Planning A Playground
5 Steps to Building a Safe, Long-Lasting Play Environment
Planning a playground can be fun, but the task of choosing the right
play equipment for your organization can also be a bit intimidating.
Here are 5 helpful steps we've designed to help make the process a
little easier. Please call our office at 1-800-221-8869 at any time for
assistance in making your playground purchase a successful one. Good
Step #1: Assess Your Needs
In this step your
goal is to find out what you are trying to accomplish with your
playground. You should ask your organization the following questions:
• What is our budget? Will we be buying all at once, or purchasing in phases?
• How many children and what ages are we trying to accommodate?
• Do we have children or parents with specific needs?
• What is our time frame for purchasing and installation?
Tip: Make sure to determine what your budget covers. You should
consider equipment cost, shipping, site preparation, safety surfacing,
containment border material, and installation. Typical percentages are:
50% for equipment, 30% for delivery & installation, and 20% for
Step #2: Choose your Site
This is an
important process that can affect your playground for years to come.
Please analyze your projected area for proper slope and drainage. Your
area should be relatively flat with just enough slope to eliminate
standing water. Remember, areas that hold water will increase your
maintenance cost of your surfacing material and limit the amount of days
you can play on your playground. Trees and shrubs can provide great
shade and aesthetics, but make sure they don’t impede your vision for
proper supervision. Also, check for any low-hanging or unstable limbs
that could be climbed on or could fall into a play area. Contact your
city or local locating service for determining the location of any
water, sewer, electric, gas, cable TV or telephone lines. It is
important to do this now, as it can greatly affect the design and
location of your play area.
Step #3: Select your Equipment
There are many
areas to consider when selecting your playground equipment. The
Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that you divide
your playground into 2 separate areas: One for 5-12-year old users
and one for 2-5-year old users. Composite structures that connect many
types of play activities to elevated decks can accommodate a large
amount of children in a small area. These items offer climbing, sliding,
social and imaginative play all in one structure. Freestanding items
such as swings, climbers, imaginary panels, and rocking spring toys can
be added to spread out your area and increase your play value by
catering to a large variety of users.
Safety should be your No.1
concern. Select only equipment that is IPEMA (International Play
Equipment Manufacturers Association) Certified. This ensures that your
equipment has been third-party tested to comply with both the CPSC’s
Handbook for Public Playground Safety and ASTM (American Society for
Testing and Materials) Standard F1487 guidelines on play equipment. To
verify that your equipment complies, visit IPEMA’s website at www.ipema.org.
is another important concern. The American Disability Act (ADA)
mandates that all new and modified playgrounds must offer activities for
use by children with disabilities. The accessibility requirements vary
based on the size of your overall play area. At a minimum, you should
consider providing an accessible path to the playground using accessible
surfacing, providing transfer points on your composite structures, and
adding freestanding ground-level components. Please contact one of our
trained professionals to guide you through this design process.
Items to consider when choosing your manufacturer:
• Durability of material used (inspect equipment at other sites)
• Manufacturer’s warranty
• Delivery time
• Ease of installation or qualification of installers (use only factory-certified installation crews)
• Manufacturers,’ liability insurance (should have at least $40 million)
• Follow-up and response time of local representative
• Experience and reputation of the representative agency
• Availability of innovative and unique play activities
Ask your manufacturer to provide you with scaled drawings of your
play area, a 3-D rendering with your selected color scheme, and a
detailed cost breakdown of all proposed expenditures including site
work, equipment, shipping, tax, installation, and surfacing.
Step #4: Choose your Surface
According to the
Consumer Product Safety Commission, nearly 60% of all playground
injuries are due to falls to the surface. Therefore, your surfacing is
just as important as your equipment.
1. Wood chips are the least expensive and
easy to install. They do, however, require the most maintenance to meet
the impact attenuation standards of the CPSC. They also have diminished
in popularity because of their inability to provide handicap access. Our
recommendation for loose fill surface is a manufactured wood fiber. It
should have a manufacturers warranty, and a written confirmation that is
complies with the CPSC, ASTM, and ADA standards.
rubber surfaces such as poured-in-place rubber or tiles are the most
expensive (as much as 10 times the cost of loose fill), but are the most
durable and require the least maintenance. They can guarantee the
proper impact attenuation, and accessibility required by CPSC, ASTM and
Step #5: Ordering & Installing your Playground
you’ve decided on a manufacturer, it’s time to order your equipment.
You will need to select your colors and provide a desired shipping
location and contact name and number. Make sure you have a projected
time frame in mind before ordering your equipment. Check with your
manufacturer for shipping times and allow the proper time for
installation. (Give yourself a buffer for delays due to soil conditions,
Once an order is placed, your order will be
manufactured and delivered to your specified location. The shipping
company will call you in advance to schedule a delivery appointment.
Many large items require a forklift or additional personnel, so be sure
to prepare for this ahead of time. When offloading, it is very important
that you inventory all items before signing for the shipment. If a
shortage is discovered, you can notify your manufacturer immediately and
have parts re-shipped in time for your installation.
Depending on your budget, time restrictions, and personnel, you have several options for installation.
Volunteer installation: You install the equipment with volunteers from
your organization. Your manufacturer should provide you with detailed
installation instructions. This is obviously the least expensive choice
and puts the responsibility for the installation on your group.
Supervised installation: With this option, a manufacturer's trained
installer can come to your site and supervise your workers on
installation day. This option typically involves a daily fee and is a
great way to save money, yet ensure that your own workers are installing
your equipment efficiently and correctly.
3. Full installation:
This option is the most expensive, but requires the least amount of work
and responsibility for your group. Have your manufacturer install the
equipment with a certified crew. They can also handle surfacing,
offloading and inventory of equipment if agreed on in advance. If you
require site prep and are unable to have it done yourselves, this may
also be available.
Your equipment is ready to go, but it
doesn't end there! Establish a maintenance plan and inspect your
equipment regularly. The better care you take for your equipment, the
longer your children can enjoy it!
Enjoy your new playground!