Design a successful school playground
School Playground Design Ideas
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.
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:
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.
1. Elementary School Playground Ideas
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.
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+.
Playground rope climbers create an all-encompassing play and physical experience for your school playground. Popular picks like the Monkey climbing trails or dynamic climbing equipment provide a competitive, safe, and engaging activity for students during recess. Climbing is a fun developmental activity for children to strengthen muscles, motor skills, and cognitive development.
2. Designs for Middle and High Schools
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.
Multi-Use Games Area
The perfect place to practice America'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.
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
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!
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.
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
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 how to apply for playground grants here. 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.
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.
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