How To Build an Outdoor Community Playground

Are you considering building a community playground? Playgrounds benefit communities by fostering child growth, encouraging community engagement and boosting the local economy.

If you’re wondering how to build a playground your entire community can enjoy for years to come, you’ve come to the right place. Continue reading to learn more about building a commercial playground for the most impactful community experience.

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How to Build a Playground

Planning, designing and constructing an entire park or playground may seem like a complex endeavor. With several time-consuming tasks to consider, like budgeting, equipment and finding a location, it can all feel a bit overwhelming.

However, with the right attitude, tips, strategies and crew, you can learn how to build a playground area that makes a valuable difference in your community. Below are the basic steps and other useful tips for building a playground.

The Steps for How To Build a Playground

  1. Create a Committee
  2. Set Your Goals
  3. Select a Playground Equipment Company Early
  4. Ask Questions and Gather Feedback
  5. Establish a Location
  6. Hire a Playground Specialist
  7. Determine Your Budget
  8. Get the Necessary Approvals
  9. Choose a Playground Equipment Manufacturer
  10. Begin Fundraising
  11. Set a Project Timeline and Deadlines
  12. Move Forward With the Installation
  13. Celebrate and Promote Your Playground

1. Create a Committee

Building a park is an intensive undertaking, so naturally, it’s a team effort that requires the support of a committee. You should form a team with people who can bring the necessary skills needed to complete the project, such as:

  • A public relations professional
  • An organizer and fundraiser
  • A child development specialist
  • Construction and maintenance specialists

Delegate tasks, responsibilities and deadlines to each committee member. This team effort will help speed up the process so you can finish the park sooner.

2. Set Your Goals

Before contacting your playground company or purchasing neighborhood playground equipment, sit down with your team and set clear goals to keep the process moving. Here are some objectives you’ll want to consider:

  • Safety: Child safety is a chief concern. It should always be at the forefront of your mind throughout the design process. Crucial playground safety considerations include the type of surfacing used, the height of play equipment and ensuring parents have a clear view of their kids from seating areas.
  • Ease of maintenance: Maintenance helps keep playgrounds safe and ensures your investment’s longevity. It includes regular inspections, cleaning any waste and checking for deterioration.
  • Innovative designs: Talk with your team about how you envision your playground. Discuss cutting-edge design options like incorporating music, technology and sustainability. You can also suggest the idea of a themed playground if your budget allows it.

Break down each goal and develop associated milestones. Use these landmarks to create a timely and concrete game plan, then advance to the next step.

3. Select a Playground Equipment Company Early

Find a playground equipment company early, as they can help you through many steps of your design and installation processes. Behind the scenes, a playground equipment company will execute the following.

  • Brainstorming: Quality playground equipment starts with a thorough brainstorming process. Playground equipment companies will work with you and your design team and gain influence from research and global issues to develop playground equipment ideas.
  • Designing: Playground equipment companies begin bringing their ideas to life through a rigorous design process. They ensure each piece benefits child development, safety, inclusivity and innovation.
  • Manufacturing: With a well-designed plan, playground equipment companies will bring their designs to life using trusted, high-quality materials and deliberate processes.

Once playground equipment designers complete their work, independent representatives will work directly with you on every step of the process, from planning to final installation. This partnership saves you a lot of the stress of having to do everything yourself. Plus, the representative will have direct insight on the right equipment to recommend to achieve your goals.

4. Ask Questions and Gather Feedback

Survey your community to learn what types of activities and equipment they would enjoy seeing on the playground. You can also browse other local parks to see what’s trending. Additionally, note things these playgrounds lack so you can identify competitive opportunities.

5. Establish a Location

Once you have a general concept of your park and the activities you’ll include, start looking around for a location. This is a critical step in the process, as your park’s location will largely impact the number of visitors you receive.

Take measurements and ensure the site has plenty of space for playground equipment, parking and restrooms. Account for outdoor site furnishings and amenities like picnic tables, benches, trash receptacles and shade structures.

6. Hire a Playground Specialist

Consider meeting with a playground specialist to assist with your project. They can ensure your site complies with safety standards and help you formulate a proper design and layout. Your playground consultant can make recommendations and answer any questions you may have, such as:

  • What type of playground surfacing should I use?
  • How much does a playground cost, and how can I stay within my budget?
  • How long will the full project take?
  • How can I make this park a more inclusive space?

Think of this specialist as a playground architect. Just like a building architect can design and create high-quality structures, so can a playground specialist. They can help you plan and build a fun, safe play space well-suited to your community’s wants and needs.

7. Determine Your Budget

When meeting with your playground specialist, you should discuss all financial aspects so you can plan accordingly. Your consultant can help you map out all required expenses throughout the project.

Costs vary widely depending on the equipment, surfacing, shipping, labor, landscaping and amenities.

8. Get the Necessary Approvals

Community playgrounds are public spaces regulated by local governing bodies. As you design, you’ll want to ensure your playground complies with building, construction and zoning codes. Many of these codes vary from state to state.

To comply with your state and county’s codes, contact your state’s department. They’ll connect you with a knowledgeable representative who can guide you through the process.

Governing bodies establish building, construction and zoning codes to set standards for children’s safety on the playground. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) sets some of these standards with safety precautions and regulations.

Building, construction and zoning codes also ensure you’re using the appropriate materials and building precautions to make your community playground safe for use. A playground equipment company representative can help you navigate these regulations.

First, they’ll speak with local authorities about zoning rules and regulations, also checking that any digging won’t interfere with existing underground pipes or wires. Then, they’ll communicate with the municipality and state for their unique permit expectations. That way, you can avoid any legal stumbling blocks later in the installation process.

What Is the Cost of Playground Equipment?

Expect to spend around half of your community playground budget on equipment. For every child your playground accommodates, try to budget around $1,000 for the entire playground. When planning specifically for equipment, budget around $500 per child.

If you’re planning to welcome a maximum capacity of 30 kids, allot at least $15,000 for playground equipment. You may want to set aside a few thousand dollars for long-term equipment maintenance, as well.

9. Choose a Playground Equipment Manufacturer

Try to find a playground equipment company as early as possible. They can help you through many steps of your design and installation processes.

When selecting a park equipment manufacturer, consider factors like their business reputation, certificationscustomer service and warranty policies.

Behind the scenes, a playground equipment company will execute the following:

  • Brainstorming: Quality playground equipment starts with a thorough brainstorming process. Playground equipment companies will work closely with you and your design team, gaining influence from research and global issues to develop playground equipment ideas.
  • Designing: Playground equipment companies bring their ideas to life through a rigorous design process. They ensure each piece benefits child development, safety, inclusivity and innovation.
  • Manufacturing: With a well-designed plan, playground equipment companies bring their designs to life using trusted, high-quality materials and deliberate processes.

Once playground equipment designers complete their work, independent representatives will work directly with you on every step of the process, from planning to final installation. This partnership saves you much of the stress of completing everything yourself. Plus, the representative will have direct insight into the right equipment to achieve your goals.

10. Begin Fundraising

Playgrounds are a community investment. When fundraising for your park, look to the neighborhoods surrounding your planned development. Grants are an excellent starting point. These are funds offered by corporations, nonprofits and foundations. Unlike loans, you won’t need to repay them.

The first step to applying for a grant is gathering research. Another advantage of working with a playground equipment company early in the process is knowing rough cost estimates — a helpful thing to include in your research. You can also gather insights, such as the lack of existing community playgrounds, or statistics like a projected decrease in crime rates.

Then, you’ll want to find the right places to apply. Gather your team and research a list of trusted organizations. If the entities approve your request, they will award you funds to put directly toward your project.

Another option is asking community members and local businesses for donations. Vocalize your intentions and express mutual benefit. Brainstorm different fun and engaging fundraisers you can organize, like:

  • Car washes
  • Raffles with prizes
  • Talent shows
  • Tournaments like trivia or sporting events
  • Silent auctions using business donations
  • Bake sales
  • Booths at community events
  • Walking, jogging or running marathons

Get creative when designing fundraising opportunities to create excitement for your playground.

11. Set a Project Timeline and Deadlines

After completing the above steps, your playground equipment company representative will schedule a timeframe for landscaping, shipping and labor. Schedule a date for your park’s grand opening, too.

With your anticipated opening date in mind, establish smaller project deadlines and check off each task as you complete it. Taking each goal one step at a time can help the entire project feel less large and overwhelming.

Like with any project, allow extra time for any unexpected setbacks.

12. Move Forward With the Installation

Once you have everything you need for your project, you can proceed with building and installation. There are a couple of ways to approach this.

For instance, you can hire a contractor to install equipment. An alternative — and potentially less expensive — option is to recruit volunteers and host a community build, delegating tasks to each team.

Installation costs can range anywhere from 25%-45% of your total budget, depending on the project’s specifications. A community build may help reduce these costs. You can also combine these two methods.

13. Celebrate and Promote Your Playground

Once your playground is complete and ready for use, start spreading the word. Invite local officials, media outlets and members of your community to attend the grand opening. Post pictures on social media to build buzz and attract people to your park.

Most importantly, remember to celebrate your success and a job well done! After months of planning and hard work, this is the moment you’ve waited for, so be proud of your accomplishment. You provided something valuable for your community, and that’s worth celebrating.

For more information about building a community playground, download our Playground 101 Guide for tips on planning, research, budgeting, inclusive play design and more.

We’ve covered the basic steps of building a community playground, but the next few sections will explore more specific recommendations for materials, equipment and more.

Playground Materials to Consider

Each year, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children for playground-related injuries, approximately 10% of which are traumatic brain injuries. Consider how kids will interact with your playground. They’ll crawl, jump and climb across the playground equipment and the surrounding areas.

These activities are necessary for developing kids’ motor skills, but they involve some risk of injury. Help protect children from injuries by installing impact-absorbing surfacing and safe playground equipment material.

1. Playground Surfacing

Playground surfacing is the type of flooring you install around your playground equipment. Over 75% of playground injuries occur from improper or poorly maintained surfacing, so your choice is crucial for mitigating falls and injuries. Consider these two options:

  • Loose-fill: This includes natural materials like loose-fill rubber and engineered wood fiber. These materials have natural absorbent properties. Loose-fill surfacing is affordable, easy to install and offers good drainage. However, it can be high-maintenance. Kids can compact and move loose-fill surfacing over time, particularly in high-traffic areas where the surfacing can start to thin.
  • Unitary: Unitary surfacing uses  bound materials like rubber tiles, artificial turf and poured-in-place rubber. While more expensive than loose-fill surfacing, it’s highly effective, accessible and low-maintenance.

Despite being a higher upfront investment, unitary surfacing is ultimately the more durable, accessible option in the long run. Some common types include:

  • Poured-in-place: Poured-in-place rubber surfacing creates a smooth, uniform surface without seams. Due to its accessibility and customization opportunities, it’s a popular choice for playgrounds. This surfacing can help prevent serious injuries from regular falls and tumbles. It offers cushioning and is easily navigable for people using wheelchairs. It meets all ADA and CPSC guidelines for shock absorption.
  • Rubber tiles: Rubber interlocking tiles are easy to install and replace as needed. They offer sufficient cushioning and ease of mobility for inclusive play. Rubber tiles can help reduce slipping, but they aren’t ideal for exercise and ballgame areas. It can also be difficult to fit tiles into irregularly shaped areas.
  • Concrete asphalt: Concrete asphalt is primarily used to provide traction for sports activities and courts. However, it’s prohibited for use under slides, swing sets and other playground equipment.

Remember that some materials like concrete can be slippery after it rains. In some cases, tiles can loosen when wet. Regular surfacing inspections can help maintain safe unitary and other types of playground surfacing.

When choosing surfacing, you’ll want to account for these factors:

  • Safety guidelines: ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, sets the standards for surfacing. According to ASTM International, surfacing must meet F 1292, F 355, F 1951 and F 2223 standards. These standards account for accessibility, sustainability and impact-absorbent factors.
  • Maintenance costs: Think about long-term maintenance costs. Loose-fill surfacing requires more maintenance than unitary ones. Maintenance crews must ensure adequate depth, a smooth surface level, correct drainage and a safe fall height from playground areas.
  • Inclusion: Unitary surfacing makes it easier for kids and parents using mobility devices to get around the play equipment.

Surfacing is another area your playground equipment company representative can help you with. They’re knowledgeable on different surfacing types and will guide you to an option that suits your playground’s goal and budget.

2. Playground Mats

After choosing your surfacing, you’ll want to protect this investment as much as possible. Loose-fill surfacing, in particular, is prone to moving, shifting, wearing and eroding, especially in high-traffic spots. For instance, areas under slides and swings can develop grooves from foot impact over time.

Rubber playground mats, such as wear mats, can help counter this issue. Made from resin-bound recycled rubber and polyurethane, these mats can help minimize erosion and increase safety in high-traffic areas. They’re ideal for use under slide bases, monkey bars and swing seats.

Wear mats are easy to install and don’t require stakes or additional devices. Just be sure to install them with sufficient loose-fill surfacing for proper protection. While these mats don’t replace other playground surfacing options, they offer an excellent protective layer for kids.

3. Playground Equipment

Standard playground equipment materials include plastic, wood and metal. At Playworld, our playgrounds typically combine materials like plastic, metal, ropes and chains.

Since our playgrounds include a mixture of materials, they are appropriate for both residential and community playgrounds. We also have Timber Stacks, a line of wooden equipment.

Our playgrounds are durable and can handle high-traffic locations. When you choose our playgrounds, you won’t have to worry about the equipment warping, wobbling or corroding from exposure to the elements.

Equipment Considerations for Your Playground

Here is some playground equipment to consider incorporating into your design when you’re building your playground:

The type of playground equipment you choose depends on your goals. Talk with your playground equipment company representative about your target demographic or playground theme. Once they learn more about your vision, your representative will suggest equipment that falls within various categories.

1. Early Childhood

Young kids between the ages of 3 and 5 are actively exploring the world. They’re learning the necessary physical, emotional and social skills to guide their future learning. Early childhood playground equipment gives these young children the tools to guide their exploration and strengthen emotional, sensory and gross motor skills.

Early childhood playground equipment doesn’t require kids to climb on high structures or engage in overly challenging activities. Instead, they provide equipment like slides and sensory panels with fun themes, bright colors and engaging sounds. Give young children the freedom to play in your community playground by dedicating a cluster of equipment for their educational exploration.

2. School-Age

School-aged kids span the ages of 5 to 12. They have more advanced needs than preschoolers, therefore requiring more challenging playground equipment. School-aged children are strengthening skills like coordination, endurance, balance and strength.

They’re also engaging in more active play with friends, enjoying interactive play equipment that inspires competition. Examples of playground equipment suitable for this age range are upper-body activities and taller playground equipment with climbers.

3. Fitness and Wellness

Obesity affects over 12 million children in America. Childhood obesity links with many adverse effects, including anxiety and depression, low self-esteem, poor quality of life and bullying.

Inadequate physical activity is a common cause of childhood obesity. Fitness and wellness playground equipment can help fight childhood obesity, providing kids with a fun resource to burn off energy and calories.

Adults can benefit from fitness and wellness playgrounds, too, with wellness equipment like accessible overhead presses, recumbent bikes and exercise stations.

4. Electronic Play

Outdoor electronic play equipment blends virtual and real-life play. It encourages kids to get out of their homes and engage in exercise while simultaneously enjoying electronic games.

A great example of electronic playground equipment is our NEOS Outdoor Electronic Playgrounds, like the NEOS 360. NEOS 360 is a group of circular-spaced equipment that features eight games with one- or two-player and team-play options. Players stand in the center of the equipment and use their peripheral, auditory and spatial awareness skills to navigate game tasks.

The Benefits of Community Playgrounds

Consider these advantages of community playgrounds.

1. Benefit Child Growth

Kids are continuously growing and learning new things. The best way for them to learn is through play, which they can do on the playground. Playgrounds benefit child growth by enhancing the following abilities:

  • Cognitive: Children practice cognitive skills like problem-solving and critical thinking by navigating the playground and experimenting with different types of equipment.
  • Physical: Playground play allows kids to climb, jump, crawl and participate in other cardiovascular activities that improve their physical development.
  • Social: Kids often play with others, especially when playground designs include social-oriented equipment like imaginative play or multi-player electronic play equipment.
  • Sensory: Users engage multiple senses simultaneously when playing on the playground, including sight, touch and hearing. This quality is especially relevant with sensory activity panels, which include many different textures and interactions.

2. Inspire Community Involvement and Engagement

Your community park will likely become a trusted destination within your local area. Community parks give visitors flexibility, providing a break from the daily routine of school or work.

Community parks let users meet new people from all walks of life and generate friendships. Parents or guardians can bring their kids to a safe place to learn and play. Community parks also foster civic engagement and pride by being a destination for fundraisers or other public events.

3. Strengthen the Local Economy

When moving to an area, prospective homeowners often look at the surrounding amenities to make a purchasing decision. Many families willingly pay more to move to an area with a trusted community playground for the benefits mentioned above.

Request a Quote for Your Community Playground at Playworld

Playworld offers universal designs to create stronger, better communities. We believe in the power of community playgrounds, benefiting the kids who play and the adults who visit. We’re here to make creating community playgrounds easy for you, helping you:

  • Brainstorm and establish goals.
  • Estimate an accurate quote for your equipment, shipping, installation, surfacing and landscaping costs.
  • Find sufficient funding.
  • Comply with building, construction and zoning codes.
  • Find the best equipment for your community playground.
  • Choose surfacing materials to keep your playground’s visitors safe.

Start working with us today by requesting a quote. We look forward to learning more about your goals and working with you to deliver a unique experience to your community.

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