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5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning and Building a Playground


When planning and building a playground for public use, it’s important to cover all of your bases. Playgrounds should be fun and safe, and they should also accommodate a wide range of ages and abilities.

Cunningham Recreation has been providing commercial playground equipment and park products since 1966. We’ve seen a lot over the years, including a fair share of mistakes. Fortunately, you can learn from them!

Below are five common mistakes to avoid when planning and building a community playground.

1. Choosing the Wrong Size

Playgrounds should accommodate the number of children who will be using the equipment. If you’re adding a playground system to a small community, you can choose a smaller playground that accommodates several families. But, if your playground is for an elementary school or community church, you’ll need something larger.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right size:

  • Estimate the average number of children who will be using the playground at a given time
  • Each child should have 75 square feet to move around comfortably
  • All playground equipment should have the proper fall zone or use zone
  • Consider adding various play areas to prevent overcrowding

2. Forgetting About Older Children

Playgrounds have come a long way over the years, especially for toddlers and children with disabilities. But one age group is commonly forgotten is older children: young teens.

Older children are usually brothers and sisters or teens who are just bored and need to get out of the home. Unfortunately, when there isn’t enough to keep them occupied at a park, they tend to get into trouble. But these kids need a safe space to play, too.

Some options that appeal to older kids and teens are obstacle courses, sports equipment and interactive play and sports equipment.

3. Not Budgeting for Everything

There’s more to playgrounds than play equipment. You’ll need to account for park benches, picnic tables, shade structures, safety surfacing, freight and installation.

The rule of thumb is to budget $1,000 per child for the playground equipment. If you plan on 30 kids using your playground at one time, your budget should be $30,000. Installation can cost anywhere from 25-35% of the cost of the play equipment. You will also have freight, and safety surfacing material. The cost for safety surfacing depends on the type of material you choose. Loose fill will be less expensive than a unitary type of safety surfacing.

4. Overlooking Safety Guidelines

Most people intend to build a safe park, but this can be easily overlooked if you’re not working with the right commercial playground suppliers. All playground equipment should follow ASTM and CPSC requirements. Work with a playground supplier that offers this type of equipment, warranties and liability insurance.

Also, plan for regular inspections of your equipment and schedule routine maintenance on all components. Finally, choose ASTM-certified safety surfacing for your playground. This will prevent unnecessary injuries from happening.

5. Doing Everything Yourself

When it comes to designing and building a playground, you don’t have to do everything yourself. Work with a playground equipment supplier who can help you find the right equipment for your park, design a playground that meets your needs or budget requirements, and offers installation by certified playground installers.

You can also take advantage of buying co-ops, like US Communities Omnia Partners, or state contracts. This helps make the project more affordable for your community while also giving you more options in terms of equipment.

Ready to start planning a playground for your community? Cunningham Recreation offers turnkey solutions. We’ll be there every step of the way to ensure your playground meets your highest expectations. Design. Build. Play.