How to Plan a Playground

A playground needs to be spacious enough to allow for children to move, run, explore, and jump at least five feet without injury. Different types of equipment will bring different types of enjoyment to the children who use it. Plan for both fully functioning and physically challenged children.


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    Have a space prepared. You need at least a 20' x 20' space. This is to support the normal swingset/monkey bar combo with a slide. To add more equipment means you will need more space. To make your ground surface accessible by all children, plan to utilize a re-purposed rubber surface. If you wish to go more traditional, use either wood chips, sand or pea gravel.
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    Purchase the equipment. The type of equipment you wish to have on site will be entirely up to you. Some of the more modern offerings and entirely traditional offerings are:
    • A shade. Now, more than ever, industrial playground builders are becoming creative in the wake of more exposure to the sun. A large shade can be used in place of mature trees, if no trees can be found.
    • A set of swings. A typical swingset will include at least 1 traditional swing and perhaps an identical one next to it or a modified horse swing where potentially 2 people can sit and push while pulling and make the swing 'go.' Alternatively, a baby swing can be placed next to the traditional swing or, more recently, a handicapped swing, with full-buckling ability can be used. An industrial set can include up to four or five swings. You can alter their heights to allow for shorter legs vs. longer legged pre-teens.
    • Climbing things. Rock walls have become welcome additions to swingsets, allowing children more options. A rock-wall pattern can even be used in a more personal swing set, to allow for children's climbing up to a slide area.
    • Towers. A tower area gives rise to the imagination, as well as an appropriate height for both slides and zip lines and dual towers allows for the plank walkways that make those satisfying rumbles as well as a little bounce in your step. Children delight in taking turns jumping and forcing a jounce in the other child's step.
    • Tire swings. A tire swing is an alternative style swing that allows children to tackle the swinging thing up to three at a time. Spin or sway, its up to the children.
    • Slides. Slides can be short or long and they can spiral or go straight or go bump, bump, bump. Slides have come a long way since the 50s and 60s when they were all made out of metal. Now slides can be made out of plastics, just beware of the static electricity build up.
    • Tunnels. Tunnels are great ways to get a child's inner energy out and the best thing is, it can go under the swingset or next to it or be used for an obstacle course. Made out of plastic, make sure its covered by shade as these can get really hot in the sun.
    • Telephone cans. Modern telephone cans are funnels which have sprinkler-type heads. The connecting tubing can be buried below the play set so that two kids can go on opposite sides and whisper secret messages to one another or plan a secret rendezvous.
    • Ball pits. Each of the next following items can be really fun, but they also come with their own warnings. Ball pits are great fun and the pleasure of sinking into a pit filled with semi-soft objects that can be thrown at others can be entirely enjoyable. However, a warning would be that for younger kids the temptation to go wee-wee while not being seen is a little tempting and spiders enjoy the shaded areas that the balls en-masse present.
    • Sand Pits. The hours that can be spent digging, creating a castle and destroying it afterward can feel rewarding. Watch out for kitties and other critters of the night which can perceive this as a litterbox. Also, some spiders actually enjoy burrowing in the sand as a good cool place to be.
    • Water Play. A water fountain or a shooting spout can be the best of summertime enjoyment. Be sure to have a way to turn it off for winter and non-use times. If it is to be for public use, post the times the play park will be active and stick to that schedule. Try to have anti-microbial rubber matting or cement with more texture to allow for children running and playing in the water. If you choose to have it move, to prevent standing water where insects can breed, then have jets at appropriate intervals to 'move the water.'
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    Stand back and watch the magic.


  • Even with a small wooden structure, children have amazing imaginations. Craft a 6' x 6' box out of 4x4s or 2x4s and then cut a tunnel out of opposite sides. On the non-cut sides, affix wheels, a chalkboard, or other ideas which will allow them to use that natural bi-product of childhood.


  • Always plan ahead for injury. Keep a small first aid box nearby.
  • If you are planning a public use park, money for insurance must be secured before hand as well as permissions by the local government.

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Categories: Outdoor Recreation | Outdoor Play Equipment