By Mark Lang
You want to build a playground. Great! Now what? Let’s start from the very beginning and assess your needs and budget.
The first step to a successful playground project is to assess your needs and budget. The big question is: How much does a commercial playground cost? And, knowing that a good, long-lasting, high-quality playground costs between $20,000 and $50,000, how much can you afford?
In order to determine your priorities and how much money you will need to raise, there are some major factors to consider. Play experts can help you determine what your playground should include — and what will work within your budget.
Here are 10 questions to ask when you’re planning a playground.
- What playground equipment should I choose?
Choosing the right equipment is an essential factor. If you don’t create a fun, inviting, exciting playground, kids won’t use it — and for kids, play is vital. Play increases a child’s self-esteem and develops social and cognitive skills necessary for daily adult life.
Playground design has taken dramatic turns in the past decades. Playground equipment you might remember from your childhood has been vastly redesigned with safety and inclusion in mind.
The goal of planning a great playground is simple: create a space where a child can be active and their imaginations soar.
- Should I keep or replace existing playground equipment?
If you have existing equipment on-site, you’ll need to have that playground equipment evaluated to make sure it’s in good condition and meets current safety and accessibility standards.
Playground experts are happy to help you with that. If it no longer meets the needs of your community, or if it isn’t compliant with modern safety standards, you will have to arrange for its removal. You may choose to work with a playground expert, or choose to remove old, outdated equipment with community volunteers.
- How do I make sure my playground is right for kids of all ages?
Another thing to keep in mind is age-appropriateness of the equipment. Activities should provide appropriate challenge levels and promote a developmental progression of skills as children gain confidence and coordination through beginner, intermediate, and advanced activities.
For example, you’ll probably want to include multiple slides — 3′, 4′, and 5′ slides for children aged 2-5, and an 8′ slide for children aged 5-12. There are multiple climber options and ground-level activities for kids of all ages and abilities.
- Why is an accessible and inclusive playground important?
Accessibility and inclusion have become increasingly important things to consider, as well. In order to meet basic guidelines for access, there is a ratio of ground-level to elevated activities to be met. Playground experts are here to help you understand inclusion and accessibility to ensure your playground addresses the needs of the whole child, the whole environment and the whole community.
- What other features should I include on my playground?
Other things to keep in mind are whether you want to include freestanding equipment — like swings, climbers, site amenities or shade. Adding benches and shade are great for keeping parents cool and comfortable while they supervise kids.
- What playground surfacing should I use?
Don’t forget playground surfacing. Surfacing is an essential part of the play area. It offers impact attenuation properties that help cushion falls from playground equipment. There are lots of surfacing options to choose from — poured in place rubber, engineered wood fiber, recycled bonded rubber, recycled loose-fill rubber, recycled rubber tiles, and turf. Playground experts can help you determine the best playground surfacing for your community.
- Can I build my playground in phases?
Another detail to consider is phasing. You can ask your local rep to illustrate phasing options, showing how your playground can be built and improved in multiple steps. Phase one could be built within your available budget, and phase two or three could come a few years later when you have raised more money. Seeing phase one being built will often rally participation from the community.
- How much should I budget for a playground?
Playground budgets are usually determined by how many kids you expect to use your playground. A good rule to follow is about $1,000 per child. This means if you expect your playground to accommodate 50 kids, plan for $50,000. It’s not always that simple, though — if you add ramps to make your playground accessible for people who use mobility devices, or if you want to incorporate custom elements, the price will go up.
Another thing to keep in mind that will save budget dollars is choosing a level site with good drainage, no underground utilities, and easy access which will help control site preparation, and installation costs.
- How long does it take to build and install a playground?
One of the most common questions we get asked is how long it takes to install a playground. And that, like everything else we’ve mentioned here, really depends on the complexity of the site. You need to check with your local government to determine what approvals and permits you need, and how long it takes to obtain those. You’ll also need to enlist the help of certified installers (or supervisor, if you go with a community build). You’ll need to make sure the landscape is prepped. Your local playground expert is a great resource for setting up a realistic timeline.
- Community Build vs. Professional Installation
A community build of your new play equipment is a great way to save money and to build a sense of pride and accomplishment for your new playground. Many professional playground companies offer support to accompany a community build install so that you are not left out in the cold. Professional installation, while more costly, will ensure that your new equipment is installed as per all of the manufacturer’s recommendations to meet current ASTM and CPSC standards for playground equipment.
This information is courtesy of MVP Playgrounds LLC, which assists customers with design, planning and budgeting, play equipment, shade and site furnishings sales, along with professional installation services of their entire product line, www.mvpplaygrounds.com.