading for tips.
If you think about the most recent playground you visited, a few things probably pop into your head. Space and equipment designed for fun, safety, variety, landscaping, and how they enrich a child’s physical and mental capabilities. If none of that comes to mind, you probably didn’t visit a playground that took the following design tips into account!
Playgrounds need to be safe. You can accomplish this in a variety of ways. For starters, you should only use up-to-date equipment designed specifically for playgrounds. Playground equipment manufacturers — like the ones we partner with — adhere to strict safety guidelines, so you can be confident purchasing from them. All of our partners’ equipment abides by ADA guidelines, some going beyond the ADA to create a truly inclusive space. You should also consider using a professional installer for new equipment. We partner with several certified installers nationwide, and can set you up with your local installation team. They’ll ensure everything is anchored to the ground, set up correctly, and appropriately spaced so kids don’t bump into each other. This will all be mapped out early in the design process. And don’t forget to consider your playground surfacing. Certain options are safer than others, which we will get to!
Where you decide to build your playground will affect your design. For instance, if you’re considering an area in the hot Southwest, you’ll want to consider adding shade. You could even go as far as to create a spray park or splash pad. If you’re building in a more forested area, you’ll want to fence in the playground to ensure caretakers are aware of where their kids are (and to help deter kids from wandering off alone). You can also incorporate the natural landscape into your design. If you’re located near the ocean, an ocean creature or boat-themed design might be a fun idea. Perhaps you have a great view in the distance. You may want to build a tower. No matter what, consider the elements of your space accordingly!
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CSPC) recommends separate play areas for kids 6 to 23 months, 2 to 5 years old, and 5 to 12 years old. We provide distinct equipment for each age group, making it easy to create play zones when designing your space. Creating different play zones for these age groups can help kids of all ages play on equipment suitable to their development and skills and encourages safety. Plus, everyone gets to have fun!
A playground is a communal space, so it’s wise to have different equipment that attracts all kinds of kids. Some children may want to play solo, with their parents watching nearby. Others may want to play with their friends or family. A multi-use piece of play equipment, like the Toro Court, would be a cost-effective solution for multi-generational play and group games. It’s also important to consider that not every child has the same ability. Inclusive equipment helps every child, regardless of ability, get out and play while developing skills critical to their health and well-being.
There is much more to a playground than slides, cubes, or towers. You need to consider the other amenities like benches, shaded structures, tables, trashcans, bike racks, and more. Caretakers need a comfortable place to sit and supervise their children, and kids may need a break during play. If they’re out all day, they may bring a snack and need a place to eat. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, they’ll need to seek shelter. If it’s within your budget, adding a bathroom facility to your park is a great idea that’ll ensure families can spend a whole day at play without having to worry. Think through different scenarios that may arise for you and how various playground and park amenities can offer solutions.
Almost 80% of injuries sustained at a playground come from falls. That means surfacing that is high-quality and safe while still being aesthetically appealing is of the utmost importance. Proper playground safety surfacing options that fit the bill include loose fill, poured-in-place rubber, rubber tiles, and synthetic turf. RubberBond ELEVATE is a particularly wise choice. It is a revolutionary unitary poured-in-place rubber surface with optimal safety ratings and durability. How? It consists of a bi-layer system that combines the safety of a loose-fill safety surface system with the durability of a unitary system. On the head injury criterion (HIC) measurement rating system, where the lower your score, the better your safety, RubberBond ELEVATE clocks in at 400. But don’t worry! All of these surfacing options we mention keep children safe in the event of a fall. They also hold up against sun exposure and are easy to maintain and clean.
The bigger your playground, the more maintenance you’ll have to do — and yes, you will have to do it. If you don’t properly maintain your equipment, amenities, and space, a slew of negative things can occur. More accidents can happen if the equipment is worn, loose, torn, or missing parts. You can remain vigilant by inspecting playground equipment and regularly cleaning playgrounds of any foreign material (think broken glass or other trash). If you do end up identifying any hazardous equipment, remove it! And if you notice something wrong with the equipment, let us know. Our team is happy to come out and assess the issue, as well as determine replacement parts. It’s also critical to note that upkeep may involve your playground’s natural environment. Overgrown trees and other shrubberies can be a safety hazard.
Try a theme if you don’t know where to start regarding your playground design. A playground theme like outer space, ‘on the farm,’ ‘under the sea,’ or ‘in the forest’ can help you zero in on equipment, surfacing, and more. Once you choose a theme, choosing all the elements of your space will be a breeze. Creating a themed playground also brings a unique landmark to your community. This exciting space will draw people in and be the new place for families to gather.Bonus Tip: Work With a Playground Design and Equipment Expert
We’re sure reading all of these playground design tips and coming up with a design on your own can be overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be! When you work with us, you’ll work with a group of specialists who have over 40 years of experience helping playgrounds come to life. We can come up with a design that checks all your boxes when it comes to safety, functionality, and style. We work with manufacturers who consider all of these tips and provide an equipment safety guarantee. We can also help you find someone to install your playground with an installation guarantee, so you know your space will be built to impress and last! Whatever you need, we can help.
Reach out at any time if you’d like to learn more tips or discuss starting your project.