Design a successful school playground

School playground design ideas

Pupils running out on a playground during recess

How to design school playgrounds

Deserted school ovals with empty play equipment is worrying for any Australian teacher or principal. With phones and technology taking up time in the classroom and at home, when do kids get time to be active and play?

Effective schoolyard planning requires considerate playground installations, engaging activities, and play value tailored to the right age groups. Selecting an age-appropriate playground design is essential in crafting an engaging and vibrant school oval layout that can improve your students' wellbeing, academic performance and cognitive abilities. And all it requires is a touch of clever planning.

The Study ofPlay

School playground planning

Promoting physical activity, fostering social interactions, and encouraging imaginative play is the natural end to effective planning for a school playground. Not only is it ideal to efficiently plan your school playground, but many Australian governing bodies such as the Departments for Education have published guidelines and advisory documents for schools to plan, design and maintain play areas to a suitable standard. Here are some examples:

To ensure you choose age-appropriate play pieces for your school, we have gathered our top design ideas for school playgrounds on this page. We categorise play activities based on the study of play and recommended playground solutions in the following categories:

  • Primary schools

  • Secondary schools

  • Schools for children with special needs

School-age children have the remarkable ability to do and learn almost anything if they put their minds and bodies to it. They master basic coordination skills such as running, climbing, and balancing; however, because their range of skills is so broad, offering a wide range of challenges is essential when planning a school playground.

School playground with children swinging on a five way swing

1. Primary school playground ideas

In primary school, children begin to view the world with more understanding. Encourage healthy competition, group play, and physical growth with these playground solutions:
Contact your local playground expert
school children playing on a wooden climbing trail

Nature play

Incorporating a natural play area in a school oval is perfect for encouraging curiosity, discovery and the appreciation for our unique Australian ecosystems. It is especially great for connecting students to nature where the campus is in an urban environment. Combine wooden multi-play structures with climbing trails to develop movemeny and balance while encouraging social interaction and teamwork that foster cooperation and build friendships.

school girl sitting in a tube on a play structure for primary schools

Play systems

Have you considered more challenging play towers and high-capacity play structures for your primary school playground? Go for school-age towers to engage children in developmental play activities during recess and lunch. Each play system supports cognitive, social-emotional, creative, and physical growth, depending on the specific play activities and age group. Take the thrilling play activity such as the Cliff Rider, which is hugely attractive to school-age children from 6+. It's form factor is relatively small, but will provide hours of thrilling play and opportunities for rich development in pupils.

2. Secondary school playground ideas

By secondary school, most young people have outgrown conventional physical play and benefit greatly from organised team play, sports, and fitness. Integrating the following solutions is a clever move:
Contact your local playground expert
children playing on a climbing dome for secondary schools.

Climbing structures

Tweens and teens will always love something that looks 'cool' like the GALAXY play systems or climbing BLOQX. These play systems also allow hangout spots away from the main playground area. The climbing, crawling and balancing fun on climbing structures train the ABC of young people’s motor skills: Agility, Balance and Coordination. These motor skills are fundamental to school children's ability to navigate the world with confidence and develop their ability to sit still and concentrate in the classroom.

children in secondary school playing football on a multisport court

Multi-Use Games Areas

Australia is a proud sporting nation, and the passion for sports starts young! A Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) is highly recommended by play specialists for secondary school playgrounds. Areas for ball games and free activities will keep pupils entertained and allow them to decompress outside the classroom while staying active. Students can use MUGAs as a space to cognitively connect having fun and being active, prompting a lifetime of healthy physical activity beyond school years.

tweens playing on a giant climbing dome on a playground

Tweens love play

Tweens are notoriously difficult to understand and activate physically, but recent research has proven that play is still an effective way to get them moving. To motivate tweens to be physically active in the school playground, design play areas that accommodate performers as well as spectators and plan activity areas away from the main playground. If you would like to learn more about the research behind how to motivate tweens' physical activity in playgrounds, read our whitepaper on the topic: Tweens Love Playgrounds.

3. Everyone can play

Guidelines like the Everyone Can Play framework make Aussie playgrounds better for all kids. Cater to students of all abilities by ensuring:
a young boy accessing playground via a ramp structure.

1. Accessibility - Can I get there?

Start by ensuring accessibility to the school playground and the surrounding areas. Plan for easy access to transportation (including public), school restrooms and canteens with ramps and wide pathways to and from the playground. Ensure any gateways are mobility device-friendly. Accessible safety surfacing around the play equipment is necessary for social play value, peer communication, and play for all.

a boy and a girl playing on a inclusive swing

2. Amenities & design - Can I stay?

Next, ensure everyone feels comfortable in the playground, especially children with sensory or physical challenges. Children have differing needs for socialising and retracting, and so do their caregivers. Additional facilities nearby will encourage longer visits, i.e. toilets, water fountains, café, electricity etc. Make sure that the playground caters for young, old and all abilities by providing shade to avoid overheating, seating and tables for a break, also for caregivers and create a layout with transparent sight lines for easy supervision and contact across the play area.

a woman taking a picture of boy in a wheel chair playing on a playground

3. Usability - Can I play?

Use principles of universal design to ensure different users can comfortably play together. Consider users with mobility challenges and their enjoyment of the playground. Implement play equipment that provides spacious play from all sides to support diverse bodies, abilities and positions. Also, ensure that elevated level and ground level play activities are accessible and usable by adding a ramp structure or easy-access surfacing material. Implement multi-use and sensory elements so that kids can play how they like, and remember to consider thrill and engagement, because all kids, no matter their ability can get bored if activities are too repetitive or simple!

Let's plan your school playground together

Work with the leaders in play

Sketch of Schoolyard

Plan and build with us

Bringing your school playground idea to life is what we love the most. We are excited to assist you brainstorm and design your ideal school playground. Whether you're looking to make improvements or build a new full-scale project, we are here to help you choose the equipment that suits your interdisciplinary needs.

Improving a playground or starting fresh will always be governed by budget. But that's not to say that some small investments can't make a big difference. There are many ways to access funding for your school playground, and we can show you how to apply for playground grants here. If you would like to learn more about the overall process of planning of a playground, check out our playground planning checklist.

How we work with you

1. Free design consultation

Book a free consultation with one of our school playground specialists using the form below. We will get in touch via phone or email within 1-2 business days.

We’ll discuss your needs, challenges, and budget during the consultation. Then we'll examine how to best plan and build your school playground. We seek to understand the scope, explore options, and strategise so that your project is delivered as smoothly as possible.

2. School playground design sketches

During or after our meeting, you’ll receive the initial school playground sketches and proposal with our recommendations, estimated costs, and the timeline for implementation. Afterwards, we’ll refine this together and ensure that it meets your expectations.

3. Installation and aftercare

Lastly, once we've agreed on the best solution for your school, we’ll transform your oval into a safe, engaging and fun space for your students to play and learn. We will also guide you through maintenance of the playground equipment, inspections and aftercare to ensure that the playground equipment is maintained and continues to meet Australian safety standards.

4. Safety

At KOMPAN, safety and providing a secure environment for pupils to explore and have fun are our top priorities. When collaborating with us, we will ensure your play solution complies with all relevant safety standards, including the Australian play standard AS4685.

Elevate School Playgrounds with Proven Success

Reach out to KOMPAN for solutions that children adore and schools trust.

Want more school playground inspiration?

large playground climbing dome at a school playground

Acorn Park SEN School



Customer Case

School yard at Northern Beaches Christian School in Australia

Northern Beaches Christian School, Australia

nature playground at the forest of Westminster School in Atlanta

Westminster School, United States

Children playing on a rope climbing structure at school in Munich

Elementary School Leibengerstrasse, Germany

space net at Copenhagen International School

Copenhagen International School, Denmark

pupils playing and swinging at Riverside Intermediate School

Riverside Intermediate School, United States

Children at North Tampa Christian Academy running towards wooden play tower

North Tampa Christian Academy, United States

teens playing on GALAXY play system at Hældager School

Hældager School, Denmark

An aerial view of a school playground with fitness and ball game area

Segbroek College, Netherlands

An aerial view of a children's school playground with wet pour surfacing

Corpus Christi Primary School, Scotland