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Design a Better Playground for the Whole Community – The Home Depot Pro

1. Accommodate All Kinds of Play
Play is more than fun. It is essential to physical and mental development. Design a playground that encourages active play, creative exercise and sensory exploration. A playground that lets kids choose the way they play is more engaging. Types of play include:
  • Solitary—independent play like solving puzzles or doing crafts
  • Sensory—stimulating play like building sand castles or making music
  • Parallel—undisturbed play alongside others such as swinging
  • Imaginative—creative play like holding tea parties or roleplaying
  • Active—energetic play like climbing or playing tag
  • Cooperative—social play like jumping rope or playing sports
2. Design for All Kinds of Kids
The best playgrounds accommodate kids of all ages and abilities, because all kids should have the opportunity to enjoy the playground. An accessible playground includes:
  • Pathways wide enough for wheelchair users
  • Ramps or level transitions from one surface to the next
  • Activities and equipment of varied challenge levels
  • Quiet areas for kids who get overwhelmed
  • Sensory elements like musical instruments or brightly-colored play panels
3. Collaborate With Your Community
Whether you are building a playground for your daycare, church or neighborhood, invite involvement from the community. People will be more invested if they contribute, and numerous, varied opinions enrich your final design.

Hold meetings or survey your community to find what they want to get out of the new playground.

  • How important are fields or courts for sports?
  • Should the playground include space for educational events?
  • Are they concerned about preserving the natural environment?
4. Include Nature in Your Playground Landscaping
Landscaping is essential to an attractive and engaging playground, but you don’t have to start from scratch. Preserve the trees, wildlife and topography of your playground location. Trees and bushes provide natural shade and appeal, while hills and fields encourage exploration and active play.
5. Include Park Amenities
Water fountains, park benches and picnic tables elevate your playground’s appeal. They make the playground more comfortable and provide places to rest or play games. Install seating near play areas so parents and teachers can sit while watching their children.

If your playground is in a pet-friendly apartment complex or community park, include dog playground equipment to appeal to pet owners.

6. Encourage Creativity
Embrace the imagination of the kids at your playground. A rocket ship spring rider is a fun addition, but the kids may prefer to cowboys to astronauts. Encourage creative play keeping designs simple. The kids will fill in the blanks.
7. Separate Active & Passive Zones
Putting a sandbox next to a swing set is an accident waiting to happen, but there are other reasons to separate play zones. Kids who want to talk, daydream or use a musical toy won’t have a good time at the playground if they try to do those things surrounded by running or screaming.

Start with a list of playground equipment to decide how many zones you will need. Passive play zones create enjoyable spaces for children who are more sensitive to stimuli or prefer quiet. The extra space also improves playground safety.

8. Prevent Litter
Without access to trash cans, kids and adults may forget and leave litter behind. Place trash receptacles at entrances and exits, where pathways meet and near benches.

A survey by Keep America Beautiful found a 12 percent litter rate when trash cans were within 10 feet, but a 30 percent litter rate when trash cans were 30 feet or more away. General guidelines suggest placing waste receptacles every 25 feet. 

9. Ensure Legal Compliance
There are a variety of public playground safety standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Similar safety and surfacing standards exist in Canada. Check playground equipment to confirm it meets standards before you buy.

Products sold on homedepot.com list the standards they comply with under the “Warranty/Certifications” section of the product page.

10. Make It Safe
Playgrounds need to be fun and safe. Anticipate as many hazards as possible and follow playground safety best practices when designing your playground.
  • Use guard rails to prevent falls from any equipment higher than 3 feet
  • Choose rubber flooring, mulch, wood chips or sand for padded ground
  • Remove tripping hazards like cracked cement, loose rocks and above-ground tree roots
  • Allow 6 feet between play equipment to avoid overcrowding 
  • Provide shaded area to alleviate sun exposure, heat stroke and burns from heated surfaces
  • Create clear sightlines that will allow parents, teachers or other supervisors to watch children
  • Build impact mats under swings, slides, play sets and other equipment that presents a fall hazard