When designing a preschool playground, it’s important that it’s just as safe as it is fun. Preschool-age children are still developing their gross motor skills, and many are still unsteady on their feet. Therefore, you’ll have to think about how 3- and 4-year-olds can get much-needed exercise and use their imaginations without getting hurt.
While you won’t be able to avoid every bump, bruise or scraped shin, here are some of the best ways to ensure child safety on a preschool playground.
Safe, Accessible Location
One of the first considerations is where the playground is going. Preschool playgrounds should be easy to get into, in good condition and free of dangerous landscaping features like sharp rocks or gravel. Preschoolers should be able to access the play area without crossing a busy road, and there should be sturdy fencing to prevent kids from wandering away unsupervised.
Optimal Playground Layout
Before picking out preschool playground equipment, consider how the playground will be designed. Children’s play patterns affect how the playground will be used and which areas will get congested.
If you plan on having swings, you’ll want to position them away from the other equipment, so the children do not run into the way of the children swinging. Also, if your preschool playground will have balls, trikes and other free play items, we recommend having a storage area to lock these items away when they’re not in use. Trike sheds can be designed to look like a small garage and can be worked into the trike track, so they can easily put them away before going in for the day.
Age Appropriate Playground Equipment
The heart of your playground will be the equipment. Choose play equipment that accommodates 2- to 5-year-olds such as climbers, rock walls, slides, bridges and play panels. Include a variety of types of play like spinning, balancing, climbing, sliding and swinging for proper child development. Most preschool equipment is made from brightly colored sturdy plastic, which is appealing to young children. However, there are some natural options available for those spaces where more subtle colors are preferred.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy solution, check out the preschool playground equipment from Cunningham Recreation. This will provide you a turnkey design solution starting with play structures and freestanding components all the way through site furnishings of benches and tables. Cunningham Recreation has everything you need to build a safe and inviting playground for preschoolers.
Protective Safety Surfacing
Safety surfacing is available in many different materials such as engineered wood fiber loose fill, poured in place rubber and rubber tiles. You can even combine materials if you choose! For example, you can use a loose fill material under the equipment, while adding paths of poured in place rubber or rubber tiles. This will keep kids safe from falls while also offering organization.
It should be noted that unitary surfaces are recommended for ages 6-23 months. Loose fill options would not be appropriate for this age group given they are crawling and just beginning to walk.
Adequate Shade Structures
And finally, don’t forget to install shade structures on a preschool playground. Shade structures provide protection from the sun and can keep playground equipment cooler as well. When kids need to cool off, they can sit under a shade umbrella and refresh on water and sunscreen.
Keeping children safe on the playground is not always 100% possible but providing safe play equipment should be your number one priority. Your playground equipment needs to be age appropriate and have the appropriate safety surfacing at a minimum. By including the features discussed above into your preschool playground design, you can offer a safe space where children can play freely.