Spending time outdoors is a vital part of children’s physical and mental development, which is why choosing the best playground equipment for your church childcare program is essential. The equipment installed on your playground should encourage physical activity and should be accessible to children with special needs.
Whether your playground project is replacing playground equipment you already have or outfitting your new playground space, it’s important for you to take the time needed to properly research and choose the equipment that works best for your play space and the children in your care.
Here are a few tips on managing your playground project and choosing the best playground equipment for your needs:
1. Research the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Other Licensing Requirements
The ADA has specific accessibility guidelines for playgrounds and playground equipment. For example, one ADA requirement mandates that all of the pathways in a playground must connect the play area to the parking lot. While childcare centers run by religious organizations are exempt from the ADA in most cases, making your church playground accessible to children with disabilities will promote inclusion and safeguard against discrimination lawsuits.
Various licensing rules, regulations, and requirements in your state and local community may also play a role in your playground project. Educating yourself on the ADA and other licensing requirements will give you the information you need to make sure your playground and playground equipment are in compliance and are accessible to children of all abilities.
2. Assess the Needs of the Your Playground
Before you select equipment for your playground, you should assess the needs of your playground site and perform a playground audit. Here are just a few of the factors you should consider in your audit:
- What is the size of the play space and the shape of the overall playground layout?
- How many children will be using the playground at one time?
- What are the ages of the children who will be using the playground and its equipment?
- Are there any special needs or disabilities that should be considered when selecting your playground equipment?
A playground consultant can give you a list of other factors you should consider. He or she can also perform a full audit of your playground if you would rather have a professional assess your outdoor space.
3. Evaluate Existing Playground Equipment (if applicable)
If you already have existing playground equipment, make sure you evaluate its current condition and value to help you determine what needs to be replaced and what type of equipment you need to add to the space. Make sure all of the existing equipment meets CPSC/ASTM and ADA guidelines and that there are no broken pieces or missing parts that need to be repaired.
Take note of how popular the existing equipment is with the children in your care—this can help you decide if you need to replace your current playground equipment with something similar or if you need to look at other types of equipment for the play space.
4. Determine a Project Budget
It’s important to remember that the equipment is only part of your budget equation. You’ll likely need to budget for additional services, especially if you’re building a new playground or renovating your current space.
Here are a few examples of other associated costs you may need to factor into your playground budget:
- Site Preparation
- Freight Charges
- Storage Fees
- Disposal Fees
- New Surfacing Costs
- Professional Installation
If you have big plans for your playground but don’t have a big budget, consider completing the project in phases. Doing this enables you to build portions of the playground over time without losing quality and value.
You can also ask for donations from church members and the surrounding community to help offset costs. Church members may also be able to volunteer their time and/or services to the project.
Fundraisers are another way to gain community support and raise enough money to complete your playground project. Financing options may also be available.
5. Compare Options and Select Your Playground Equipment
Once you’ve researched licensing requirements, audited your current playground, evaluated your equipment, budgeted for your project, and decided on the type of equipment you’re looking for, start comparing playground equipment and playground providers. Check providers’ websites, read customer reviews of equipment, and ask if there are any free resources available to help you select equipment.
Other Things to Consider
Playground components come in a variety of colors, textures, and materials, so it’s important to think about what kind of statement you want to make with your playground. Do you want it to be bold and colorful or would you prefer something more natural that blends in with the surrounding environment?
You should also consider site amenities and surfacing materials as you’re selecting equipment. Look at any existing surfacing on your playground to see if it needs to be replaced or replenished, and choose site amenities that will make your playground even more fun and safe for kids.
Be sure you properly prepare the site for delivery and installation once you’ve ordered your playground equipment, site amenities, and surfacing materials.
This information is courtesy of Kaplan Early Learning Company, a leading international provider of products that enhance children’s learning, including educational toys, school supplies, and playground equipment. www.kaplanco.com/playgrounds.