Design a successful school playground

School Playground Design Ideas

Students running out to a playground during recess

A Lesson on School Playground Design

When planned and designed thoughtfully, a playground outside the school can provide just as many developmental benefits as the classrooms inside. It's the place for promoting physical activity, fostering social interactions, and encouraging imaginative play, all factors that lead to improved academic performance.

But a "top of its class" schoolyard that supports additional learning won't happen without intention. Successful schoolyard design requires a high level of play value, something only created through age-appropriate playground equipment that presents a rich variety of play activities.

Study ofPlay

School Playground Ideas

To ensure you choose age-appropriate playground equipment for your school, we have compiled some of our best ideas for school playground design. We categorize play activities by studying play, and we've broken down our recommend playground solutions into three key categories:

  • Elementary School

  • Middle & High School

  • Inclusive Playground Ideas

Want to see examples of playgrounds that aced the test? This New York school created a playground design where all children would find their own challenges, and this Indiana intermediate school found ways to build powerful bridges of connection between students of all abilities.

School playground with children swinging on a five way swing

1. Elementary School Playground Ideas

Elementary school is where children begin to view the world with a deeper understanding and master basic coordination skills. 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 Playgrounds

A nature-based playground at your school is perfect for encouraging discovery and contact with natural materials, something that's especially needed for a school in a concrete-heavy, urban environment. A combination of wooden multi-play structures with climbing trails lets students train their speed and balance skills in a social environment. It's these group experiences that foster cooperation and lead to friendships.

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

Play Systems

A school-age tower will engage children in age-appropriate developmental play activities during the school day. These play systems cater to several cognitive, social-emotional, creative, and physical benefits. A thrilling play activity, like the Cliff Rider, is a hugely attractive option for school-age children from 6+.

2. Designs for Middle and High Schools

This is the stage when young people outgrow conventional physical play and move toward organized sports and fitness.
Contact your local playground expert
children playing on a climbing dome for secondary schools.

Climbing Structures

These “cool-looking” climbing structures (GALAXY Play systems or climbing BLOQX) aren't the same play structures their "baby sibling" uses! With unique designs and irresistible climbing challenges, older kids will be crawling and balancing their way to stronger motor skills. These play systems also provide secluded hangout spots away for socializing, something else this age group will find desirable.

children in secondary school playing football on a multisport court

Multi-Use Games Area

The perfect place to practice Canada's favorite pastimes! A Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) is a must for these schools' outdoor spaces! Ball games and free play will keep students active and entertained, all while helping them blow off steam during recess and create positive connections with their peers.

tweens playing on a giant climbing dome on a playground

Encouraging Tweens to Play

To motivate tweens to be physically active at school, design areas away from the main playground that will accommodate the performers, along with those who prefer to simply watch! Learn more about the research behind the best motivators for tweens and physical activity in our whitepaper, Tweens Love Playgrounds.

Inclusive Playground Ideas

The three questions that answer whether your school playground design is accessible:
a young boy accessing playground via a ramp structure.

1. Accessible - Can I get there?

A school playground’s purpose is unfulfilled if all students can’t get to it. Consider wide pathways and ramps that allow users to get to and move throughout your playground. Access to restrooms and other facilities need to be reachable, too. Accessible safety surfacing around the school playground equipment lets children move through all parts of the schoolyard and socialize with their peers; an all-too important fun factor on the playground!

a boy and a girl playing on a inclusive swing

2. Comfortable - Can I stay here?

Children with sensory or physical disabilities will want to stay and continue playing at a playground they feel comfortable at. Everyone, children and caretakers included, have different socialization limits, so ample seating and tables away from the school playground, and under shading, will let students recharge. It also gives teachers and caretakers a comfortable look out spot, so place them with an open sight line for safe, easy supervision.

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

3. Usable - Can I Play?

Make sure everyone can get around your school playground by designing extra space for users with assistive devices. Create reachable play for children with mobility disabilities by installing ramps and easy-access surfacing material. Elevated surfaces can be within reach with the proper planning, but some parts of a playground, like the top of a MOMENTS™ play tower or a COROCORD™ rope playground, won’t be attainable. That doesn’t mean kids with mobility or sensory conditions can’t share in the joy! A clear line of sight lends to connection by creating an opportunity to watch other children. Better yet, a variation of ground-level play activities on these taller structures further supports inclusion by getting everyone involved on the same piece of playground equipment.

Plan your School Playground with us

Make the SMART move

Sketch of Schoolyard

Plan and Work With Us

We know that school playgrounds are a cornerstone for a child to lead a happier, healthier life. With your ideas of a dream school playground and our 50+ years of experience, we'll transform it into a reality that children will enjoy after the bell rings and outside the school year! Whether a minor improvement of a few standalone pieces or a full-scale project, we can guide you in choosing the playground equipment that best suits your needs.

Budget will always dictate school playground designs and projects. However, a small investment can make a huge difference. To give that budget a boost, there are different options to get funding for your school playground. Learn more about playground grants here, or make plans for any Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds that may be available. If you'd like a deep dive on the school playground planning process, our playground planning checklist will walk you through best practices.

KOMPAN and you: What to expect

1. Free Design Consultation

After you've filled out the form at the bottom of this page, expect us to call or email you within 1-2 business days.

During this consultation, we'll learn more about your needs, challenges and budget. Then we'll make a plan of action out of your ideas of a school playground.

2. School Playground Design Sketches

After our meeting, you’ll receive the initial school playground sketches and proposal with our recommendations, estimated costs, and approximate timeline. Afterwards, we’ll refine this together so it meets your expectations.

3. Installation and After-service

Once we've found the right playground solution for your school, now it's time to make it a reality! We'll transform your outdoor space into a safe, engaging, fun space - for play and learning outside the classroom. We'll create a place where students truly thrive. We also guide you through maintenance of the playground equipment, inspections and after-service to ensure that playground equipment is maintained and meets safety standards.

4. Safety

At KOMPAN, we're committed to raising the bar of school playground equipment that consistently provides new thrills while never compromising on safety. We're fluent in the standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.) Familiarize yourself with those safety guidelines with this Public Playground Safety Handbook

Elevate School Playgrounds with Proven Success

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

School designs and schoolyards across the world

Acorn Park SEN School



Customer Case

Humble School District, Texas | KOMPAN

GIANT playground tower at River Pines Elementary School

River Pines Elementary School, Texas

an aerial view of a wooden school playground with large play tower.

Rippowam Cisqua School in New York - KOMPAN

nature playground at the forest of Westminster School in Atlanta

Westminster School - KOMPAN

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