Importance of Community Playgrounds

Children on playground climbing equipment

A community playground is a key feature of a quality community. While it’s easy to think of playgrounds as amenities for children, they’re important to the success of the community as a whole. It’s become increasingly crucial that community parks and playgrounds be as accessible and inclusive as possible. In doing so, the community becomes inclusive and connected. As a result, the residents begin to benefit in a number of ways.

So, how can your community benefit from a playground? Find out how a community playground can benefit residents and provide value to the surrounding area.

What Are Community Playgrounds?

A community playground is a shared outdoor space within a community that often features play equipment and elements of nature, as well as tables and benches. The purpose of a community playground is to bring members of a community together while providing a place for children and adults to be active and enjoy time outdoors.

These areas are places for growing kids to explore, socialize and develop skills in an unstructured environment. As kids play at a playground, they learn to make friends, take turns, share with others and so much more.

In addition to providing children a place to develop important skills and get adequate exercise, community playgrounds are a place for adults, too. With opportunities for fitness and socialization, adults can use the space to be active, enjoy time outdoors and gather with friends and family.

Overall, community playgrounds can help foster a sense of community and create an inclusive space for people of all ability levels. While there are many reasons to build community playgrounds, the value they bring to a community is what gives them a level of importance. These spaces help create a community, offering a number of benefits to residents living in close proximity to the playground.

Children on playground equipment

8 Benefits of Community Playgrounds

For growing kids, playgrounds are much more than just a place to have a fun time — they provide learning and developmental experiences for kids of all ability levels. In addition to benefiting kids, community playgrounds also offer a number of other benefits for the surrounding community and its residents.

All communities can benefit from installing a community playground, and while this list isn’t exhaustive, we’ve highlighted eight ways a playground could benefit your community:

1. Encourage Outdoor Physical Activity

One of the biggest benefits of community playgrounds is how they encourage kids to be physically active in an outdoor space. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day for kids ages 6-17. Regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of many health conditions like obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, anxiety and depression.

Unfortunately, only 24% of kids in this age bracket participate in this amount of physical activity. While most kids attend gym classes in school, they may be held indoors or fail to provide a full 60 minutes of activity. Additionally, many kids are inactive because they don’t have access to parks and playgrounds.

Luckily, community playgrounds provide a healthy outlet for releasing energy and getting exercise. These areas provide an outdoor space for kids to get the full amount of recommended physical activity. More importantly, outdoor playgrounds encourage active play, which involves more vigorous, high-energy activities like running, jumping and climbing.

Additionally, community playgrounds encourage unstructured play, which differs from organized gym classes with rules and time limits. This type of play allows kids to use their imaginations and be creative while engaging in physical activity. A playground can quickly turn into a fantasy land full of hidden treasures and adventures, helping kids be independent and open-minded.

Girl hanging from Sky Rail

2. Provide Multisensory Experiences

These areas can provide multisensory experiences for growing and developing kids, helping them learn and understand the world around them through activities and play that use their senses. Having sensory experiences is important for growing minds, as they help a child’s brain make connections to learn how things work.

Consider how the following senses can be experienced on the playground:

  • Tactile: Tactile experiences stimulate the sense of touch, and playground equipment with various textures appeals to this sense.
  • Visual: A space with bright colors and patterns stimulates the sense of sight.
  • Auditory: Many playgrounds integrate musical instruments or noisemakers into their structure, encouraging kids to explore sounds that stimulate their sense of hearing.
  • Vestibular: Vestibular experiences stimulate balance and movement, so equipment like slides and balance beams help here.
  • Proprioceptive: Proprioceptive experiences involve knowledge about the body. This sense is stimulated through playground equipment that makes kids aware of their body and where it is in space and in relation to other people and things.

3. Offer Space for Social Interaction

Like many other shared spaces, community playgrounds offer opportunities for social interaction. Socializing is crucial for healthy childhood development. With so many ways to play on a playground, kids are bound to run into others and end up playing together. Additionally, it’s often easier for children with disabilities to engage with others at a playground because it’s a more welcoming and inclusive space than competitive settings tend to be.

While children often make friends through school and play together at recess, community playgrounds offer kids of all ages a chance to meet others outside of their school group. At local playgrounds, kids can meet new friends, spending more time honing their social skills in an unstructured setting. As a result, the possibilities for making friends are endless.

Furthermore, playgrounds offer connection opportunities for parents and caregivers. Those with children to take care of might struggle to meet other families or people in similar situations. At playgrounds, parents and caregivers can build friendships with each other while their kids do the same. Ultimately, community playgrounds make meeting new friends easy for people of all ages, which collectively strengthens the sense of community among a group of people.

Children swinging together

4. Present a Safe Place to Gather

Families who live in communities without parks and playgrounds often lack safe spaces to engage in physical activity or socialize with friends and other family members. Fortunately, community parks provide residents with a safe place to gather. When parents and caregivers feel that parks and playgrounds are safe, they’re more likely to allow their children to play outside.

These spaces can actually help reduce crime in surrounding neighborhoods. Attractive playgrounds increase foot traffic through certain areas, which helps drive out crime. Many parks and playgrounds are more heavily monitored with police presence or security cameras, as well. Neighborhoods that are more susceptible to high crime rates can benefit in many ways from having a safe playground to enjoy.

5. Create Inclusivity

Fostering an inclusive playground begins with the design of the playground and equipment. A community playground should serve the entire community, regardless of ability. To create an inclusive playground, consider these eight factors:

  • Unitary surfaces: A single, level surface across the entire playground allows children and other community members who use mobility devices to access the entire playground. To promote safety for everyone, it’s best to choose a surface material that’s shock-absorbent and slip-resistant. Doing so will help reduce the severity of injuries and help make maneuvering the playground easy.
  • Zones: Zones are ways of grouping similar types of play equipment with different challenge levels. For example, your playground may have a zone dedicated to various types of swings. Including diverse challenge levels within each zone encourages children of different abilities to play near each other. Close proximity increases the chances that kids will become familiar with one another, which helps lead to empathy and understanding of differences.
  • Perimeter: Fencing around the perimeter of a playground is helpful to both parents and children. Keeping the playground contained to a specified area helps parents and caregivers keep track of their children and can help prevent children from wandering off.
  • Social play: Inclusive playgrounds aim to build an environment where kids will socialize with each other during play. Incorporating playground equipment that encourages social interaction helps kids branch out and develop social skills.
  • Sensory play: To provide multisensory experiences for kids of all abilities, inclusive playgrounds should incorporate pieces of equipment that are designed to stimulate sensory systems. For example, sensory play panels are fun, entertaining and inclusive for all children.
  • Range of challenges: Because children grow and develop their skills and abilities at different rates, inclusive playgrounds need to offer activities at various challenge levels, so as kids explore and grow, they can still find play options. A range of challenges also allows kids to push their limits and test their skills.
  • Wide pathways: The use of wide paths throughout parks and playgrounds ensures that kids and community members who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices have the option to move around the facility.
  • A “cool thing”: Every playground features a piece of equipment that’s the “coolest thing” at the park. This feature is often the most exciting piece of equipment for kids to play on. At inclusive playgrounds, the “cool thing” should be accessible for kids with any ability level. In other words, regardless of mental ability, physical ability or developmental stage, all kids should be able to enjoy the main attraction.

How to create an inclusive playground

6. Improve the Well-Being of the Community

While kids are often the biggest participants at playgrounds, there are park and playground options for all members of a community. Providing activity options for a variety of age and ability groups can help encourage more people to be active, helping improve the well-being of a community as a whole. A well-kept and attractive park makes spending time outside and getting active more enjoyable for members of the community.

Proper playground facilities can increase the frequency of exercise within a community, which lowers the risk of obesity and other health concerns associated with inactivity. If you have a safe, welcoming place to improve your physical fitness, you’re more likely to do so. In general, playground accessibility helps improve the physical well-being of a community’s population.

These facilities often use elements of nature to create a seamless outdoor experience. Contact with nature is associated with increased feelings of peacefulness and relaxation, as well as improved mental alertness and cognitive performance. Participating in outdoor activities also helps improve moods, increase happiness and reduce stress. For children, spending unrestricted time in nature gives them a world of opportunities to explore.

Overall, communities that have access to playgrounds and parks with green space tend to be mentally and physically healthier as a whole. When a majority of the community is taking advantage of the benefits of a park or playground, the well-being of the community will improve. This can make the area a more desirable place to live and work.

7. Increase Property Values

Because they are a desirable amenity, parks and playgrounds can increase property values in surrounding neighborhoods. When buying a new home, prospective buyers are more likely to choose a neighborhood in close proximity to a community playground or park. Additionally, many people willingly pay up to 10% more to own a house close to playgrounds, parks and green spaces.

Image of a park playground

These facilities can even increase the value of nearby commercial properties. There will be increased foot traffic in and around the playground, making it more likely for community members to also visit businesses and stores in the surrounding area. This makes a commercial property significantly more desirable and valuable, as business owners will be willing to pay for space with high foot traffic.

However, poorly maintained playgrounds and recreational areas can have the opposite effect on neighborhoods. Dangerous parks that lack security or are dirty and damaged can negatively impact the value of nearby properties. Therefore, it’s important for a community to have the infrastructure and resources in place to be able to maintain the space for all residents.

8. Foster Community Pride

A beautiful playground can foster community pride and encourage community members to be involved in their area. When community members have a safe place to gather, exercise, connect and play, they’re more likely to have pride in their community. An increased sense of community pride can connect residents and bring them together for community events and projects. When residents of a community are satisfied with their neighborhoods, they’re more likely to feel attached to the people and places around them and recommend the area to others.

When residents have pride in their communities, it’s extremely beneficial to the sustainability of the community and the children growing up in the neighboring areas. These community members are more invested in their neighborhoods, meaning they’ll help take care of outdoor spaces like playgrounds. This is often done to maintain the quality of an area for the children in the community. Creating an inclusive and well-kept environment for growing kids helps to improve their lives and gives them a good foundation for the future.

Why Are Community Playgrounds Important?

Aside from knowing some of the benefits, it’s crucial to consider the importance of community playgrounds. These areas are vital to sustaining the quality of life within a community, making them essential public services that contribute to the well-being of a given community. Ultimately, community parks are valuable to the health, economic, socioeconomic and environmental well-being of the community it’s built in.

Community Health

These playgrounds contribute to the overall health of a community. In many urban areas, residents are missing out on the health benefits associated with parks and playgrounds. Especially among young children, receiving an adequate amount of physical activity is vital to healthy development and habits as they grow.

Therefore, parks are important because they encourage community members to spend time outside and get exercise, which is becoming more important as many lifestyles are now increasingly sedentary.

outdoor workout equipment

Economic Value

A community playground can help provide economic value to the surrounding area. In addition to increasing property values, community playgrounds provide economic value through recreational programs and tourism. A quality playground can be used for a multitude of events, including day camps and festivals.

Using a playground to its full potential will attract more community members and even people from outside of the community. As more people become aware of the benefits of the community, they’ll feel more inclined to spend money in the area and even look for homes there. The result is a thriving community that many people want to call home.

Socioeconomic Value

These spaces also provide significant socioeconomic value to communities, especially residents in low-income areas. Families in these areas typically don’t have access to an affordable and safe space for kids to play and socialize. This can lead to the risk of deficiencies or the possibility of falling behind in comparison to wealthier areas. When community playgrounds are available to low-income communities, children and adult residents are given the same opportunities for physical activity, sensory experiences and social interaction.

Because community playgrounds are typically free to the public, there are no limitations due to economic status. This accessibility encourages kids and families of all socioeconomic backgrounds to interact and enjoy the space together. Therefore, community playgrounds are important because there is no limit as to who can benefit from them.

Environmental Well-Being

Both playgrounds and parks are known to contribute to the environmental well-being of a given community. Because playgrounds and other outdoor recreational areas usually aim to integrate nature into their designs, these spaces provide environmental value to the community. As a result, residents are able to explore and connect with nature, which may be more difficult to do in urban areas. When elements of nature are incorporated into the design of a playground, it helps to promote environmental awareness, too.

Planting trees and other vegetation helps to clean the air, promote pollination and create habitats for local wildlife. As communities grow or become more urbanized, this connection to nature and spending time outdoors continues to play a crucial role. No matter what a community looks like, it can always benefit from added green space.

Partner With Playworld to Build a Community Playground

If you’re considering installing a playground in your community, make sure you’re working with people who understand the importance of a quality community playground. At Playworld, we aim to create unique playgrounds that unite communities through equal play opportunities. Through our five core beliefs, we lead the industry in playground designs that reimagine the way today’s kids and families play and interact.

To start planning your community playground, consider Playworld’s play solutions that offer a variety of activities at a wide range of ability levels. We design our playground equipment to foster inclusion and create memorable experiences. Whether you’re looking for more information or are ready to experience the benefits of a community playground, contact our team at Playworld for a quote today.

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