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Best Playground Ideas from 2021


As we wrap up another year, it’s always fun to look back and see how things have changed and look forward to new merging trends. And playground equipment is no exception. While you might not be aware of all the changes that have taken place over the years, there is a clear distinction between old playgrounds and new playgrounds.

Some of the most important changes include the use of safer materials, well-thought-out playground designs and inclusive playground equipment. Most children still play the same way as they did years ago but, they are not as active and definitely don’t go outdoors for as long. As we seen since the pandemic, outdoor parks and recreation are more important than ever before. Outdoor PLAY and physical activity are not just for children or the young at heart, but for everyone. We are definitely moving towards providing safe risking taking and multigenerational play and fitness opportunities for people of all ages and abilities.

Let’s check out some of the best playground ideas from 2021 and what’s on the horizon for 2022, that will provide you with inspiration for your next project!

Nets and Ropes

playground design with ropes

In 2021, we saw the industry’s first truly inclusive playground net from GameTime known as the GT Wave™ utilizing the VistaRope® technology. VistaRope net material is superior in quality and durability. VistaRope® is GameTime's collection of rope-based play activities for parks and playgrounds that give children and adults an exciting way to stay active and explore a playground.

These rope-based play products can exist as freestanding units on a playground or can functionally link to a playground structure or create rope racecourses. Often, nets are designed at a vertical angle to encourage children to crawl to the top. Other nets are designed as elevated tubes, tunnels or walls that connect one section of a play space to another. Nets can be linear in design or as a circuit. But no matter how they are used in your playground design, nets and rope-based play bring the element of adventure to the playground.

Whether incorporated on a modern-design, custom themed or traditional style playground, nets and ropes foster imaginative play and encourage positive risk taking and improve the cardiovascular health of everyone who dares to climb on. The elevation of nets, coupled with their graceful arches and unique shapes, make them an eye-catching element to a play space. GameTime‘s VistaRope® series can add interest, curb appeal and adventure to your community park or playground.

Cubes and Cuboids

Cubic Playground Design

Another trend we’ve seen throughout 2021 is the addition of cubes and cuboids. Because modern playgrounds make use of these clean lines, they are perfect for urban spaces. They don’t take up a lot of space because they can be built vertically, but they still offer plenty play components and fun play opportunities for kids of all ages.

Cunningham Recreation partnered with Lappset in 2020, and their Halo line has provided us the opportunity to create a different look using geometric shapes. These modern play cubes, cuboids and diamonds utilize a variety of materials to give customers flexibility in the look they are trying to achieve. You can mix transparent paneling with opaque colored panels or wood panels, plastic or stainless-steel slides, the choice is yours.

The wooden play cubes are made from tight-grain Finnish pine from PEFC-certified forests. The wood is glue laminated and treated with an environmentally friendly shimmer that gives it a gorgeous brown color. This treatment process makes Lappset wood long-lasting and prevents against splintering, making it superior to other types of wood playground equipment.

Various play components like a balancing ball, rope nets, birdnest seats and more can be placed inside the cubes adding to the user experience. The Halo Diamond play cube introduces an entirely new, completely fascinating play experience! This play cube is not sitting flat on the ground, it is standing on one of its corner tips. Your ability to balance and navigate the play structure is tested, providing one of the most challenging and fun play experiences you’ll ever have!

Modern Metal

Modern Playground Equipment using Metal

Another way to create unique modern playground spaces is by adding metal elements into your design. Metal can be used as slides, architectural elements and playful art. One of our favorite things about steel playgrounds is that you can let your imagination soar. The possibilities are truly endless!

With Lappset Premium, Landmark Design and other custom fabricators, we can push the limits of creativity to help customers develop a theme or tell their community’s story through play. There is no need to limit your design to traditional play equipment. With metal we can create a large stack of books with a stainless-steel tube slide that serves as a playground outside your local library or create other designs that end up being the focal point of the town center or city park. Innovative play spaces like these draw visitors to your community or municipality because of their unique look and one-of-a-kind play experience. Your playground will not just be a place to play, but a destination.


Custom Playground Tower

Playground towers are elevated, enclosed structures that offer a climbing challenge to playground goers. Their versatile design options lend to an unlimited number of playground styles, whether modern, themed or traditional. A wide range of heights are available according to safety standards.

Because of their height, many towers are designed as an accent structure and a central point of reference on a playground. Custom-designed towers like lighthouses, castles and trees add an adventurous element, while architecturally inspired towers with sleek edges and geometric patterns offer striking visual appeal to a playscape. Towers also serve as a functional intersection for slides, ramps and climbers that are connected to a play structure. In this way, they encourage social interaction while inviting children to see their world from a “higher” perspective.

Cunningham Recreation can help you decide on the type of materials as well as what manufacturers’ product line will best fit your tower design and the look you want to create.

Interactive Play

Interactive Commercial Play Equipment

Smart phones, iPads, videos and gaming. It’s all the rage. As the world changes, creating a link between the digital and real world is important. Now more than ever before we need to meet the demands of this new generation! Getting them outside and staying active is no small feat. But interactive play and sports products by Yalp, might just be the answer!

This year we have had a number of municipal parks and school districts adding Yalp interactive play and sports equipment to their outdoor spaces. These interactive play pieces bring digital gaming outdoors and combine it with physical activity and education for a truly inclusive multigenerational fun play experience.

The Sona Dance and Play Arch, Memo Play Pillars, Toro Sports Field and Sutu Ball Wall seem to be the most popular additions to schools and parks departments. Games can be changed out or updated to keep players interested. Progressive challenge keeps students learning and engaged. Yalp interactive products provide opportunities for fun friendly competition. And best of all, track your park or school’s usage with My Yalp play statistics.

So, whether you are looking for an outdoor DJ Booth (Fono) for your local town center or college campus, or something to get senior citizens moving with the Sona Dance Arch, Yalp interactive products are the “SMART” park and playground choice.

This past year has introduced us to many great design concepts for playgrounds and parks. If you have a playground project that you’re working on for 2022, these ideas should provide you with some useful insight. To discuss your project in more detail, contact Cunningham Recreation today.