Design a successful school playground

School Playground Design Ideas

Pupils running out on a playground during recess

Designing a School Playground

Designing and building a carefully thought-out school playground takes a lot of consideration and many decisions along the way.

An unoccupied playground with neglected play equipment can be burdensome for any Head Teacher. When designing a successful school playground, it's important to choose play equipment that is appropriate for different age groups and offers engaging play activities and value. By doing so, you can create a buzzing schoolyard that positively impacts your students' well-being, classroom performance, and learning skills. With some clever planning, it's easy to achieve this.

The Study ofPlay

School Playground Planning

Planning a school playground has great potential for promoting physical activity, socialisation, and imaginative play. To ensure that you select age-appropriate equipment for your school, we have put together some of our best design ideas. We categorise play activities based on the study of play and recommend playground solutions in the following categories:

  • Primary School

  • Secondary School

  • Special Needs

School-age children have an impressive ability to learn and absorb information. They excel at developing basic coordination skills like running, climbing, and balancing. To ensure that they continue to learn and grow, it's important to provide a diverse range of challenges when designing and developing school playground ideas. This will help them develop and refine a broad range of skills.

School playground with children swinging on a five way swing

1. Playground Ideas For Primary Schools

As children enter primary school, they develop a greater understanding of the world around them. To promote healthy competition, group play, and physical growth, consider these fantastic playground solutions:
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school children playing on a wooden climbing trail

Natural Playgrounds

Incorporating a natural playground into school grounds is an excellent way to inspire exploration and interaction with natural elements. This is particularly beneficial in urban areas where access to nature is limited. Combine wooden multi-play structures with climbing trails to build speed and balance while encouraging social interaction and group experiences that foster cooperation and grow friendships.

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

Play Systems

When selecting play towers for your primary school playground, it's best to opt for more challenging options. School-age Towers are a great choice as they encourage children to engage in developmental play activities during the school day. Each play system provides numerous cognitive, social-emotional, creative, and physical benefits that are tailored to specific age groups and play activities. For children aged 6 and up, the exciting Cliff Rider is a particularly popular play activity.

Clever Climbing

An excellent method to create a competitive, secure, and lively school playground is by integrating climbing equipment to provide a comprehensive physical activity experience. You can opt for the widely-known Monkey climbing trails or dynamic climbing equipment to encourage active play among your students during recess. Climbing is an enjoyable developmental activity for children that helps to enhance their muscle strength, motor skills, as well as cognitive development.

2. Secondary School Playground Ideas

When young people reach secondary school, they tend to have outgrown traditional forms of play and can benefit from participating in organised team sports and fitness activities. Implementing the following solutions to promote their physical development:
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children playing on a climbing dome for secondary schools.

Climbing Structures

Consider selecting visually appealing climbing structures such as GALAXY Play systems or climbing BLOQX. for an exciting playground experience. These play systems offer additional areas for children to socialise away from the main play area. Climbing, crawling, and balancing through these structures help develop children's ABC motor skills - Agility, Balance, and Coordination. These skills are crucial for children to navigate the world with confidence and focus.

children in secondary school playing football on a multisport court

Multi-Use Games Area

A Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) is a must for secondary school playgrounds! During break, areas designated for ball games and other free activities can keep pupils entertained and help them release their energy. Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs) are ideal spaces to encourage children in your school to associate having fun with a healthy and active lifestyle.

tweens playing on a giant climbing dome on a playground

Tweens do Love to Play

To encourage tweens to engage in physical activity during school, it is suggested to create play areas that cater to both performers and spectators. Additionally, it may be beneficial to designate activity zones separate 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. Special Needs

The main design features of an amazing playground that caters for all abilities and all ages are:
a young boy accessing playground via a ramp structure.

1. Accessibility - Can I get there?

Start by ensuring accessibility to the playground and the surrounding area. Plan for easy access to transportation, parking, and toilets with ramps and wide pathways to and from the playground. If you are planning a gated playground ensure that gates are wide enough to facilitate assisted access and assistive devices. Avoid physical obstacles such as curbs and gates placed out of reach. Accessible safety surfacing around play equipment is necessary for social play value and peer communication.

a boy and a girl playing on a inclusive swing

2. Inclusive - 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?

Lastly, getting around the play area is hugely important. So, ensure users with mobility difficulties can get around the playground and easily reach the play equipment. Implement play equipment that provide play from all sides and spaciousness to support diverse body, sizes, abilities and positions.

Also make sure that elevated-level and ground-level play activities are accessible and usable for users with mobility difficulties, either by a ramp structure or easy access surfacing materials. Ramp structures provide access to levels of play otherwise not reachable by, e.g. wheelchair users.

Let's Plan your School Playground Together

It's a Smart Move

Sketch of Schoolyard

Plan and Work With Us

Our team takes great pleasure in bringing your school playground ideas to life. We are always ready to assist you in brainstorming and designing your dream playground, whether it's a quick improvement or a large-scale project. We are committed to helping you select equipment that meets your interdisciplinary requirements.

When it comes to improving or creating a playground, the budget will always be a determining factor. However, even small investments can have a significant impact. Additionally, there are various options available to obtain funding for school playgrounds. You can find more information on how to apply for playground grants here. If you would like to learn more about the overall planning of a playground, we have collected all tips & tricks in our playground planning checklist.

Our process for working with you

1. Free Design Consultation

To book a free consultation with one of our school playground experts, please fill out the form provided. We'll get back to you within 1-2 business days via phone or email. During the consultation, we will discuss your needs, challenges, and budget to better understand how we can assist you in planning and building your school playground. Our approach involves listening to your requirements, exploring options, and strategising your project for optimal results.

2. School Playground Design Sketches

After our meeting, you will receive the preliminary sketches and proposal for the school playground. Our recommendations, estimated costs, and timeline for implementation will be included. We will work together to refine the proposal and make sure it meets all of your expectations.

3. Installation and Afterservice

Finally, after we have determined the best solution for your needs, we will turn your outdoor school area into a safe, enjoyable, and stimulating space for students to play, learn, and grow. Additionally, we will assist you in maintaining the playground equipment, conducting inspections, and providing after-service to guarantee that the equipment remains in excellent condition and complies with safety regulations.

4. Safety

At KOMPAN UK, we always prioritise safety to provide a secure environment for pupils to explore and have fun. When you engage and commit to working with us, we will ensure all UK safety standards are met. To learn the rules and best practices for playground safety, read the Public Playground Safety Handbook PDF here provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, you can read the CPSC’s checklist of recommendations here.”

Get in touch with us today

Please fill in your contact details and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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