Outdoor playtime plays a critical role in a child’s physical, emotional, and social development. The right playground equipment can make your child’s playtime more fun and encourage him/her to be physically and socially active.
You need to take time to select the right playground equipment that will excite your little ones and make them want to play more. The equipment should include accessible options for kids with special needs.
Whether you are looking to purchase new playground equipment or replace the existing equipment, you must take time to properly research and go for the right equipment that will work best for your playground‘s space and purpose.
So, what are some of the critical factors you need to consider when buying playground equipment? Keep reading to find out everything you need to know.
1. Perform a Thorough Playground Audit and Needs Assessment
Before you even start researching playground equipment, you need to conduct a thorough assessment of your playground and perform a comprehensive audit. Some of the critical things you need to pay close attention to during this process include:
- The ages of children who will be using the playground equipment.
- The overall size of available play space and the playground layout.
- Any special needs or disabilities that need to be considered when selecting the playground equipment.
- The exact number of kids that will be using the playground at any given time.
The information you gather during the audit and needs assessment process will help you make informed decisions when purchasing your playground equipment.
If you cannot accomplish this step on your own, consider hiring a playground consultant who will help you address these concerns and suggest other critical factors you need to consider.
Sometimes, working with a professional can make your work a lot easier and more accurate.
2. Wood or Metal?
Most playground equipment is made of either wood or metal. It is upon you to choose between the two. Take time to understand the pros and cons of each material before you make up your mind.
Here is a simple comparison between the two;
Typically, natural wood tends to fit perfectly into backyard playgrounds because it looks soft, relatively warm, and cosy. Metal, on the other hand, tends to stand out in community playgrounds and parks. The general appearance of metallic equipment is hard, cold, and relatively uncomfortable.
Wood doesn’t get too hot when exposed to sunlight neither does it get too cold in frost. It means that your kids’ bodies can neither burn nor freeze in extreme weather conditions. You will need to take extra measures to guarantee your loved ones’ safety when dealing with metallic equipment.
Unfortunately, wooden equipment ages faster when exposed to extreme weather conditions. Typically, wood changes its appearance over time, and its resistance to harsh weather elements diminishes over time.
To maintain the excellent appearance and sturdiness of wooden playground equipment, you need to perform re-staining quite often. You can also use wood protection to maintain a good appearance, although it involves extra costs.
You only need to conduct a regular visual inspection of the equipment to ensure everything is still in good shape. If you notice signs of rusting during the inspection, have it removed immediately.
Whether you go for wooden or metallic playground equipment, ensure you check the component connections regularly and tighten any loose screws you spot.
Repair damaged areas on wooden equipment because they can pose a significant safety risk to your little ones.
3. Establish Your Exact Budget for the Project
Before you step out and start shopping for your playground equipment, you need to know how much money you can afford to spend on the equipment.
Depending on the overall condition of your playground space and the types of additional services you may need, such as freight services, site preparation, and new surfacing material, you may be required to think much more than just the cost of the playground equipment.
If you have a limited budget that doesn’t allow you to do a lot of things, consider completing the project in phases. You can start with the most critical equipment. This will help you work with a relatively low budget without compromising the quality of equipment acquired.
If you are buying playground equipment for a community or school playground, you can ask for donations from community members or parents to boost your budget.
Fundraising is always an excellent way to gain community support and raise money to help you acquire playground equipment. You may also go for grants or financing options to accomplish your goal.
4. Safety Considerations
Before you purchase any playground equipment, ask yourself if it is safe for your kids. Consider the type of material it is made of and other critical aspects such as its height and quality of finishing. You don’t want to purchase a structure with sharp edges or loose joints.
Keep in mind that the material the playground equipment is made of plus the surface cover you have installed are critical factors contributing immensely to overall safety.
Falling off playground equipment is one of the leading causes of playground accidents. Such accidents may also happen if your kid is playing on a structure that isn’t appropriate for their age and size.
Take time to inspect the playground equipment thoroughly before you pay for it. If you notice something unusual, look for an alternative. Don’t be tempted to pay for it, hoping you can fix the minor issue yourself.
5. Involve Your Kids in the Process
The most important tip for purchasing the right playground equipment is to let your kids have a say, no matter how young they may be. After all, you are buying the equipment for them. If you had plans to purchase a certain structure and they tell you they don’t like it, don’t force things.
The best way to approach the situation is to ask your kids to list down their favorite playground equipment. Once they have done so, go through their list and narrow down your choices at your own discretion.
If you have two options and only need to purchase one, give your kid the freedom to choose what he/she wants. Although both structures may seem the same in your eyes, they may be quite different in the eyes of your child.
If you involve your kids in the buying process, you won’t have a hard time convincing them to go out and play. In fact, they will always be looking forward to their playtime because they enjoy the playground equipment.
6. Consider Available Space
Perhaps, the most obvious consideration you need to make when buying playground equipment is the amount of space available to you. There is no need for purchasing structures that will be too big for available space.
Whether you want to install the play structure in a backyard playground, a park, or a school setting, space is one of the most common limitations that many people encounter.
Other than the actual space occupied by the playground equipment, you need to leave a reasonable amount of space around the structure for safety purposes. It is absolutely critical to remember this when assessing your available space.
Fortunately, many structures, especially those structures that require a lot of space, such as swing sets, provide customers with exact dimensions of the amount of surface area required for their optimal use.
Take time to measure the dimensions of the area where you plan to install the play structure before you purchase it.
7. Ease of Installation
While it is possible to install some play structures by yourself, we don’t advise it unless you are 100% sure of what you are doing. DIY installation can save you some money, but it may compromise the overall safety of the equipment.
Therefore, before you purchase the play structure, ask yourself if you can get a professional installer to help you with the installation process. An expert will guarantee swift installation and a safe playing experience for your children and their friends.
Professional playground equipment installers are more experienced, provide you with a warranty on their workmanship, and carry professional certifications from reputable organizations such as CPSI.
Choosing the right playground equipment can be pretty challenging, especially if it is your first time. You need to take time and understand your kids’ needs, assess your budget, and find the right balance between the two.
Most important, you need to create a plan and put in the time to research the best companies that sell playground equipment. Pay great attention to the material used in the manufacture of the play structure, and be sure to maintain it in good condition after installation.
With these essential points in mind, you are ready to go out there and purchase the best playground equipment for your loved ones.