Best Playground Design Ideas
Children of all ages, abilities and physical and cognitive strengths should feel included in a playground’s design. That means prioritizing inclusivity, including quiet spaces and incorporating the landscape into the play space.
Great playgrounds also feature clear entry points, supervision vantage points and links to the local environment and community. These design elements make the best playgrounds exciting and welcoming.
1. Create a sense of place.
Children are finely attuned to the world around them. They’re hypnotized tracing where the crack in a sidewalk leads, fascinated by the movements of falling leaves floating through the air and absolutely delighted by the way a rubbish bin lid swings.
It’s important to keep in mind these little wonders when designing playgrounds. Make sure your playground has enough surprises to keep kids engaged, such as hidden pictures, compartments, handles and levers, peepholes, and interesting textures that encourage creative play.
2. Incorporate natural elements.
Stimulate curiosity and imagination through a sensory experience that invites kids to become mountain climbers, river runners or ocean divers. Playgrounds can be blank canvases for children’s creativity; whereas prefabricated equipment is often prescriptive, natural elements allow them to interact with the space on their own terms. A tree-shaded bench could become a pirate ship fort, or a dragon’s lair, while an open-ended rock cave might be used for a treasure hunt or to explore animal shapes and sounds.
Introducing nature-inspired playground features also promotes inclusivity by allowing kids on foot, in wheelchairs or using crutches to enjoy the playground together. Grouping activities by type is another way to ensure kids with different abilities can play together, too.
3. Trust children’s creativity.
Children use playgrounds in ways adults cannot anticipate. They find unique ways to put each component to its best use – for example, hopping from one colorful circle to another in a non-traditional hopscotch.
This is why it’s important to leave space for secrets and surprises. It will spark children’s creativity and imagination, and help them develop a sense of wonder about their environment.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a good design is about more than just the equipment you choose. A good site plan and 2 and 3D model renderings are vital to ensure that the playground’s goals are met and all the pieces fit together beautifully.
4. Make room for secrets and surprises.
The best playground design ideas take the form of simple elements that aren’t typically part of standard play structures. Little painted pictures in corners, nooks with peep holes or handles and levers, textured surfaces that become musical instruments for young percussionists, talking tubes, unexpected sounds—these are the details kids really notice.
A great playground is not only accessible to children of all physical abilities, but also stimulates their imaginations and helps them build their cognitive skills. That’s why it’s essential to provide options that are interesting and exciting for everyone playing there. This is achieved by adding in graduate challenges for older children and adults as well as introducing unique design features that aren’t found elsewhere.
5. Create zones for different energy levels.
Incorporating a variety of play elements in a space helps to ensure that all kids have something they enjoy. Some kids love active, competitive play, while others like quiet activities such as reading, puzzles or tinkering.
Great playgrounds have a clear entry into the space, making it exciting, inviting and easy to navigate for all visitors. They also offer good vantage points for caregivers to supervise children as they play.
Separating the playground into different sections based on age and strength can lead to a dull and boring space. Instead, the best playgrounds design for inclusive intersections to encourage kids to interact and play together.
6. Don’t get too preoccupied with looks.
Aesthetics are important, but children don’t play just for looks. They want to experience the enticing, adventurous and exciting feeling that good playground design can offer them.
The type of play children enjoy will vary wildly – some thrive on active play, while others need to rest and reflect during their time in the playground. Smart designs that make it easy for kids to move between elements allow them to find their own space of play without bumping into other kids.
It’s also important that the design provides zones for different energy levels, so that overcrowding can be avoided. A playground that is too noisy and active can lead to frustration, which can in turn encourage aggressive behaviour between children.