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6 things to consider when planning a school playground

A guide for school principals and P&Cs planning a playground project.

As educators, parents and community leaders, the importance of providing students with a dynamic and engaging outdoor environment cannot be overstated. A well-designed school playground goes beyond just providing a space for physical activity; it serves as a catalyst for learning, social development, and overall well-being. 

A good specialist school playground supplier will guide and support you throughout the full end-to-end process, ensuring all the fundamental design, safety and compliance considerations are taken care of. There are, however, several things you should consider in order to guide your school playground supplier with the planning and briefing process. Here are the top 7 things to consider when planning your school playground. 

1. Define your objectives and vision

Begin by clarifying the objectives and vision for your school playground project. What do you hope to achieve through this initiative? Are you aiming to promote physical activity, foster social interaction, stimulate creativity or all of the above? Do you want to incorporate any thematic play structures or consider incorporating nature play elements into the design? Engage stakeholders including teachers, students and parents to gather diverse perspectives and insights. Establishing a clear vision will serve as a guiding framework for decision-making throughout the project.

2. Know your playground budget

Before diving into the specifics of playground equipment and design, it’s essential to establish a realistic budget for the project. A school playground can cost anywhere from $20,000 to upwards of $200,000 AUD, so budget plays a huge role in determining the size and scale of the project. Consider factors such as funding sources, grants and fundraising opportunities and be transparent about budget constraints during the briefing stage.

3. Consider student age groups and numbers

As schools know, students of different age groups have varying developmental needs and interests. For example, younger children may benefit from interactive sensory play areas and low-to-the-ground equipment, while older students may prefer challenging climbing structures and fitness-focused amenities. Your school playground supplier will need to know whether you’re after a junior, senior or mixed playground before they can identify which types of equipment are appropriate. It’s also important to know the number of children that may play on the equipment at any one time, so the design can factor in the appropriate size, flow and scale.

4. Choose your playground location

There’s a number of things to consider when determining a school playground location, including available space, accessibility, sunlight exposure and proximity to existing amenities. Do a site walkthrough and consider the following:

  • Is there adequate open space for play equipment?
  • Are there any structures such as posts, fencing, trees or plumbing that could cause hazards or disruptions?
  • Are there any underground services or utilities your playground supplier needs to be aware of, such as water and sewer pipelines?
  • Is there risk of visual or noise impact to neighbouring houses?
  • Is there a risk of in-ground asbestos?
  • Is there adequate natural shade, or is this something to factor into your budget?

While many of these considerations can be worked around, it’s important to consider your options when choosing the ideal site for school play equipment. You should also start thinking about project requirements outside of the playground itself, including playground surfacing (such as synthetic grass, wet pour rubber or certified bark mulch), borders, edging and landscaping.

5. Consider if you want fitness or agility equipment

For secondary schools in particular, there is more emphasis on providing open space for social and team sports and it’s becoming increasingly popular to integrate outdoor fitness equipment into school playground areas. For primary school aged students, there’s a number of age-appropriate ninja and fitness track products on offer. Consider if this is something that may benefit your students and space.

6. Factor in inclusive design

An inclusive playground promotes participation and engagement for all students, regardless of ability. This includes wheelchair-accessible ramps and pathways, sensory-rich play elements and equipment with multiple entry points and sensory-stimulating features. Detail any specific requirements you have and ensure your school playground supplier prioritises inclusive design features that accommodate children with diverse physical and cognitive abilities.

Designing a school playground is a multifaceted endeavour that requires careful consideration. As a commercial playground supplier specialising in school playground equipment, we understand the unique needs and challenges faced by school principals and P&C committees. If you’re in the process of planning a school playground, simply contact us and we’ll explain the process and help you develop a good brief for the tendering process.

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