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 playground depends on many good choices where the parties involved decide upon the budget, design, purpose of the playground, equipment type and size, and safety and regulations. A thorough planning checklist is the best starting point when planning a public playground.

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 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 play panel kompan finanicals and management

Step 2. How to choose the desired playground style

Once you have decided on a budget, it is time to unleash your inner designer and turn to themeing, conceptualizing, 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 the urban or fit the natural area, while classic play equipment signals play very clearly from a distance. Futuristic fits an urban area and is often transparent, thereby not taking the scene. 

See more playground inspiration
Sand and water play at a kindergarten to ensure sensory play.

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 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.

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 color 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 age stages have different needs for stimuli. You can see the different primary user age groups below:
playground equipment for 1-3 year-olds, girls playing on daisy springer

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.

Playground equipment for 3-6 year-olds, boy climbing on wooden playground

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.

hero image of a girl sliding on a playground slide in a park

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.

Playground equipment for tweens and teens. Girls swinging on the saturn 4 carousel.

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 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 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 on top 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 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 again and again. And last but not least, you probably wish all the play activities to develop their physical, creative, cognitive, and social/emotional life skills, right?

Let us explain:

Children playing on space themed playground equipment at CampOne camping

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 kindergarten playground

Considering a playground design for kindergartens, considering versatility and stimuli is imperative. A kindergarten 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 must go to high levels of wow factor and a one-of-a-kind play design 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 are vital factors. Creating a playground fit for all abilities and all ages is about being mindful of the diverse needs and behaviors 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 going into your playground construction details.

Step 5. How to zone your playground

Zoning 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.

large wooden playground ship with climbing net and slide at Shangri-La hotel

Step 6. How to choose playground surfacing material

The surfacing can be a way of zoning your space and, in fact, also enhance play. 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 more durable in the long run

cost of building a playground, example of surfacing with fish and water theme

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 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. Therefore, do not postpone contacting the supplier, even if you have not fully finalized the floor layout and equipment list of your playground.

Below are the three main stages of the planning process:

Drone photo of a kindergarten playground in Denmark

Stages of planning a playground

Playground design drawing

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 visualization that shows you exactly how the final design will look. This takes approximately a month if we nail it in the first round.

Production of robinia wood in Brno

2. Manufacturing – Approx. one month

Our playgrounds are explicitly made to your wish. So, we will start manufacturing it when you have decided. For a playground of core products, this takes four weeks. Longer for highly customized and super large products. For the latter because we must draw the manufacturing drawings first.

Contractors working on installing a playground

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. To learn more about this stage of the process and get realistic time estimates, get in touch with your local consultant by contacting us below.

Step 8. Understanding playground safety and regulations

Learning about your local government regulations and safety precautions can be cumbersome but a necessary means to an end. 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. To learn the rules and best practices for playground safety, read your local safety guidelines.

large wooden playground castle in Tallinn, Estonia

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 zoning

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 bypass the pitfalls of your playground planning.

Get the free planning checklist

Please fill in your contact details to download the planning checklist. If you have any other questions, please write them in the message field, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

For a better future