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Essential Aspects of a Playground Design


Essential Aspects of a Playground Design

Playgrounds are an integral part of any community. They provide a safe, welcoming space for kids of all ages to play, interact with others and strengthen their physical and social skills. While there are various types of playground designs to choose from, there are some basic aspects that apply to all parks.

Size of Area/Population

One of the main factors to account for is the number of people who will be using your playground. Choose a location that provides ample space for kids to move around and play while accommodating your equipment and amenities.

  • Playgrounds should provide at least 75 square feet of space per child.
  • Appropriate fall zones are a must. Spreading out equipment - at least 6 feet - prevents overcrowding and playground injuries.>
  • Keep swing areas separated as to eliminate injury resulting from play/traffic flow.


Budgeting for your playground is an important part of the planning phase. Your budget will determine the types of equipment and amenities you can offer, as well as if you can complete the project in one phase or several.

  • A good general rule is to budget for $1,000 for each child. That means if you expect to have 30 kids playing at the park at one time, you should budget at least $30,000 for a playground play system. Remember to budget for freestanding play events like swings and other seesaws, climbers or whirls.
  • Playground equipment accounts for 50-60% of your total budget. Installation accounts for 20-35%, followed by site preparation and shipping and freight costs.
  • Don’t forget to budget for your safety surfacing. Depending on the type you select, costs will vary. Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) will cost less than a unitary safety surface like poured-in-place rubber. Unitary surface is more than loose fill initially, however, loose fill requires more maintenance.

Age Range of Players

If you're designing a playground for an elementary school or daycare, you’ll have specific ages in mind. If it’s a community park or neighborhood playground, include equipment for the very young, for school-age children and teens and even adults.

  • Community parks should have separate playgrounds for children ages 6-23 months, 2-5 years and 5-12 years.
  • Only 42% of US playgrounds have separate play areas for children ages 2-5 and children ages 5-12, and only 9% have signs indicating the age-appropriateness of the equipment.
  • Don’t forget to add benches for caregivers comfort while watching their children play.

Safety Features

All equipment should be safe and installed according to manufacturers guidelines, and adequate safety surfacing is necessary for fall attenuation. Purchase your equipment from a manufacturer that follows ASTM and CPSC guidelines.

  • Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries.
  • Children ages 5 to 9 have higher rates of emergency room visits for playground injuries than any other age group.
  • 75-80% of all injuries on a playground are due to falls to the surface. Age appropriate signage and adequate safety surface are important aspects of playground safety.