Things to know about transitional kindergartens

Universal Transitional Kindergarten Playgrounds

Children playing on a wooden playground boat.

What you need to know about the new Universal Transitional Kindergarten program in California

In 2021, the California state legislature signed its commitment to early childhood education by passing a bill that would provide free universal transitional kindergarten by the 2025-2026 school year for all kids who turn 4 before September 1. Although the program won’t be fully implemented until that year, the state is gradually phasing in students every year, starting with the 2022-2023 school year.

What is transitional kindergarten?

Transitional kindergarten (or TK) has traditionally been a program meant to bridge the curriculums of pre-K school and kindergarten. It is an approach used by parents with children whose fall birthdays make them too young to enter kindergarten, even though they will turn 5 during the school year. TK is useful for children because critical brain development occurs before the age of 5. It’s important to emphasize education during these formative years, so for those who normally would have to wait an extra year, TK can help keep these kids stimulated.

Toddlers playing on daisy springer playground equipment

Speak with a consultant about updating your playground.

Get the information and guidance about changes surrounding Universal Transitional Kindergarten playgrounds.

What does Universal Transitional Kindergarten mean for your school?

Many schools will have to make new upgrades and other improvements to be compliant with the new universal TK requirement.

The new TK facilities requirements for what should be offered in kindergarten include:

  • Kindergarten classroom size for new structures is not less than 1,350 square feet, including restrooms, storage, teacher preparation, wet and dry areas.

  • Kindergarten classrooms are designed to allow supervision of play yards (unless prevented by site shape or size) and all areas of the classroom.

  • Play yard design provides a variety of activities for the development of large motor skills.

  • Classrooms are located close to parent drop-off and bus-loading areas.

  • Storage, casework, and learning stations are functionally designed for use in free play and structured activities (e.g., shelves are deep and open for frequent use of manipulative materials).

  • Windows, marking boards, sinks, drinking fountains, and furniture are appropriate heights for kindergarten-age students.

  • Restrooms are self-contained within the classroom or within the kindergarten complex.

For many facilities, this means that existing school playgrounds will either need to be updated to meet these new conditions, or new ones will need to be built.


Reasons to update your school's playground

Now that we’ve laid out what transitional kindergarten is and why it’s important, along with the types of grants you can apply for to help offset the costs of accommodating younger children at your school, you’ll see why it’s important to focus on your school’s playground.

Nationally recognized public playground safety documents of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) establish size and spacing requirements of play and access components necessary for children in the age ranges of 2-5 and 5-12. Data available in these age ranges are used to standardize the general size and reach abilities for children with a cut-off between the age ranges of 2-5 and 5-12 years.

Components such as rung ladders, step ladders, stairways, ramps, overhead events, and nets, just to name a few, have lowered size and height requirements to accommodate the lower, height, reach, and stepping ranges of children in the 2-5 age group. Some play components for the ages of 5-12 are not recommended for the ages of 2-5 at all.

If you are converting an outdoor space from one for kindergarten and early elementary grades to one for TK, you will need to ensure that the equipment is suitable for ages 4 to 8. It is very likely that your kindergarten playground is designed for ages 5-12. If this is the case, you will need to make changes to the playground so that it is safe, educational, and fun for children ages 4 and older.

Playground equipment that is carefully designed for the needs of children in this age group will support their physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and creative development and help children to learn through play.

children playing in a kindergarten on a toddler station mimicking a greenhouse

What funds are available for a school offering Transitional Kindergarten?

There are several grants available for California school districts that can be used for costs associated with expanding TK enrollment, including retrofitting or building new facilities that adequately house and educate full-day kindergarten pupils, including:

An image of a KOMPAN playground at a California park

Accommodating children under the age of 5

How to update your school’s playground for UTK

As we’ve stated above, playgrounds made for older children are not only unsafe for younger children but they aren’t geared towards the learning and capabilities of 4-year-olds.

At KOMPAN, we have solutions that are perfect for children in TK who are 4 years old, as well as talented and knowledgeable designers, compliance experts, installers, support, and more to help you create the perfect solution. Four-year-old children are smaller than kindergarten and elementary school-aged children and will need play spaces that are suited to their smaller body sizes. At this age, children will enjoy climbing, spinning, sliding, and playing in small huts. Learning to take turns and socialize is a very important skill for these children. Children will also benefit from any opportunity to use their fine motor skills, such as with ground-level play panels that stimulate their cognitive development. Children in this age group will also benefit from themed play, such as grocery store, house, or transportation scenes.

At KOMPAN, we design solutions based on research in child development and through testing with children. The KOMPAN Play Institute works closely with children of all abilities and designers to ensure that our playground solutions will have the most value for the children who will use them.

Playground planning checklist, drawing of playground designs

Speak with a consultant about updating your playground.

Get the information and guidance about changes surrounding Universal Transitional Kindergarten playgrounds.

Playground Equipment for Universal Transitional Kindergartens

Learn more about KOMPAN's playground equipment suitable for children younger than 5, such as:

MOMENTS™ Play Systems

Children playing on a large, nature themed hut made from robinia wood

Nature Play

School agers playing in schoolyard on challenging play system


premium play system in a park, that fit different age groups