Playground Planning

How to plan your playground project

design drawings of playground planning

Playground planning: 8 steps

To help you plan a suitable playground for your project and guide you in the right direction, we have created an 8-part playground planning checklist. Our approach to playgrounds considers the following factors:

8 things to consider for your playground construction project:

  1. Budget and funding

  2. Theme, design and desired aesthetic

  3. Users and target audience

  4. The purpose of the playground

  5. Zoning and range of play types

  6. Safety surfacing that matches the playground style

  7. Timeline and building

  8. Government regulations and safety

Download your planning checklist

How to plan a playground

Planning a great playground depends on the rights choices when it comes to budget, design, the purpose of the playground, equipment type and size, and safety and regulations. A thorough planning checklist is the best starting point when planning a new playground. We also have information on planning an outdoor fitness area.

Step 1. How to budget and apply for funding

The process of planning and designing a playground is like any other large construction project where budgeting is a significant and decisive factor. Playgrounds come in many different sizes, and knowing your budget and how to prioritise your budget from the start is vital. The larger the playground, the more WOW, Stay and Develop you can achieve.

But how much does a playground cost? How much does outdoor gym equipment cost? Well, there is no simple answer to that question, but we are here to guide you in the right direction: contact our experienced team of play specialists to price your playground project and get a quote.

External funding is also a possibility, and we are happy to help you fill out the applications for funding opportunities and inclusive playground grants. We do that by designing your idea, costing it up, and making your concept come to life with customised 3D imagery.

Children playing on a KOMPAN play panel, which is ground level for accessibility. Inclusive equipment is a key consideration for any playground construction project.

Step 2. How to choose the desired playground style

Once you have decided on a budget, the next step in planning a playground is to unleash your inner designer and turn to themes, concepts and choosing your preferred aesthetic. When planning your playground’s aesthetic and style, the choice of material is crucial. While rubber, composite, and metal often have a more manufactured, colourful, vibrant look, wooden materials are often seen as more natural. Natural wooden aesthetics bring nature to an urban site or fit the natural area, while classic play equipment signals play very clearly from a distance. Futuristic styles fit an urban area and is often transparent, highlighting the area around it.

See more playground inspiration
Preschool children using sand and water tables for sensory play. When playground planning, you should consider creating zones for different age groups. Sensory play is great for younger children and those with additional needs.

Playground aesthetic inspiration

Natural wood

You should consider a natural style aesthetic to bring nature into an urban location or if you want your playground to blend beautifully into a natural setting or park. KOMPAN Nature Expedition has a bent and curved design, giving it a natural and organic expression. It is made of Pinetree, also available in an FSC-certified option. KOMPAN Robinia also has a natural, organic, twisted, and winding look: straight out of a fairytale.

Some good examples of natural aesthetic playgrounds in Australia include Harleston Park and Lincoln Square Park in Victoria.

Classic playground

We all know that colors speak to our playfulness. Bright colors draw us in. And that is what a classic playground aesthetic does; it conveys play on many levels for children and grown-ups and magically draws you in. Perfect for schoolyards, kindergartens, and holiday or public parks: A classic playground aesthetic always creates new and brings back childhood memories and happy days.

In this step, it is vital to consider the surrounding features and areas. Is there a distinct landmark or something unique about your location or city? Then a custom design might be the right solution for you.

Also consider placing site amenities for observing groups of carers to sit and relax. Excitement and play can tire little legs out, and somewhere to recharge batteries, get a hug, or eat packed lunches is always a good idea.

Some beloved classic playgrounds in Australia include Waverley St Reserve in South Australia and Frye Park in Kelmscott, Western Australia.


A futuristic playground aesthetic has both a transparent and exciting look and feel. A futuristic playground installation can take center stage or blend in with its surroundings depending on the size and colour combination. A futuristic aesthetic is inspiring and works very well within an urban setting. Think downtown Aura Treehouse in Queensland, Moncreiff Recreation Park in ACT, or Riverside Green in Southbank, Brisbane.

Step 3. How to satisfy the needs of your target audience

Children at different age stages have different needs for stimuli. You can see the different primary user age groups below:
Two young girls playing on a green daisy springer with other young girls in the background on a tipi carousel. Creating zones within your playground layout plan can help younger children feel more confident to play.

Playgrounds for 1-3 year olds

For the 1-3 year-olds, small-sized equipment that they can master independently will encourage physical play and stimulate motor development. Their emerging understanding of the world and their communication skills can be encouraged with dramatic play units such as small-sized themed equipment with tactile details to explore. In planning, body competence should be considered and play equipment pooled as close as possible. Transparency is key to the feeling of security; thus, it is important that the youngest can see their caregivers and their caregivers can see them.

A young boy climbing on wooden play equipment. The floor below is natural coloured bark chippings. The aesthetic of your playground construction project can change the purpose and overall result. Be sure to choose wisely!

Playgrounds for 3-6 year olds

The rules of planning playgrounds for the 1-3 year-olds still apply to 3-6 year-olds. The focus on motor skills such as balance, cross-coordination, and hand-eye coordination is still relevant. Gross-motor skills can be challenged and independence can be encouraged by more responsive pieces like seesaw playground equipment and swings. Dramatic play is an immense play attraction at this age, stimulating language development and social skills. So is explorative play such as sand play, which will increase playtime for this age group. A rich variation of lower physical play equipment and thematic play events such as houses and cars are relevant.

A girl in a striped outfit sliding down a yellow slide with bright blue surfacing underneath. Including bright colours within your playground construction details can produce vibrant and enticing results.

Playgrounds for 6-9 year olds

This is the golden age of growing physical skills and understanding. Children will feel motivated by moving and climbing equipment. Play equipment that responds to movements, such as swings and spinning equipment, will boost their physical activity. They have an increased understanding of rules games such as ball games, Tic-Tac-Toe games and, other socially engaging games. The 6-9-year-olds will still feel hugely attracted to dramatic play. Climbing nets for playgrounds and playground slides in combination with swings and rotating equipment will increase physical activity and social play. Explorative sand play equipment will attract and retain these children.

4 tween girls swinging together on a carousel. Each has their own seat. The surfacing underneath is safety sand. Did you know the type of surfacing you choose for your playground construction project can change the aesthetic of the final product?

Playgrounds for 9-12 year olds

This is the age of physical play excellence. It is also increasingly the age of pre-puberty. This means a focus on social interaction. The 9-12 year-olds have refined their motor skills but still love challenging and testing their agility, balance, and coordination. They will feel attracted to more vigorous and thrilling physical play: responsive spinning, jumping, flying fox playgrounds and climbing equipment. Their social interaction and competencies are growing and a key to play success. Rules games with a cooperative and competitive edge will attract many, and ball games played in a Multi Use Games Area are popular. Play activities that can be enjoyed by more children together are highly attractive to the 9-12 year-olds, the tweens.

Step 4. How to define the purpose of your playground

When creating the project plan for your playground, you need to have a purpose at the forefront of your mind. The playground layout plan is framed around the purpose that also decides what commercial playground equipment to include. The requirements change according to location, age group, and user type.

You probably want to WOW children, keep them playing for as long as possible and get them returning again and again. And last but not least, you probably need the play activities to develop their physical, creative, cognitive, and social/emotional life skills, right?

Let us explain how to do just that:

Two young boys playing on space themed playground equipment. Themes and design styles are important considerations for any playground plan.

Different playground purposes explained

How to plan a school playground

When the bell rings and it’s time for a well-deserved break, many children run out of classrooms into the playground in one burst. Therefore, a school playground must include a play design with a high play capacity to accommodate many children simultaneously.

How to plan a preschool playground

When planning a playground design for preschoolers, versatility of stimuli is key. A preschool playground must facilitate various different types of play, such as swinging, spinning, balancing, climbing, social play, and collaborative play.

How to plan a campsite or zoo playground

Often, the main attraction at a zoo, campsite, or other leisure activity, is the playground. Your primary consideration should be creating a show stopping attraction with high levels of WOW factor that will be talked about for years to come.

How to create inclusive and accessible playgrounds

Playgrounds are not just about a specific age group. To involve everyone in the community, inclusiveness and accessibility in your playground design is vital. Creating a playground fit for all abilities and all ages is about being mindful of the diverse needs and behaviours of the users. This means looking at location and transportation when drafting your playground plan: public transportation, ample parking, and accessibility via a non-obstacle path.

How to design sustainable playgrounds

We all carry the responsibility of lowering carbon emissions. When planning your playground project, we'll give you the option to actively reduce carbon emissions by choosing one of our sustainable playground solutions - Born Green or Made Green. We urge you to have a conscientious approach at the top of your agenda when going into your playground construction details.

Step 5. How to create zones in your playground

Creating play zones in your playground is one of the best ways to introduce order and reduce conflicts. We recommend making different zones for different age groups if you plan a large playground. From experience, we know that tweens and teenagers prefer to play and stay on the playground away from smaller children. Making the playground equipment cater to the age group of the specific zone also makes it easy for children to find the age-appropriate play zone. The more play structures and equipment variety, the longer the children stay. This is, of course, also determined by the size of your planned playground area.

A large wooden playground ship with climbing net and bright red slide. If you want to create truly showstopping play site, make sure your playground construction project has enough budget allocated!

Step 6. How to choose playground surfacing material

The surfacing can be a way of zoning your space and to enhance play. Choosing your playground surfacing option is a significant part of your playground planning project and is just as important as the design and play equipment. Consider the following:

  • Can the playground theme be incorporated into the surfacing? It's a great way to support the overall theme, e.g., rails under a train or water splashes under a ship

  • Sand and wood chip are cheaper options. However, these surface materials need regular top-ups and daily maintenance

  • Rubber surfacing is a more expensive solution but more durable in the long run

Bright and dark blue surfacing with a fish and water theme. Blue equipment sits on top of the surfacing. Surfacing designs can enhance the effectiveness of your playground project.

Step 7. How to manage your playground timeline

Having a good overview of your timeline is critical for any playground construction project. Most playground suppliers need at least 3 months to fully prepare and service the equipment you're interested in. This is especially true for larger or custom-made playgrounds, where the turnaround times can span up to 6 months. Do not postpone contacting the supplier, even if you have not fully finalised the playground layout or equipment plans.

Below are the three main stages of the playground planning process:

Drone photo of a colourful preschool playground with swings, wooden equipment, a sandpit and more. Offering different types of play is a great way to improve the popularity of your outdoor playground project.

Stages of planning a playground

Overhead shot of a girl sketching a piece of playground equipment inspired by a house. She is sitting at a table. Reference images are spread across the table. Reference images can be a helpful playground planning tool.

1. Designing

A man using a tool on a log of robinia wood at the KOMPAN factory in Brno. If you're looking for a natural aesthetic as part of your playground equipment plan, robinia wood is a great choice.

2. Manufacturing

Playground installation contractors putting a wooden playground together. There is a crane in the background. If you're working on an outdoor project, make sure your playground plans include enough time for proper installation and safety checks.

3. Construction

Step 8. How to make sense of playground safety and regulations

Learning about your local government regulations and safety precautions can be cumbersome but is very necessary. You must ensure your playground is a safe space with safe play for all users. Particularly in Australia, safety considerations like shade structures for playgrounds are vital due to the harsh UV index in summer. Your local KOMPAN playground consultant is more than happy to take the burden off your shoulders. To learn the rules and best practices for playground safety, read the Australian Playground Safety Standards.

Large wooden playground castle sitting on top of sand surfacing. The castle has a large metal tunnel slide going from the top to the bottom. Showstopping pieces like this one are ideal for playground projects at zoos and other leisure facilities.

When does playground planning go wrong?

1. Mismanaging the timeline and process

Rushing to build a playground often makes the playground planning process go wrong. Like building a house, a playground takes time to scope and develop. That is why we recommend starting your planning well before your opening date and being realistic about the deadlines. The rule of thumb is to allow for 3-6 months for the whole process before the intended opening date.

2. Disregarding age-appropriate play and play zones

Jumping to choose products based on looks and what one recognizes can also lead to poor playgrounds. The result may be an empty playground in which very few children play. For example, the playground does not stimulate the play that motivates the targeted age group.

Alternatively, the playground is not divided into zones in which the younger children can play quietly and with a sense of security without older children present, as this age group's play – is often louder. The rules of thumb for catering to the desired age groups and dividing the playground into zones see the sections above.

3. Not including variety and stimulating play value

Thinking too little about the stay factor can also lead to an empty playground. Stay factor can, for example, be stimulating by different kinds of play, swinging, sliding, spinning, climbing, playing sports games, etc. Stay factor can also be made by including progressive play designs. Where it can be used in a more and more advanced way as the children start to master the simple way of playing on it. For example, play structures like a Supernova or a Cliff Rider can be used in a more advanced way as the children start to master the first ways.

4. Not accounting for the suitable user capacity

Including too little capacity also leads to too little use of the playground. Choosing a large product is appealing, but younger children might hesitate to go to the playground if a few teens are on the structure. That is why we recommend making different zones on the playground, including more play designs, and placing them all over the area.

We are happy to discuss your ideas and ensure that we avoid the pitfalls of playground planning.

Download your free planning checklist

Please fill in your contact details to download the planning checklist. If you have any other questions, please write them in the message field, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Designing Greener Playgrounds

children running through a forest in fall