Playground Planning

How to Plan your Playground Project?

design drawings of playground planning

8-Step Playground Planning Checklist

To help you decide what type of playground is suitable for your project and concept, we have created a step-by-step checklist that will prompt your thinking process and guide you in the right direction. We approach playground planning by looking at the following factors below:

8 steps to planning a playground:

  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 outdoor area depends on many good choices where the parties involved decide upon the budget, design, equipment type and size and safety and regulations. A thorough planning checklist is the best starting point when planning a public outdoor 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 more WOW, Stay and Develop you can achieve.

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: Check out our playground cost breakdown to get the overall idea.

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 actual application. We do that by creating the design of your idea, costing it up, and making your concept come to life with computer-generated 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, it is time to let your imagination run wild and decide on themes, materials and style. 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 the urban or fit a natural site while classic play equipment signals play very clearly from a distance. Futuristic fits an urban area and is often transparent, thereby fitting in to the environment.

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.

Materials and styles to be inspired by

A Natural Wooden Aesthetic

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.

The Classic Playground Aesthetic

We all know that colours speak to our playfulness. Bright colours 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, pre-schools 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 landscape and area. Is there a distinct landmark or something unique about your location or city? Then a custom design might be the right solution for you.

Please also consider placing site amenities for observing groups of parents 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.

Futuristic Playground Aesthetic

A futuristic playground aesthetic has both a transparent and organic look and feel. A futuristic playground install can take center stage or blend in with the surroundings depending on the size and colour combination. A futuristic aesthetic is timeless and works very well within an urban setting. Think downtown Manhattan in New York, the finance district around the Barbican Centre in London, or Copenhill in Copenhagen.

Step 3. How to nail your playground target audience’s needs?

Children at different ages 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. The gross-motor skills can be challenged by more responsive equipment, as this is the age at which most children learn to swing independently. 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 spur 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 sliding equipment 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 strong focus on social interaction. The 9-12 year-olds have refined their motor skills but still love to challenge and test their agility, balance and coordination. They will feel attracted to more vigorous and thrilling physical play: responsive spinning, jumping, and climbing equipment. Their social interaction and competencies are growing and are 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 your project plan, you need to have a purpose in 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 customer segment.

You probably also want to WOW children to come to play and probably want them to stay for as long as possible and come back. And last but not least, you probably want all the play activities to develop their physical, creative, cognitive, and social/emotional life skills, right?

Let us explain:

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 schoolyard playground?

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

How to plan a preschool playground

Considering a playground design for preschools and creches, considering versatility and stimuli is imperative. A preschool playground must facilitate play options for hours, such as swinging, spinning, balancing, climbing, social play and collaborative play.

How to plan a campsite or zoo playground

Often the main attraction at the zoo or a campsite is the playground. Your primary considerations should be to include equipment that is WOW and that will attract many children.

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 are vital factors. 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 responsible playgrounds?

We all carry the responsibility of lowering carbon emissions. When planning your playground, we give you a choice of contributing actively to reduce carbon emissions by choosing one of our responsible playground solutions Born Green or Made Green. We urge you to have a conscientious approach at the top of your agenda when deciding the materials to use in your play area.

Step 5. How to zone your playground?

Zoning your playground is one of the best ways to create a space for all ages. 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. Designing the playground equipment 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, in fact, also enhance and increase play value. Surfacing is a significant part of your playground planning project and is just as important as the design and play equipment.

  • Do I want the playground theme to 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 engineered wood fibre are cheaper options. However, these surface materials need regular top-ups and daily maintenance

  • Flexotop is a more expensive solution but is low maintenance and accessible.

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 time manage your playground project?

Having a good overview of your timeline is critical when planning a playground. Most playground suppliers need at least 3 months to fully prepare the equipment you are interested in. This is especially true for larger or custom-made playgrounds, where the turnaround times can span up to 6 months. Therefore, do not postpone contacting the supplier, even if you have not fully finalised the floor layout and equipment list of your playground.

Below are the three main stages of the 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 – Approx. one month

When creating a playground for you, we need time to design an excellent playground that matches your specific needs. During this time we calculate costs and create a rendered visualisation that shows you exactly how the final design will look. Our design team need approximately a month to complete this.

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 – Approx. one month

Our playgrounds are made to order. So, we will start manufacturing it when you have confirmed you are happy with our design and quote. For a playground of core products, this takes four weeks. This process takes longer for highly customised and larger products as we have to prepare manufacturing drawings.

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 – Approx. one month

Transport to the site, potential removals, groundworks, installation, surfacing, and auxiliaries are made in subsequent steps and typically take a month but can vary depending on the size of your project and we also have to take the Irish weather in to consideration. To learn more about this stage of the process and get realistic timings, get in touch with your local consultant by contacting us below.

Step 8. Understanding playground safety and regulations

Learning about your local regulations and safety standards can be hard but is necessary. You have to ensure your playground is a safe space with safe play for all users. Your local playground consultant is more than happy to take the burden off your shoulders and can offer advice on the standards required in Ireland. To learn the rules and best practices for playground safety, read the Public Playground Safety Handbook here provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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 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 zoning

Jumping to choose products based on looks and what one recognises can also lead to poor playgrounds. The result may be an empty playground in which very few children play because children are not stimulated by the chosen units.

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 stimulated 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 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 bypass the pitfalls of your playground planning.

Got questions about how to plan a playground?

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

Designing Greener Playgrounds

children running through a forest in fall