How to plan your playground project
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:
Budget and funding
Theme, design and desired aesthetic
Users and target audience
The purpose of the playground
Zoning and range of play types
Safety surfacing that matches the playground style
Timeline and building
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 prioritize 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? 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. We are happy to help you find funding opportunities that sponsor playgrounds in your area and help you fill out the applications. We do that by designing your idea, costing it up, and making your concept come to life with CG imagery.
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.
Playground aesthetic inspiration
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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. Themed climbing 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.
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 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 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:
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.
Step 6. How to choose playground surfacing material
The surfacing can be a way of zoning your space and to enhance play. Surfacing 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
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:
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. 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.
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
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