Creating an Engaging and Inclusive Playground Design Concept

The Essentials of a Good Playground Design Concept

Children’s playgrounds are often designed to look appealing. But it’s important to keep in mind that appearances are secondary to playability.

Kids are boundlessly creative and will find ways to use playground elements for purposes that weren’t originally intended. This is why it’s important to include nooks, crannies and other details that spark imagination.


Kids are drawn to familiar, fun themes like animals and sports. Themes also allow them to relate more closely to the playground equipment, which is especially important for safety and a sense of connection. Circuits, multiple entries, soft barriers and sightlines are all ways to encourage this interaction and build confidence.

Many people find inspiration for playground designs in their own childhood memories. These can be places they visited on vacation or even a favorite nursery rhyme.

For example, if your community has a strong relationship with its firefighters, police or other public service workers, you could create a theme that honors those heroes. Kids love to role-play and will enjoy pretending to be these important people in their lives. A theme based on transportation can help kids imagine themselves driving or flying a car, train or airplane.


Color plays an important role in a playground. It can make a playground feel more exciting and energetic, or more passive and calm. It can also influence the perception of size and shape.

From nature-inspired shades to urban tones to playful hues, there are endless colors to choose from for your outdoor playground for kids. And with GameTime’s wide variety of metal powder coat finishes, you can create a look that will both complement and endure.

The way you connect the playground to the surrounding community park or area is also an important consideration. This helps families move fluidly between the play space and other areas of the park, and it eliminates the need for fences and other isolating features. This also helps ensure that your playground meets ADA accessibility standards.


Whether in the form of structures or even grass pathways, playgrounds can create interesting shapes. Using shapes in the playground offers opportunities for children to compare things such as size, distance, color and more. This allows them to learn arithmetic and geometry without ever picking up a notebook or pencil.

In addition, shapes can be used to separate activity zones. These can be based on energy level, such as quieter activities in one area and active, louder play in another. This can help prevent kids who prefer active play from disturbing those who may have a harder time playing loudly. It can also encourage empathy between kids with different abilities. This is particularly important if the playground is intended to be a community space.


Children who play outdoors are more likely to learn about the environment, resulting in improved physical fitness and cognitive development. Incorporating natural textures into playground designs provides sensory stimulation for kids of all ages and abilities.

The Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi blurred the line between fine art, landscape design, and childhood play with his abstract works. His structures like the Slide Mantra incorporate flow into the structure and are reminiscent of optical illusions.

Textured flooring and a textured path surrounding the playground can help children with visual impairments navigate the space and understand when they are out of bounds, especially for those who play in groups. This flexibility can promote inclusivity, allowing children of all abilities to play together. This is the first step in creating a unique playground design concept that will inspire kids to learn and grow.


Children need a variety of objects to stimulate their senses and help them make sense of the world around them. Adding equipment that fosters sensory play with a wide array of textures, colors, angles, shapes and sounds is essential to a playground’s design. Examples include talking tubes, activity panels with a variety of objects to manipulate or explore and elements that encourage cross-lateral movement such as mazes or maps of the world.

Themed playgrounds can also include recognizable figures, such as animals or people, that spark kids’ imagination. Providing fun secrets, such as hidden pictures, compartments and peepholes, can add an element of mystery that keeps kids engaged for longer periods of time.

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