Playground Guide Part 6

Play Equipment

Play equipment falls into two primary configurations:

  1. Composite Play Structures

These typical playgrounds with support posts and decks (modern/fitness composite structures typically exclude decks) with various play components attached to the playground, like slides, climbers, and overheads (monkey bars). These play structures or playgrounds have much flexibility in design. They can be made to various sizes to accommodate different volumes of children. These playground structures are also the easiest to use to create accessible wheelchair and fully inclusive play environments.

  1. Independent Play Activities:

These are the freestanding equipment you see at your smaller parkettes. Typical examples include swings, freestanding slides (slide/ladder combination), motion toys (spring riders), and freestanding climbers (monkey bars).  

Selecting equipment for Preschool Age Children

Playgrounds provide great play opportunities, but they also provide a fun place for children to grow and learn. Playgrounds should provide equipment that challenges children to test their abilities and push themselves on challenging events. By doing so, children learn and grow, developing gross and fine motor skills, learning to play socially with other children and adults, and partake in creative/imaginative play. Playground climbers improve a child’s gross motor skills, whereas other play components like storefront panels encourage imaginative play. Sand play with a source of water nearby offers endless opportunities.

Creative use of landform and natural materials can offer opportunities to enhance play.

When designing and selecting play equipment for preschool age kids, it is good to know what equipment and features are not recommended for this age group. Please refer to the chart (page ??) and the recommendations from the different playground standards.

What child does not like motion, one of the best ways to satisfy that desire, is to provide slides and swings. Swings should be located on the outside low traffic area of the play environment to prevent children from running in front of swings while they are in use.

Other popular play equipment for this age group includes low-level climbers for those children who love to climb. Seating areas (under decks), sandboxes, play huts, and sand tables make great places for children to gather, play, and socialize with other children.  Creative panels can provide cognitive challenges, sensory experiences, and even fine motor skills and opportunities to play with other children.

Selecting equipment for School Age Children

School age children have enough experience with playgrounds to have definite preferences. My eight-year-old favorite event is the “Slide Pole.” Why not get these children involved in selecting the play equipment since they will be using it more than you? Host a “Design Day” with a group of children who will be using the playground when complete. Kids are great at selecting the activities they want on the playground and in the play environment. You may have to give them parameters to work with; otherwise, their choices may go on endlessly. At least you will know the play events the children want, and your choices will become much more straightforward.

Here are some other tips when picking play equipment for school age children.

Contact your local governments, school boards, or any other jurisdiction involved with playgrounds in your area. Sometimes specific equipment is banned because of liability issues. Some regions have requirements or policies that may go beyond current playground standards. Personal preference also becomes a factor influencing the choices of many organizations.

Maybe your community has a problem with childhood obesity, and your goal is to help children exercise and lose weight, and you want them to have fun exercising and playing. Modern deck less playgrounds concentrate on more difficult climbing and upper body activities and spinning events to get a child’s heart rate up. Look for challenging climbers, overheads, and rope play equipment to encourage active children. The best thing is that children will have lots of fun without knowing they are burning calories and exercising simultaneously.

Not all children have the same likes. Slides, swings, and spinners are universally popular, but there are many other play events. Consider offering various other events such as flexible and climbers, play panels, motion toys, roofs (shelter), sand play tables, bridges, and links to add variety to your playground and keep the children interested. Providing quiet areas away from the hustle and bustle of the main playground is also a great idea. A variety of experiences enhance the play value of any space.

When you have a limited playground budget to work with, be mindful of large ticket play events like spiral slides, bridges, and concrete rock climbers. Those play components are costly and can eat up a considerable portion of your playground budget. Look for more cost-effective play events. A Henderson Recreation representative can help you select cost-effective play events to get “the most bang for your buck.”

Think carefully about accessibility issues for both children and parents. Imagine the joy on a parent’s face when he can play with his children on the playground because you made it wheelchair accessible. Children with special needs deserve an opportunity to play on playgrounds as well. The ADA mandates this for US residents, but this is not the case in many Canadian provinces.

Remember that site amenities such as seating, picnic tables, shade, water sources, gazebos, planting, pathways, and litter containers are essential elements in a successful space.

Predesigned Playground and Play Environments:

Everyone has time constraints with our hectic daily living in the modern world. Sometimes wholly designing a new playground for your potential site can be time-consuming. If time is not on your side, consider researching predesigned playgrounds on our website. We have many designs for all different customer types. Talk to a Henderson representative. They can help find the perfect playground that fits your site and meets your playspace ad playground needs. If you do not like the predesign playground color, let your Henderson representative know. We will prepare a design rendering with your chosen colors.

At Henderson Playgrounds, we not only manufacture commercial playgrounds. We also sell superior fitness equipment from Greenfields Outdoor Fitness. Perfect for building outdoor fitness activities in your local community to get adults active and outside in the fresh air.

Contact us today for a quote.