The 5 Main Differences between Playgrounds and Parks

Playgrounds and parks offer a variety of benefits, yet certain key differences distinguish them from one another. Such distinctions may be overlooked when comparing the two facilities, but take a closer look and your observations will help you find the venue that best suits your child's needs.

When deciding where to take your kids for a day of fun, it can be challenging to know whether you should choose a playground or a park. After all, they are both excellent options, and the decision usually comes down to which one you prefer. But there are some critical differences between these two that will make your decision easier in the future.

There are five main differences between parks and playgrounds: size, activities, safety, cost, and location. When choosing one over the other, keep this list handy, so you can pick out what’s right for you!

Read on to learn more about these differences and how to choose between a park and a playground.

What Is a Playground?

Playgrounds are great play spaces for kids. They’re usually smaller than a park, allowing children to run around and get plenty of exercises while staying close by their parent or caretaker.

A outdoor playground.
Typically, playgrounds are smaller than parks and offer various play structures for the kids to have fun.

Playgrounds often contain some type of structure that allows kids to walk upstairs and navigate the various levels. Rails keep children from falling off ledges and allow them to climb up slides.

Some playgrounds have specific things for children to do, while others are less structured and more like a grassy area allowing children to come up with their own game ideas.

What Is a Park?

Parks are larger, more structured play spaces that usually have multiple activities for children to engage in.

When choosing a park over a playground for your child’s enjoyment, you should look for features like nature trails, wildlife viewing, and perhaps even a carousel or playground.

A carousel.
As children adore carousels, make sure your selected park offers one.

Parks typically have large grassy areas where kids can play football or soccer without the risk of getting lost.

Many parks offer a wide range of activities like fishing, hiking, and even summer camps for children. While you can always find these things in a playground, most parks are large enough to offer them all under the same roof.

Parks typically have more visitors than playgrounds because they are larger and often offer more activities. Because of this, it may be harder for your children to meet up with other kids and make new friends while in the park.

Differences between Playgrounds and Parks

Now that you know the basic definition of playgrounds and parks, we can now discuss the differences between these two spaces:

1. Size

Most people think that the most significant difference between parks and playgrounds is size. But while most parks have huge areas, others are smaller than you might expect.

The best playgrounds are often ones that fit in your neighborhood so kids can walk to them instead of having to take a bus or drive themselves there. This also keeps traffic down for parents and may mean that the playground is free to use because it is in your local park.

When looking for a good park size, remember that you want the park to have enough room for your kids to run around without fear.

It’s better if the space has some flat open area, as well as advanced climbing areas so kids of all ages and abilities can play together.

Local parks are usually large enough to have different areas for games, as well as picnic tables, so you can bring a lunch if you want; larger playgrounds may only offer individual structures.

One benefit of a local park is that it will probably be less crowded than a playground, which could mean more room for your kids to play safely.

2. Activities

Another difference between a playground and a park is the activities that these two recreational spaces offer.

While most playgrounds are geared towards younger kids, a good park will have plenty of activities that appeal to children and adults alike.

Gone are the days when parks were just for baseball games and swing sets! Your local playground may have slides and jungle gyms, but your closest park might be packed with basketball courts or public tennis courts as well.

Kids having fun while running.
A good park will have plenty of activities that appeal to children and adults alike.

Parks with tennis courts or basketball courts are a great place to bring your kids if you enjoy biking or jogging; they’ll be entertained as you work out.

Likewise, parks are the perfect spot for bike rides and running, especially if they have paved walking paths throughout the park.

Add in some picnic benches and open fields, and you have a multi-activity destination.

3. Safety

Safety is a huge concern when deciding where to take your kids. You want to make sure that they can have fun without feeling threatened, and you certainly don’t want them wandering off if they get distracted.

When looking at parks vs. playgrounds, remember that most parks are public areas with little or no security; this means locals and other people passing through could be a threat to your kids.

Playgrounds, on the other hand, are fenced-in, and you often have to sign in at a front desk; this keeps unwanted people away and makes it easier to keep track of your children.

Kids having fun.
Generally speaking, parks are safer for older kids whereas playgrounds are ideal for younger children as well.

While parks are great for older kids who can find their own way home from a few blocks away, playgrounds are the best bet for smaller kids who will want to stay close by and are less able to keep themselves out of trouble.

Another concern with parks is that many have large, open areas, which can make it difficult for you to keep track of your kids; a well-fenced playground gives you much better visibility and lets you keep better tabs on your kids.

4. Cost

The cost of parks and playgrounds are quite different since concession stands, amenities, and general upkeep costs money for large public parks.

Administrative fees also vary depending on the insurance that is required for public facilities like these.  

There may be small parks that do not charge entrance fees, but if you want to use anything beyond the facilities within the park, you may have to pay a fee.

Community playgrounds are usually free of charge, but parent groups or individuals often organize fundraising efforts to keep playgrounds open and clean- with or without donations from the city itself.

Some parks require permits for large gatherings such as birthday parties; if this is something you regularly do, then you already know about the rules.

5. Location

Lastly, playgrounds and parks also differ in terms of location.  Parks are usually located in the center of a city or town and are easily accessible via public transit and private cars.

Whereas playgrounds can be found in small clusters on street corners within cities or towns, they can also be spread out in rural areas-so; finding an open playground may not always be easy. 

A mobile application showing destination.
Always consider the location when choosing between a park and a playground.

Food is a huge draw for kids and parents alike; you can’t always plan ahead if you don’t know where your picnic will be, so pickings are often slim at parks or playgrounds that do not have concessions.

Playgrounds, on the other hand, may be spread out over an area of several blocks, which means there’s a greater chance of one being near you.

Many playgrounds have picnic benches or pavilions, so planning ahead doesn’t necessarily mean having to pack your food.

In addition, playgrounds usually rotate their attractions; if your child had fun at a certain park, there’s an excellent chance they’ll have fun at the other nearby parks, too!

When Should I Choose a Playground?

If you have relatively younger children who like to play together, choosing a playground is probably your best bet. It will offer plenty of space for them to run around and even play on the same equipment without getting in each other’s way.

Playgrounds are also great if your child is younger or doesn’t have a lot of experience with play structures. They can use them to get acquainted with the equipment before stepping it up a notch at the park.

When Should I Choose a Park?

However, if you want your kids to enjoy a wide variety of activities, opting for a park is probably the way to go. Your kids will have plenty of new things to do that will keep them entertained for hours.

Parks are also great if your family likes to spend time outside in general. Many parks offer multiple walking trails so you can keep an eye on your children while they’re having fun.

Parks are an excellent choice for children who like to explore and try new things with their friends.

They are typically large enough that kids don’t feel cramped in a while, offering plenty of activities to keep them busy all day long.

Conclusion

Overall, choosing between a park and a playground should be based on your needs. Parks offer more space for older kids; in fact, they are often multi-use facilities that allow children and adults to use their facilities.

However, when it comes to younger kids, playgrounds are more family-friendly and offer a higher level of security.

Ultimately, it’s your decision, but before you make up your mind, take an honest look at what each type has to offer and consider the safety of the location as well as the accessibility.

One thing is clear, though: both are great places to take your kids!

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