Playground Planning: Key Factors for Picking the Perfect Equipment

Posted on 03 July, 2017 in Playgrounds, Playscapes, Schools Playground Planning: Key Factors for Picking the Perfect Equipment

Playgrounds have come a long way. Decades of observation, study and innovation have resulted in design and apparatus options that maximise all the benefits a playground can offer. Today’s playgrounds offer a wide variety of activities that cater to users of many interests and abilities. They also provide lots of skill building opportunities. Modern landscaping technologies and materials options have made today’s playgrounds safer and less vulnerable to weather damage. Today's tools makes maintaining a smarter, more beautiful and enjoyable playground effortless.

Why Should All Schools Have a Great Playground?

Play time is fun. It’s also a vital part of academic, social and physical development. The Oxford and Webster dictionaries use the following words and phrases to define play: 

  • Participate
  • Cooperate
  • Move about freely
  • Act spontaneously
  • Take part in a game or recreation
  • Do something enjoyable or amusing

Research has shown that stress can wreak havoc on minds and bodies. Thanks to the fast pace of modern life, today’s students are experiencing more academic stress than ever. Recess helps relieve some of that stress, while also accomplishing a lot more. 

Dr Robert Murray, a paediatrician and professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University,reports that students process information more successfully when they take breaks between tasks. Australia’s Heart Foundation advocates the benefits of ‘sitting less’. An entire study by Active Healthy Kids Australia has been devoted to the many benefits of play.

Ask a kid. They'll confirm these findings. Recess is important.

Planning Tips: Build a Playground to Meet Your School’s Objectives

In designing a school playground, here are various factors to consider: 

  • Equipment
  • Play surfaces
  • Aesthetics
  • Budgets 
  • Safety

Playgrounds may seem to spring up overnight, but in reality, they require a lot of forethought. 

Playgrounds of the Past: A Quick History

Playgrounds first appeared in Germany in 1885. The concept of a supervised play place quickly caught on around the world. Australia implemented playgrounds in 1914, after the Melbourne gold rush. Built to address the needs of an impoverished boom of children playing unsafely in the city’s streets, the goal was to provide play spaces where they could develop physical and mental acuity, grow self-esteem and engage as a community. Carlton’s Lincoln Square was the birthplace of Australia’s playgrounds.

Playground Planning: Key Factors for Picking the Perfect Equipment
A Turn-Of-The-Century Australian Playground Public Domain.

Key Factors for Picking the Perfect Playground Equipment

Benefits of Playgrounds

Recess gives kids a chance to expend ‘the jitters’ and generates a more focussed mental energy. It also provides for countless growth opportunities. The right assortment of playground equipment can address students’ needs for:

  • Self-expression and exploration
  • Fitness and strength building
  • Improved flexibility and circulation
  • Healthier attitudes toward exercise and the outdoors
  • Problem-solving practice
  • Development of balance, coordination and timing skills
  • Social interaction
  • Creativity and role play
  • Well-earned silly time

Types of Playground Equipment

As you start your playground research, you’ll discover incredible innovations in variety, design and technology. Playgrounds can incorporate modular, multiple-station play systems, as well as free-standing apparatuses – and combinations thereof. They should also incorporate, whenever possible, seating and shaded areas, retaining walls and a bit of nature.

Although most manufacturers have developed various playground apparatuses that encourage certain types of movement and behaviours, the beauty of unstructured play is that – when left to their own devices – kids will find creative ways to use and adapt anything.

Start by reviewing the full spectrum of options. Here are a few insights and ideas:

  • Swings - Swings deliver a rush of fresh air and excitement; they also help kids to develop coordination along with core and leg strength.
  • Beams - Beams promote an innate development of balance and strengthen core muscles.
  • Bars - Any climbing apparatus, including bar, walls and geo-domes, will build arm strength and coordination as well as a sense of timing and spatial relations.
  • Bouncers - Fun for everyone, bouncers promote lots of creativity and role-playing, too. Have you ever watched a kid on a bouncy horse? Encouraging the imagination is priceless.
  • Game Courts - Courts for hopscotch, b-ball, foursquare and handball are great opportunities for kids who like organised games. Many sports courts can also accommodate kids who want to spend focused time alone, upping their game. Geared mostly toward older kids, all sports will infuse and develop needed skills in the interest of friendly competition and personal achievement. Lots of jumping, running and coordination come into play in sports, as well.
  • Water Features - On a hot day, sprinklers, particularly the type kids can activate by movement, can provide for lots of enthusiasm and heat relief.
  • Balls, Hula Hoops and Jump Ropes - These types of outdoor play toys never go out of style, so always have a bucket or a bin of them on hand. Introduce some basic skills and watch the action.
  • In Addition - You can choose from lots of free-standing equipment pieces. Many of them are geared toward instilling curiosity in science and physics.

Money, Space and Priorities: The Perfect Playground Budget

Every playground project has a monetary budget and a space budget. Many also have geographical challenges to overcome.

An expert playground planner can achieve interesting and exciting playgrounds on concrete lots, in woodsy areas, on hillsides and even on rooftops. They can help you plan the perfect playground with limited dollars. Talk to a playground planner who can help you design solutions to maximise your priorities, space and budget.

The Inclusive Playground: Considering Special Needs

Plan your playground inclusively. Have specific apparatuses that can be enjoyed by students with physical and mental challenges. Also, be sure to choose equipment that everyone can share and use together.

Age Appropriate Playgrounds

Playground planning becomes complex when catering to a wide age range. Some schools can accommodate several playgrounds. Others can’t. Encompassing multiple levels of play is challenging, but it can, and has, been brilliantly accomplished.

Brainstorm all your goals, start your fundraising and get creative.  Be sure to contact your local landscaper for professional help. They can work within your budget and time constraints. A playground can add value and improve the quality of life for any school or community, so be sure to take the time and effort to pre-plan. You'll thank yourself when you see the final playground project come to a completion. 

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