Playground Planning Guide

Playground Planning Guide

Playground Planning Guide

1 Where do I start?

If you have never been involved in building a playground before then it can feel like there is a lot to take in. With this in mind we have created the Smarter Play Guide (see below), to help you understand the key elements involved.

Finding the money for a new playground can be difficult in a tight school budget. It is important that you are choosing the right playground for your children, as the right playground will last you a long time.
Some points you may like to consider:

  What makes a great playground?
  Who is the playground for?
  Space and Play Experiences
  Playground Safety
  How much will it cost?
  Choosing a manufacturer

Our online guide provides a good high level overview, but if you get in touch we can discuss your specific requirements in greater detail. 

2 What makes a great playground?

Children are often happy simply playing with a cardboard box, but well designed playground provides a much richer environment and increased benefits from their play.

Play - Play encourages social interaction, friendship and improves communication skills. It helps children to develop their gross and fine motor skills.

Health - Play activities are fun, enjoyable and relaxing. It releases pent up energy and stress, while encouraging children to express themselves. They take risks and enjoy the rewards of exploration, discovery and imagination.

Learning - Play inspires children to discover and explore ideas in a fun and enjoyable way.

Social - Play encourages social interaction, friendship and improves communication skills.

3 Who is your playground for?

A park playground needs to cater for all ages, but with a school playground you are often designing for a narrower age range.

When designing a playground for a Primary School there is a vast difference is physical development between a 5 year old and 12 year old.

For ease of filtering, our online age categories are still fairly broad and it is usually better to speak with one of our Playground Designers about what would work best for your children and their abilities.

4 How much will it cost?

The total cost of your project will vary depending on three main elements; The nature of the site you have chosen, the type of playground equipment you would like and your choice of safety under surfacing. 

The site of you playground can have a large impact on the cost of your project. Things that you may need to allow funds for include:

  •   Excavation and site prep
  •   Retaining walls
  •   Drainage
  •   Removal of old playground equipment


The Play Equipment - When choosing the right playground equipment there are a number of elements to consider:

  Age appropriateness of equipment

  Play Value

  Quality materials

  Play experiences

  Risk vs Safety

5 Choosing a Manufacturer

Choosing the right manufacturer is crucial to the success of your playground project. It needs to be someone you feel you can work with, trust and who will be around for the length of the warranty.


How many school playgrounds have they built and how long have they been building them?
It’s a good idea to speak to other schools that they have recently built a playground for. How did they find them to work with and are they happy with the result? A reputable manufacturer will be happy to provide you with a list of references to contact.


What type of materials do they make their playground equipment from?
Look for Hot Dip Galvanising of metal components, H4 & H5 treated wood and stainless steel fixtures. These are the most robust materials for New Zealand conditions.

Play Value

How well do they understand Play Value and is it incorporated into the design of their playground?
Some manufactures cut corners so they can offer a cheap product, but this can have a big impact on how kids use the playground. Look for a good flow around events, decks between events to allow children to pause or pass each other and events that are the right size the intended age group.


What support can they provide you through the whole process?
Will they meet with you on-site to help you discuss and assess your requirements. Can they manage the whole project for you. Will they provide 3D rendered drawings of your design to help you engage the school community. Do they have an inhouse team of professional ins
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