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Integrating Landscape Design and Playground Elements


landscape design and playground elements

When designing a new play area, are you considering your playground and your landscaping needs separately? That might not get you the results you want. Whether your playground is located in a condo community, a park or other location, it should merge with the surrounding area.

When mulling over play area designs, incorporate playground landscape ideas into your considerations to provide maximum benefits for the community and the families and children who live in it. Considering playground design and landscape architecture together offers children the experience of playing in the surrounding space, too. This expands the area where children can play and allows them to spread out beyond the playground.

If you create a separate play area with no attention to design, a playground can start to feel isolated and separate. By integrating both landscape and play areas, you can encourage a more seamless transition from a park or surrounding area to the play area. Children can move between the two spaces more easily, so as they get older they can transition from playing in the playground to playing in the park.

Using Playground Design for Landscape Architecture

Fewer distinctions between a play place and a playground can also expand the feel of the play space and the surrounding park or area, making both feel larger. In addition, when families play together, they can enjoy the space more fully with fewer barriers.

Different age groups have different needs, older children may want to hang out with friends at park benches or tables, adults may want to enjoy the scenery and younger children will often want to play on the playground. With an integrated design, all these community users can still experience spending time together because they are not limited by clearly demarcated separate areas.

There are aesthetic advantages to following playground design guidelines and integrating landscape and play areas. Quite simply, your playground will often look better if there isn’t a sharp distinction between your playground and the nearby landscape. It is attractive when the playground and the surrounding area both work seamlessly together rather than separately. Similar colors, shapes and design elements can create a pleasing whole, beautifying your community.

aesthetic advantages

When one space flows to another, there aren’t jarring and contrasting colors or materials that seem like they don’t “fit.” Your play area becomes part of the community space or park, meaning it is easier for families to move fluidly between the two:

  • Families can play at the playground and then move to picnicking in the park or walking along a nearby path.
  • By breaking down the barriers between the community and the playground, the playground becomes part of the larger community, which can inspire a stronger feeling of community.

No matter where your playground is going to be, consider looking around the space before you build to make sure you don’t create an isolated play area that separates play space and the larger community or park. An isolated play area can create a divided look and feel in your community. A divided landscape can also reinforce other social barriers and stand out aesthetically rather than blending in smoothly with the rest of your space.

isolated play area

What Does Integrating Landscaping Design Mean for Your Playground?

If you’re thinking about building or updating a playground, considering the surrounding landscape design means you are trying to integrate the two areas. You may do this in order to encourage more accessibility and make it easier for all community users to easily use the playground. You may also do it for aesthetic purposes, to ensure the playground looks great and doesn’t stick out as out of place in your community.

Integrating landscape and playground means reducing some of the barriers surrounding the playground, and it may mean choosing playground equipment and materials that reflect the natural landscape around you. It may mean choosing local materials or materials that mimic elements in your area. For example:

  • If your playground is surrounded by tall trees, building vertically can create the same feeling of height in the playground and lets the playground seem like a natural part of the landscape.
  • If your playground is in an urban space, choosing playground equipment that has modern, angular designs can turn the playground into an art-like installation in your community, seeming even more inviting for families.

Design Objectives for Integrating Landscaping Design and Play Structures

Integrating landscape design with play areas doesn’t have to be complicated. All it takes is a few goals and considerations when building your play area.

integrating landscape design

Integrate Design Elements

One of the first of design objectives for creating a landscape and play area that work well together is to create a seamless transition between the two. This reduces the feeling of isolation in the playground and eliminates any sharp distinction between the two spaces. This also improves the flow of the design.

You can achieve this goal by carefully considering the placement of the play area. By placing an integrated play area in the middle of your community, park, recreational area or other space, rather than putting it on the edge, can make it easier for the play area to feel like a natural and organic part of the larger space. It also prevents your playground from being marginalized and shoved to the side, giving families center stage and letting them move easily between the playground and other spaces.

Place Your Playground

Of course, placing a playground in the center of a park or community space may not be possible. If this is the case, carefully consider where the playground should go. Consider the placement in terms of terrain:

  • Is the playground on an elevated area of land?
  • If so, how does an elevated space impact what types of playground activities you can include?
  • How would the playground appear in a different context and in different locations in your park or community?

Consider creating blueprints for design drawings to evaluate the pros and cons of different locations.

Use Natural Surroundings As Design Elements

Another solution is to focus on consistent elements both inside and outside the play area. By integrating some of the same trees and rocks that populate the area, you can create a sense of cohesiveness.

You can mimic the feel of natural areas by choosing playground components that imitate the natural world surrounding the playground. You can purchase nature-inspired playground equipment, for example, which has some of the same colors, textures and shapes as a park. The play area will look as though it meshes with the rest of landscape.

mimic natural areas

To Fence or Not to Fence Your Playground?

Many playgrounds have fences or borders, and if you want to create an integrated design, you’ll want to consider whether you want a border at all. If you do require a border, try to use elements found in the landscape area to create it.

For example, you may be able to use large boulders, rocks or a specific kind of wood that is natural to the area as your border or fence. Keeping borders and fences low and as unobtrusive as possible can also minimize the feeling of disconnect between a playground and the surrounding landscape.

If a fence is needed for safety reasons, such as a nearby road, make sure that it integrates will with the rest of your design.

Designate Playground Boundaries

Many community members want strong barriers between a playground and the surrounding area for safety purposes. If your playground is near a high-traffic street, fences or borders may be necessary for safety reasons. However, if your playground is located in a park or far from traffic, you may have more leeway. Instead of creating a fence, consider creating a walkway around the playground for caregivers to supervise. This creates a visual separation between the playground and surrounding park without requiring fencing or other isolating features.

The area surrounding the park is often a type of gray area or border. You can integrate the surrounding park or community with the playground by considering the balance of this space.

For example, by placing picnic tables or seating in the areas surrounding the playground, you provide caregivers and parents a place to supervise their children while also allowing for movement between the playground and the surrounding park. Families can go from playing on playground equipment to sitting quietly to eventually exploring the rest of the park.

Consider the Pedestrian Walkways

You want to your playground to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act and the design to be inclusive. This means carefully considering pathways and pedestrian walkways approaching the playground. How can you create a design for pathways that flows with the surrounding area but still allows maximum access to the playground?

One solution is to use the same materials, pavers or walkways to the playground that you use all over your park or community. If these are not plausible because of accessibility concerns, you can design and build similar paths in similar colors and shapes but with more accessible materials, which allow people of different abilities to access your playground.

Provide a Variety of Play Experiences

Providing a range of play experience allows for maximum child growth and development potential. When children have access to a wide variety of playground equipment and play areas, they can move between playground equipment that develops motor skills and balance, and playground equipment that helps them build their physical, social and emotional skills. They can also choose to play in areas designed to encourage sensory play. A wide range inspires children to grow and learn in a number of ways.

range of play experience

You can integrate your landscape and your play area more easily when you have a range of play stations or play areas. Even if you have a brightly colored swing, for example, you can still integrate the overall look if you have a significant amount of play equipment that blends into the landscape.

When selecting playground activities, the play area should become an integral part of the overall space. You can do this by offering a variety of structures, such as:

  • Spring riders
  • Climbers
  • Swings
  • Open areas for unstructured play
  • Decks
  • Activity panels

A variety of structures can mean you can pick and choose structures that both work together and work with the larger community. By creating a cohesiveness within the playground space, it can be easier than focusing on creating a sense of integrated design with the larger community.

Invest in Unique and Durable Equipment

As you select playground activities and equipment, it is useful to look at playgrounds in similar geographic locations:

  • What kinds of playground design and equipment have been successful in other nearby parks or communities?
  • What age groups in your community will be using the space and what play elements are most appropriate for them? What types of playgrounds nearby do similar age groups use?

This can be a great source of inspiration and you can build on these ideas to develop something unique for your community. Playworld has developed a number of playgrounds in the past years around the country you can examine to get ideas for your own project.

Put the Emphasis on Quality for Your Play Equipment

When trying to integrate a playground into a park or community, purchase quality equipment. Quality playground manufacturers are often more willing to work with you to create custom solutions that will fit with your landscape, making it easier for you to blur the lines between your community and your play area.

purchase quality equipment

In addition, quality equipment keeps its function and appearance over time, ensuring your play area continues to look great without peeling paint or fading colors, keeping it integrated with your community space. Quality equipment is an investment over many years, giving you and children in your community full value from the play structures.

Maximize Safety and Accessibility

When trying to integrate play areas with a surrounding park or community, consider safety and accessibility as priorities. You need your play space to be ADA-compliant and inclusive, allowing children of all ages and abilities to play.

Keeping your playground ADA-compliant and safe can also reduce or minimize your liability and bring your community together. In addition, having both your park and your play area inclusive and compliant with all safety and accessibility standards allows caregivers and parents who have mobility issues to supervise children correctly.

You can maximize safety and accessibility while also integrating your play area by adding accessible pathways to the playground. These paths should integrate well with the surrounding area.

You may be able to achieve this by using either the same paths in the community or park or by employing similar-looking materials for pathways. For example, if your playground is located near a beach, sand colored pathways made out of accessible materials can allow people in wheelchairs or on crutches to access your playground, which still looks like part of the surrounding landscape.

Surfacing is another key safety consideration for any playground. Be sure to include proper types and depths of impact attenuating safety surfacing under and around playground equipment. Safety surfacing is the most important element of maintaining a safe playground.

Finding Accessible Playground Equipment

You can also maximize accessibility and safety by purchasing and installing inclusive playground equipment. Inclusive playground equipment is not only ADA-compliant but is also accessible for children of different abilities. Inclusive equipment allows children of a variety of different ages and abilities to participate because it is designed for different types of play. Here are just a few of the advantages:

  • Inclusive equipment encourages children to play together, instead of restricting some children area if they have limitations on their abilities.
  • All children feel part of play and can build a stronger sense of community with inclusive equipment.
  • Inclusive play also fosters inclusivity between peers on the playground, which is an important part of any playground you would like to integrate with the surrounding area.

Just as integrating your playground with the surrounding area is about breaking down barriers, inclusive play areas are about breaking down barriers between kids inside of play spaces.

Replacing Outdated Equipment for Increased Safety

Replace any outdated equipment as you update your playground. This should be done for several reasons:

  • Outdated equipment may be based on older design principles, which may not integrate with the landscape and the spaces surrounding it.
  • Outdated equipment may be damaged and warped, meaning it is unsafe.
  • It may be based on older safety standards and may not reflect the needs of today’s children and the demands of today’s parents for safety.

Replacing outdated equipment with quality, modern pieces keeps your playground safe and allows for better design choices that create a more aesthetically pleasing, inclusive and inviting playground.

Integrating the play area with surrounding landscape can actually enhance safety by ensuring the playground area isn’t isolated. By creating fewer barriers between the playground and the surrounding landscape, you create more lines of sight to the playground, which can prevent bullying and injuries by putting more adult eyes on the playground area.

Identify and Play With Key Design Elements in the Area Around the Playground

When you start thinking about the playground in the context of the larger landscape, try to identify and play with the key design elements you see in the world surrounding the playground. For example, if you are on the West Coast, your landscape may include mountains, beaches or tall cedar trees. Integrating your play area may mean using cedar wood playground equipment to mimic the look of trees nearby, or it may mean using playground equipment that blends in with the surrounding area:

  • If you have a beach surrounding your playground, a dinosaur-inspired play area with archaeological dig areas can fit in nicely.
  • If your playground is in a park with lots of trees, a nature-themed playground with green and brown playground equipment can blend in seamlessly.

It may be useful when starting to design a playground to take photos of the surrounding area. Shoot photos both close-up and at a distance to get a sense of specific colors, shapes and materials that surround it. Is your playground in an urban space with lots of angular buildings and bright colors? Is your playground in a part of the city with lots of concrete and pavement? Are you located in the forest with notable local trees, such as pine? Is there water nearby?

Consider the materials surrounding you, whether they are rocks, boulders or grass. They can help you make decisions about the colors, textures and themes for your playground. For example, if you are close to the ocean, a playground with a pirate ship theme may work very well. If you are in a city center, a playground with minimalist structures that allows for open-ended play may look terrific and create a seamless transition between the play equipment and the surrounding community area.

surrounding materials

Find Play Structures to Fit Your Landscape Designs

If you’re thinking about ways to integrate your play space with the surrounding landscape, you need the aid of a professional. Simply selecting a playground randomly out of a catalog may not give you the seamless integration you’re looking for. Playworld has a number of resources, including custom solutions and design assistance.

Our design assistance can be especially helpful. Our designers can examine photos of your surrounding community or park and offer personalized feedback to get the playground you desire. Our design tools show you exactly what your vision for your playground will look like before you start making final decisions.

Get in Touch With Playworld to See Our Inclusive Playground Options

fully inclusive

Contact Playworld today if you want to create an aesthetically pleasing, inviting and inclusive playground that will please your community and families in your community for years to come. We have a history of building quality community playgrounds around the country, and our play equipment has stood the test of time.

Each piece of our equipment undergoes an extensive design process with engineers and experts and is thoroughly tested for safety and compliance. All of our equipment is designed to be ADA-compliant and can be used to create an inclusive playground design. It is also tested by kids and families for the fun factor needed to keep children playing for hours.

Since we believe playgrounds are about development and growth as well as fun, all play equipment allows children to work on physical, social, emotional and other skills as they play, giving you the most benefits from your playground. Reach out today to discuss your playground needs and get started on the design process.

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