Playgrounds are a critical component of a child’s development since they offer kids a unique opportunity to develop cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills. However, a good playground must provide a safe environment for children to engage in different activities and test their abilities. Unfortunately, the balance doesn’t always happen. In some cases, parents are forced to develop their own playgrounds at home to monitor their loved ones closely as they play. While it may seem an uphill task, designing your own playground is possible.
So, how do you design your own playground? You need to start by assessing your playground needs and reviewing the playground site. You must understand your kids’ needs and find a way of incorporating your discovery into the design. Review the place where you intend to install the playground and conduct a thorough analysis to establish its exact size and the type of play equipment it can accommodate. From there, choose your playground equipment and the playground surfacing material.
In this post, we discuss everything you need to know about designing your own playground. We shall take you through a step-by-step guide outlining some of the critical things you need to do and how to do them right.
Step 1: Assess Your Playground Needs and Desires
The first thing you need to do is assess your child’s needs and establish what he/she will be looking for in a playground. This is perhaps the most crucial step because it will determine how you handle the rest of the project.
In assessing the playground needs, you may be required to answer the following questions;
- What is the overall size of the site where you want to install the playground?
- How many kids are you designing the playground for?
- Do you have any kids with special needs that will be using the playground?
- What are the exact age groups of your children? Are they 2-5 years old or 5-12 years old?
- What is your estimated budget for the project?
- Do you want to fully customize the playground for your child’s specific needs?
Answering these questions in detail is crucial because it will determine the route to follow while designing your playground. It will also help you establish what you can and can’t afford to do and handle the different challenges that may come up along the way.
Step 2: Proposed Playground Site Review
Suppose you plan to install the playground in your home, the most likely spot where it will be installed in the backyard. To maintain a safe and reliable playground, it is important to take time and review the exact location where you want to install it.
If you are not experienced reviewing playground sites, make sure you hire an expert to help you. A professional will assess the general land topography, confirm the exact measurements, and check for other things such as drainage, slope, etc.
He/she will provide you with a comprehensive report indicating whether the site is good enough for a playground or not. The site review report may also recommend some of the playground equipment you can and cannot install based on the general findings.
Step 3: Create a Visualization Concept
One of the best ways of transforming your ideas into tangible products is by creating visualization concepts. After all, every vision requires execution to achieve results. So, as you identify and refine your playground needs, you need to develop an actionable plan that will capture your journey.
With a sketch in hand, you can proceed confidently, knowing what you want to achieve. So, sit down and come up with a sketch of how you want the playground to look like at the end.
You can sketch it on paper using a pencil or use computer software to draw it. Consider working with a playground expert who will help you visualize your ideas and put them into an actionable plan.
The sketch should feature your site’s exact size, critical play components you need to install, realistic rendering, and a final cost within your budget estimate.
With a good design in hand, everything will fall into place quite smoothly. Don’t forget to involve your kid(s) in the design process because they are the major stakeholders in the entire project. You don’t want to spend a lot of time and money, installing a playground that won’t excite your little ones.
Step 4: Incorporating Developmental and Inclusive Learning Applications
Keep in mind that a playground plays a critical role in child development. Therefore, you want to make sure you incorporate tools that will encourage learning and skill-building.
The best way to accomplish this is by assessing your kid’s needs and finding ways to create opportunities for learning by installing appropriate equipment and providing a natural environment to enhance hands-on experience.
If you have more than one kid at different development stages, you must find ways of incorporating inclusive play that will provide equal play experiences to each one of them.
The playground activities should be able to challenge your kids socially, physically, cognitively, and emotionally.
Try to come up with a playground space that focuses on your child’s strengths and suits their abilities. Learn how to create meaningful playgrounds that break down both physical and social barriers.
Step 5: Encourage Nature Discovery
One of the biggest things you need to consider when designing your own playground is how to encourage nature discovery. You need to come up with unique ways that children can interact with nature in the playground.
One way is by installing the playground in natural environments close to trees and other green spaces. You can also take advantage of close boundaries, hills, entrances, or pathways to encourage nature discovery.
Another way of encouraging nature discovery is by incorporating natural elements such as rocks, sand, mud, and trees in your design. An experienced playground expert can help you understand the best practices when it comes to nature discovery within playgrounds.
Step 6: Choosing Your Playground Equipment
If you have read up to this point, it means you are now ready to acquire your playground equipment. Keep in mind that there are many factors you need to consider when choosing your playground equipment.
Consider dividing your playground equipment into two broad categories, namely; equipment for children between 2-5 years old and equipment for children between 5-12 years old. The overall design and height of playground equipment designated for these two groups of kids vary greatly.
Conduct thorough research before you go shopping. Understand what your kids need and what you should look for in any playground equipment. Pay close attention even to minor details such as the color of the equipment.
Visualize the equipment in your playground and only pay for it if you are 100% satisfied with it.
Step 7: Choose Appropriate Playground Surfacing Material
Research shows that approximately 80% of all injuries sustained at playgrounds occur as a result of falls. Therefore, it is essential to select proper and high-quality surfacing material for your play areas to reduce the risk of injuries. You can choose any of the following surfacing materials:
1. Rubber tiles
Most people prefer tiled playground surfaces because they usually require minimal maintenance. Rubber tiles are manufactured in approved factories under highly controlled settings. All tiles produced are 100% identical, creating one of the safest surfacing options for playgrounds.
2. Loose fill
Loose-fill surfaces such as engineered wood fiber, wood chips, and shredded fill rubber chips are among the least expensive playground surfacing materials. They are also the easiest to install. However, most of them are relatively difficult to maintain, especially if installed in high use playgrounds.
3. Synthetic turf
One of the top reasons why some people prefer synthetic turf to other surfacing materials is because it brings the look of a natural environment to your playground. However, if you install synthetic turf, remember to include a cushion layer to promote quick drainage.
4. Poured in place rubber
Poured in place rubber is available in varying thickness and color. Manufacturers of this surfacing material can also incorporate beautiful images into the rubber to make it unique. Poured in rubber surfaces are durable and require less maintenance compared to rubber tiles.
Step 8: Installing Playground Equipment
Once you have accomplished everything outlined above, it is time to install your playground equipment to complete your vision. There are multiple options for installing playground equipment, and the final decision will boil down to your preferences.
You can either go for self playground equipment installation, supervised installation, or fully certified installation. If you possess the skills and experience required to install the equipment, you can do it yourself. If you decide to take this route, you need to be 100% sure of what you are supposed to do.
Keep in mind that it is about the safety of your little ones. If you don’t have the skills and experience required to install the equipment, consider hiring an expert to do it for you.
Certified installers can handle the site work and all other aspects of installation without issues. This guarantees that your equipment will be installed professionally according to their specifications and safety standards.
Creating a good looking and safe playground takes a lot of time, research, and dedication. The process can be challenging, but the outcome will be fulfilling. It will make your kids happy and save you from the stress of having to take your kids out to a community playground.
One of the greatest joys of parenting is to see your children happy, and having their own playground in the backyard of your home can serve as a great source of fun and happiness. We hope you found this information helpful and encouraging.
Let us know in the comments section below whether you have ever designed your own playground and how it went. Was the outcome worth the effort?