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How to Plan a New Playground for Your Community

Are you planning a new playground for your community? Congratulations! Here at EcoPlay Structures, play is our business, so we spend all day thinking about how to make playgrounds more fun and functional. Here are several factors we recommend considering as you plan your new playground.

Age Groups

Playgrounds are typically designed for two main age groups: 2-5-year-olds and 5-12-year-olds, often with one structure for all of those children to enjoy. This can be tough on the two-year-olds toddling around and dull for the 12-year-olds looking to run and play around them. Consider creating separate structures that allow the two groups to play side by side, but independently. Designing different spaces and structures for both can better meet their play needs: children under five typically aren’t ready for overheads because their upper-body strength hasn’t developed yet, but children over five love to hang from overheads and climb ladders and loops. A 12-year-old will enjoy a 6-foot slide, but this may feel a little daunting to a three-year-old. Meet the children where they are as you design your structures.

Caution: Children at Play

Will your playground traffic primarily be moms with strollers and toddlers throughout the day or lots of kids after school – or both? Each requires something different for designing your structures as well as understanding when it will be busiest. Is the planned playground location close to the pool or in a common area? If so, is the pool area secure so little ones can’t wander in unsupervised? Will there be a basketball court? Now’s the time to look at the placement of not only the playground itself but also the surroundings so you won’t have to worry later about wobbly toddlers getting knocked down or caught up in a lost ball.

Line of Sight

Parents, grandparents, and caregivers will want to be able to see their children at all times, so it’s vital to ensure an unobstructed view of the playground structures and spaces. This includes trees and landscaping as well as other playground equipment like playhouses that can limit the view and access to children at play. Moms and dads might find solid crawl tubes – though fun – are tough to see into no matter how good their vantage point. Crawl tubes come with an added risk factor of older kids using them at night to smoke or drink out of sight.

Safety Surfacing

Engineered wood fiber mulch playground surfacing may offer the lowest cost at the time of purchase, but it requires the most maintenance. As part of your playground investment, consider maintenance and replacement costs for the surface. We recommend bonded rubber mulch or a poured-in-place rubber as cost-effective, long-lasting, safe, and durable playground surface options.

Maintenance of Playground Equipment

Recycled plastic lumber isn’t painted; there’s no chipping paint or regular painting required, unlike a steel playground. Unlike a wood playground, no splinters are hiding in HDPE lumber. Remember “normal” wear and tear to a 7-year-old is a little bit different than it is to an adult so you may want to factor in additional maintenance times to extend the life of your equipment. It will need to stand up to regular, demanding use including being hit by kicking feet, baseball bats and soccer balls. We’ve seen it all.

Budget

Everyone has a budget. Be open and honest with your playground consultant. If your wants add up to $75,000 playground, but you have a $35,000 budget, their creativity can help you find ways to make it work if you are upfront and realistic. This partnership is all about communication. Spiral slides are eye-catching but also costlier than straight slides. If your budget needs shaving to meet the bottom line, adjusting components can keep your spending on target and still deliver a fun playground.

Trust Your Designer’s Expertise

Talk with your consultant so they can design based on the area, age groups, number of kids you expect to use the equipment and your budget. Some elements will require a lot of space. For instance, a typical swing set needs a use zone of 32’ to allow for full, safe usage of the swings and the protection of the kids playing around them. Playground consultants are aware of all of these factors and can help you each step of the way.

Committee Decisions

Members of the planning committee should communicate early and often about your new playground plans to distinguish among your must-haves, won’t-haves and wish list. Once you are all on the same page, designating a single point of contact for your group that can speak with your consultant can save headaches later. This person should be a decision-maker and able to communicate the group’s ideas, hopes, and plans plus any changes to them. Consultants are happy to make presentations at HOA meetings and can be there to answer questions at the moment they arise – even by Skype.

Trends in Playground Equipment

There are new playground designs every year that could be obsolete in five years. Right now, must-haves are climbers, slides, and areas that challenge the kids; play panels are becoming less popular. Crawl tubes and playhouses have mostly fallen out of favor. Instead of trends, think about longevity because the best playground equipment can last you up to 50 years. Creating a play area with the same colors and tones as your neighborhood is an option, but remember kids love bright, bold colors. Benches for parents are a must with good lines of sight. So are plenty of trash receptacles (kept clean and maintained).

Playground Themes

Kids want to run, play, and imagine in a variety of play spaces so themes can be helpful, but not necessary. It’s far more important to give flexibility for all ages and play styles by offering both active and quiet areas – and don’t forget about providing some shaded areas. Make sure the equipment is durable enough to withstand the environment the playground is in and the children who will play on it.

Playground Installation

Proper installation of all playground equipment and safety surfacing is paramount: EcoPlay Structures has partnerships with certified installers all over the US, so we can deliver beautiful playgrounds that are safe, age-appropriate, and ready for decades of planet-friendly fun.

For more than 25 years, EcoPlay Structures has been custom-designing, manufacturing and installing eco-friendly commercial playground equipment and site amenities. We provide low-maintenance, custom-designed structures for churches, schools, daycare centers, homeowner associations, and military bases. EcoPlay Structures’ environmentally-friendly materials are designed for commercial use. They are also visually appealing structures that help create a fun, family atmosphere. If you’re ready to find out more, please contact our play professionals today!

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