How to Create the Perfect Daycare Play Area

How To Create The Perfect Daycare Play Area

Play is an essential part of childhood. Daycare can be full of structured activities that help kids learn, and so children should also be given the opportunity for some unstructured, self-directed play. As children explore and develop, unstructured play allows them to be creative and discover the world in their own unique way. Free play is an essential supplement to academic learning that leads to full and rich development.

A lot goes into designing an early childhood playground, from choosing the right location to providing essential safety features. You must select age-appropriate play equipment and choose the best layout. However, designing a daycare playground is about more than just designing a physical space — it is about promoting growth, learning and creativity and providing a place where children can enjoy play to the fullest.

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Benefits of Free Play for Developing Children

There are two general types of play that children experience — structured and unstructured play. When children participate in classroom activities, gym class or other play that is led and organized by adults, this is structured play. Unstructured play, or “free play,” is what children experience on the playground when they can choose their own activities and explore how they wish. Because it promotes creativity and independence, free play offers benefits for children that structured play cannot. The unique benefits of free play help children develop important physical skills, along with social and cognitive skills.

  • Social: When activities are not led by adults, children must work together to coordinate games and play, which helps them develop important communication skills. When children share playground equipment or play imaginative games, they learn conflict resolution, negotiation and collaboration. Allowing children time to develop these social skills without adult intervention is essential to their growth as individuals.
  • Cognitive: Because free play is not directed towards specific goals or outcomes like structured playtime is, free play encourages adaptability and creativity. Children can experiment with different ways to solve problems and try new things. When allowed to explore on their own, children will often use toys or engage with playground equipment in surprising and creative ways that build their imagination. This creativity helps children to be more versatile and adaptable when they encounter problems in the future.
  • Physical: As children develop physically, it is important for them to explore how their bodies can move in space. Free play on the playground helps kids learn spatial awareness, explore independent movement and develop better coordination. Time spent climbing, jumping and running during free play also improves a child’s overall health and wellness.

Your play area can provide children with a unique opportunity for social, cognitive and physical growth when these development benefits are included in your design plans.

steps to creating perfect daycare playground

Creating the Perfect Daycare or Preschool Play Space

Creating the perfect daycare playground means filling it with play equipment that children will love while also keeping safety first. There are many important factors to consider when designing your playground, including the age group of the children playing on it and how many children will be on the playground at one time. You want to choose equipment that promotes growth and exploration while encouraging creativity. Your daycare equipment should be age-appropriate and safe while providing some challenge and risk.

Consider these factors to create a daycare outdoor play area that all children will enjoy.

1. Consider Capacity

Consider how many children will be using your playground at one time to determine how large your playground should be. Make sure your daycare playground layout provides adequate space for free and safe play. Include enough pieces of play equipment so that all children have access to join in the fun without equipment becoming overcrowded. Provide a variety of equipment and play spaces so children can stay occupied during playtime.

2. Choose the Play Theme

Whether the playground is in a daycare or preschool, you want to be mindful that the theme you choose is exciting for all ages. Some of the play area themes we offer are:

  • Classic
  • Modern
  • Nature
  • Nautical
  • Space
  • Urban

These themes can make the play area feel cohesive and encourage kids to engage in pretend play. For example, kids can pretend to explore outer space or go on a safari.

3. Plan Your Playground Layout

When planning your daycare playground design, follow the manufacturer’s specifications for how far apart to place equipment. Be sure to leave enough space between large play equipment so children playing on one piece of equipment do not interfere with children on other play structures. Generally, a 6-foot radius will be sufficient, but you may need more space for some types of equipment, such as swings.

For taller equipment, make sure trees or other overhead structures do not interfere. For moving equipment, such as swings or seesaws, position them on the edges of play areas to avoid collisions. Slide exits should also be located in low-traffic areas.

You may also want to consider placing the most popular pieces of equipment in different areas of your playground to avoid overcrowding in any single spot. Passive play areas, such as sandboxes, should be kept separate from areas of more active play. Your playground should also include some quiet areas for children who want to take a break from play or who may become overwhelmed by too much stimulation.

4. Choose Age-Appropriate Equipment

Be sure that all equipment selected is appropriate for the intended age group. Children of different ages have different developmental needs as well as play abilities. Younger children may enjoy greater stimulation from bright colors and sensory play equipment, while older children will enjoy more active and physically challenging play.

Make sure the size of the equipment is appropriate to the average height of the children that will be playing on it. This includes making steps or ledges small enough for children to climb and keeping the overall height of the equipment low enough to reduce injury from falls. When choosing play equipment for toddlers who are crawling or just learning to walk, it is especially important to include soft surfaces and reduce sharp edges. Little kids may also need things to hold onto when standing up.

In general, play equipment should be different for children under 2 years old, between 2 and 5, and older than 5 years old. Below are a few examples of appropriate equipment for each age group.

Equipment for children under 2 years old might include:

  • Swings with bucket seats
  • Stairways and ramps
  • Single-file step ladders
  • Climbing equipment that is 32 inches high or less
  • Spring riders
  • Slides with less than 360 degree turns

Kids between 2 and 5 years old can play on equipment such as:

  • Bucket swings and belt swings
  • Stairways and ramps
  • Rung ladders for climbing
  • Climbing equipment
  • Spring riders
  • Slides and spiral slides
  • Balance beams 12 inches high or less
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Monkey bars less than 60 inches high

Children older than 5 years old are ready for:

  • Belt swings
  • Stairways and ramps
  • Step and rung ladders
  • Climbing equipment with flexible parts
  • Arch climbers
  • Slides and spiral slides
  • Vertical sliding poles
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Monkey bars
  • See-saws

5. Make It Inclusive

Children within the same age group will often develop at different paces, and not all equipment will be appropriate for every child. Your child care center’s playground design should keep all children in mind, providing both active and quiet spaces and varied equipment that offers different levels of challenge and accommodations.

Inclusive design can make all the difference between a negative and positive experience on the playground at a daycare center. A child with autism will likely feel more at ease on the playground when there’s a cozy, quiet space to retreat to at times. A child who uses a wheelchair for mobility will benefit from flat surfaces, wide paths and adequate space between play areas.

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Safety Considerations for Your Daycare Playground

In addition to planning the right layout and choosing appropriate equipment, there are a few other safety considerations to keep in mind when designing your new daycare playground. These physical considerations will ensure your daycare playground is safe and comfortable for free play:

  • Choose the right location: When deciding where to build a playground for your daycare, choose a location that is easy to access from your facility. Your aim should be to minimize the number of hazards that children encounter as they transition from class to outdoor play. Avoid placing your playground close to a busy road, river or other physical hazards.
  • Find the right terrain: Your playground should be built on a fairly flat area that does not contain ditches, large roots or ponds. The slope of the land should allow for proper drainage after rain or snow so it does not become muddy.
  • Include shady spaces: Make sure your play space has areas of shade so children can get out of the sun in hot summer months. This shade can be naturally occurring from trees or provided with covered equipment or umbrellas over benches. Any metal play equipment should be positioned in the shade so it does not cause burns.
  • Choose appropriate surfacing: When selecting material for your playground surfacing, consider appearance and functionality. Avoid hard surfaces like concrete, blacktop, pressed earth or grass as these can lead to severe injuries if children fall. Loose surfacing like wood chips and shredded rubber must be periodically replaced. A safer, low-maintenance and more inclusive option is unitary playground surfacing like poured-in-place surfacing and rubber tiles. These offer a uniform, shock-absorbing surface for kids to play on while providing a surface that’s safer and easier to traverse for children and adults using mobility equipment.

Daycare Play Areas Should Be Secured With A Fence

  • Add a perimeter fence: Especially when it comes to younger children, physical barriers are an important means of maintaining safety. Installing a fence around the perimeter of your playground can prevent kids from wandering off and prevent any strangers who shouldn’t be there from wandering onto the playground. Avoid fencing material that could tempt kids to climb on the fence, as in the case of lattice, for example.
  • Eliminate any hazards: Children are naturally curious and want to explore. While this is beneficial for learning and play, it can lead to injury if the play space is not properly protected against hazards. Avoid creating any small areas that children may crawl into and get stuck. Play equipment should not have any openings that are between 3.5 and 9 inches. Your play space should not have any protruding bolts or hooks that children could catch their clothing or fingers on. Keep your playground clean from debris or trash so children can enjoy clean and healthy play.

Daycare Outdoor Play Area Design Ideas

With a little creativity, you can create a daycare playground that will keep your children entertained all day and all year long. A great way to direct your design is to pick a theme that will encourage imaginative play on the playground.

Especially at young ages, pretend play is a major part of the way kids like to have fun. Pretend play is more than just fun, too — it helps kids process the world around them and develop critical life skills. Whether they’re playing house or pretending they’re on an archeological dig, acting like an adult can also be empowering and inspiring for children.

A great way to direct you design is to pick a theme that will encourage imaginative play.

Theming can also simply look like a color scheme that makes the playground feel cohesive in its appearance. Fun colors can make a space more exciting to many children.

Let’s explore just a few daycare outdoor play area ideas and themes to get you inspired:

  • City playground: Kids can often feel like passive participants in city life as they observe how people drive cars and interact in public spaces. Kids can feel like grown-ups in a city-themed playground where they can ride on car spring riders and play in playhouses that mimic the real thing. You can round out your design with details like a pathway through the playground that looks like a city street.
  • Nature playground: You could also choose a nature theme complete with animals, flowers and a nature station. Many children today don’t spend enough time in nature, so a nature-themed playground can be a great avenue for getting them interested in the great outdoors. They can pretend they’re camping or climbing up into a jungle treehouse.
  • Brand colors: You can also order play equipment in a specific color scheme to promote your daycare’s brand. This branding can make the playground feel distinctly part of your daycare campus rather than generic and can give a great first impression to prospective families or visitors who come to your facility.

Additional Tips for Designing the Best Daycare Play Space

Once you have the big picture figured out, you can turn your attention to the details that will make your playground a great place for everyone at your daycare. Here are a few tips for creating a unique and engaging play space for any age group:

  • Include a variety of equipment: Different children like to play in different ways, so aim to include many opportunities for kids to engage. Have quiet spaces, such as sandboxes, where kids can relax as well as active spaces like swings and climbers. While social development is an essential part of free play, it is also beneficial for children to play independently and explore on their own. Include equipment that encourages cooperation as well as single-child slides, spring riders and tunnels.
  • Involve other toys: In addition to playground equipment, put out other toys for kids to use during free play. This can include balls, hula hoops, jump ropes and more. Depending on the number of children and available space, you may want to designate a specific area where these toys can be used safely away from playground equipment. Rotating in new toys periodically can be a cost-effective way to keep your daycare’s playground feeling fresh and exciting.

Playground Accessories for Daycares

  • Add site amenities and signs: Your playground is not complete without playground accessories to make it a comfortable and welcoming place. Benches provide somewhere for children to take a break and for parents and teachers to comfortably supervise. Add waste receptacles to keep your playground clean and hangers for book bags and jackets. You can also include informative signs that share playground rules or fun signs that encourage pretend play, such as traffic signals on bike paths.

Daycare Play Equipment From Playworld

Social And Cognitive Development

From swings and climbers to benches and slides, Playworld has everything you need to design your perfect daycare playground for any age group. Our daycare playground equipment is designed to encourage social and cognitive development while providing a fun and safe experience for all children. Choose from a variety of colorful and sensory equipment designed with children in mind:

  • FirstPlay Toddler line: This line of equipment is designed specifically for children between 6 months and 23 months old. Featuring bright colors and textures, our FirstPlay Toddler equipment stimulates the senses. Height-appropriate slides and steps encourage the development of physical skills for toddlers who are learning how to walk and climb. Some play stations even include water and sand panels.
  • Fun Centers line: Children between ages 2 and 5 can enjoy climbing and sliding on these durable play structures. For extra engagement, some Fun Centers equipment includes games and activities such as sliding tracks and knobs. With many sizes and designs available, this equipment is an affordable option for daycare playgrounds of any size.
  • PlaytownWith Playtown, inclusivity comes naturally. Every item in the collection has features to support solitary, social and imaginative play. Although designed for children 2-5, Playtown has something for everyone and is built with an open design for easy supervision. Children can play house, take on the role of a firefighter hero, and climb through nature with a range of accessible play structures targeting various stages of play.
  • Adventure Tubes line: This line of equipment includes a selection of crawl tubes. Children can take in the bright colors or explore the varying textures of these fun playground crawl tubes. Adventure Tubes equipment offers equipment in a variety of colors and designs so that you can choose the option that best fits your playground’s unique design.
  • Bambino line: The Bambino line offers playground structures perfect for young children and play spaces with a smaller footprint. With exciting features like slides, climbing activities and interactive panels, young children will love these bright and colorful playsets.
  • Challengers® line: This line of large play equipment is perfect for children to engage in many activities. Children can experience many types of play on one piece of equipment that incorporates slides, bridges, tunnels, climbing walls, ladders and more. Available in bright colors and stimulating textures, the Challengers® line encourages creativity and imagination. This playground equipment line also offers several themed options, like the Wildlife Quest nature-themed playground or the Minnow ship-themed playground.
  • Spring riders: Available in a variety of fun designs, our spring riders allow kids to bounce and enjoy movement while providing sensory enjoyment of realistic sounds. Children can hear realistic animal sounds or pretend they are a farmer on our animal spring riders. Other spring riders look like cars, airplanes and trains so children can experience different modes of transportation.

Why Work With Playworld?

Creative And Innovative Playground Equipment for Preschools

At Playworld, we are proud to offer creative and innovative commercial playground equipment that kids truly love. When developing new equipment, we test each prototype with children and watch how they engage with the equipment. We take their feedback seriously and adjust our products to provide the most engaging experience.

We know that play is about much more than simply having fun — it is a crucial part of a child’s development, including physical, cognitive and social skills. With bright colors, textures and noisemakers, our equipment engages all of the senses to thrill and delight children. Our large play equipment and play stations are designed to promote social interactions. Children can engage in role-playing and imaginative play, allowing playground equipment to transform into castles, cities, mountains or houses.

Physical development is an essential part of play as children learn tactile skills, balance and coordination. They build strength and coordination in their early years that will serve as a foundation for future growth. Children can enjoy a range of motion such as swinging, spinning, sliding, climbing and jumping. Our equipment is also designed for children of all ages and abilities to enjoy. We incorporate cozy spaces for children on the autism spectrum as well as wheelchair-accessible spaces.

All of our equipment is designed by expert play engineers who are trained in child development and architectural design. They study how kids interact with toys and equipment and put that knowledge to work in each piece of Playworld equipment. We are constantly improving our designs to encourage more meaningful interactions and more fun. Manufactured from premium materials and exceptional craftsmanship, our equipment is of the highest quality.

Because we have been in the industry since 1971, we have watched generations of children grow up. We have seen the positive impact that play has on a child’s development and believe in the value of free, unstructured play for young people. We believe that play is a fundamental right of childhood, so we build playgrounds that give children the opportunity for true excitement, joy and wonder.

Create the Perfect Daycare Play Area With Playworld

Playworld Can Help You Update Your Daycare Play Areas

Playworld offers a wide variety of play equipment that is perfect for any age group and any budget. Whether you want to update your equipment or build an awesome play space from the ground up, our play experts are here to help. Contact us today for more information about building the best playground or to request a quote. You can also browse our daycare playground equipment online to get started designing a dream playground for your daycare.

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