Playground Planning

How to Plan your Playground Project

design drawings of playground planning

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 planning checklist that will prompt your thinking process and guide you in the right direction. We approach playground construction plans 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.

Looking to incorporate outdoor fitness into your site? Our guide walks you through the steps.

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.

Playground grants and funding are 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 with a play panel

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 put together your theme, design concept, and decide upon 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, and 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 designs tend to fit more within an urban area and are often transparent, thereby not taking the scene.

See more playground inspiration
Children engaging in sensory play at a kindergarten schoolyard

Materials and styles to be inspired by

A Natural Wooden Aesthetic

When considering what playground equipment to choose for an urban location, consider a nature-themed aesthetic to bring a natural, outdoor look to a city environment. 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

Colors speak to our playfulness. Bright colors draw us in, which is exactly what a classic playground aesthetic is able to achieve. It conveys play on multiple levels to children and adults by magically drawing you to it. It's a perfect playground layout for schoolyards, kindergartens, as well as public parks.

Seeing one in person will immediately bring back childhood memories and the happy days of play!

In this step, it's vital to consider the area's surroundings. Ask yourself - Is there a distinct landmark or something unique about your city/location? If so, then a custom playground design might be the right solution for you.

Be sure to also consider placing site amenities, like benches, for groups of parents observing their kids at play. 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. It also has the ability to take center stage or, depending on the size and color combination, blend in with its surroundings. A futuristic aesthetic can be timeless and works well within an urban setting such as 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:
Toddlers playing on daisy springer playground equipment

Playgrounds for 1-3 year olds

For the 1-3 year-olds, small-sized playground 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 child climbing on wooden playground equipment

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 sliding down 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.

Tweens swinging on a 4 sear carousel playground piece

Playgrounds for 9-12 year olds

This is the age of physical play excellence. It is also increasingly the age of pre-puberty, which 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 playground project plan, you need to have a purpose on the top of your mind. Are you building a playground for a city park? Campsite or zoo? Or, perhaps a preschool or Universal Transitional Kindergarten? The playground layout is framed around the purpose which 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:

Kids climbing over 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

A playground will often be the main attraction at a zoo or campsite. Your primary considerations must include a high wow factor and a one-of-a-kind playground design plan that will be talked about for years.

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 carry the responsibility of lowering carbon emissions. When planning your playground, we'll 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 have a large playground construction project.

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.

A large wooden playground ship with a climbing net and slide

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 fiber 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

Water themed playground surfacing with fish

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

Drawing a concept design for a new playground construction project

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 for a natural playground 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 through through a playground installation

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 the Public Playground Safety Handbook here provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

You should also ensure your playground is regularly inspected to maintain a safe environment. You can learn more using our playground maintenance and repair guide.

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.

Have 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