Playground Landscape Ideas

Playground landscape

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 another 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 landscapes 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.

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What Is Landscape Architecture?

Landscape architecture is a comprehensive property design technique involving teams that look at the big-picture and small details. Landscape architects will analyze how surrounding features and systems will interact and impact their assigned property for a design that will improve the community and create a more cohesive, enjoyable experience.

Many aspects of landscape architecture involve integrating nature into designs. Architects might strategically choose and place trees and plants to improve experiences while helping the environment. Sustainability efforts are a cornerstone of landscape architecture.

This architecture practice comes with many benefits to communities, including:

  • Protecting the environment: Landscape architecture aims to increase sustainability and green practices. This design style often helps preserve the water quality by strategically planting trees and shrubs to prevent soil erosion and chemical runoff. When aquatic ecosystems can continue to thrive, they can better support other local wildlife and maintain healthy groundwater.
  • Connecting spaces: Landscape architects will make design choices based on how projects fit into surrounding areas to make a space that adds to the community. Their choices will often increase accessibility by adding features that make it easier for people to move between areas, also increasing functionality. When people can better access more community amenities, they can live happier, healthier lives.
  • Improving comfort: Landscape architecture can bring more greenery to outdoor spaces, from commercial areas to private residences. Increased plants can help reduce stress and improve an individual’s connection with nature. Shrubs and trees can provide more shade, decreasing temperatures so people can spend more time outside.
  • Increasing property values: With a cohesive design and greener spaces, locations can become more attractive to others looking to invest in new homes or businesses in the area. High quality of life for current residents can entice people to move to your area and help successful companies boost the local economy. Investing in current architecture projects with this method can benefit the entire community.

When planning to revamp or build a playground, this architectural style can enhance its functionality and make a better experience for visitors.

Using Landscape Architecture for Playground Design

While landscape architecture is compatible with many community projects, you can also apply it to your playgrounds. This design method will integrate your playground better with surrounding areas, including parks, schools and centers, to optimize the accessibility and cohesion that landscape architecture offers.

Some ways landscape architecture can benefit playground development include:

  • Increasing play space: 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.
  • Catering to diverse audiences: 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.
  • Improving visual design elements: 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.

When one space flows to another, colors and materials can better coordinate with community standards. Your play area becomes part of the community space or park, meaning it is easier for families to move fluidly between the two. For example, 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.

Regardless of 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, which can reinforce other social barriers and stand out aesthetically rather than blending in smoothly with the rest of your space.

Why Integrate Landscape Design Into Your Playground?

If you’re thinking about building or updating a playground, considering the surrounding landscape design means you are trying to integrate multiple spaces. 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. Alternatively, 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.

How to use Playground Design for Landscape Architecture

How to Use Playground Design for Landscape Architecture

Integrating landscape design with play areas can be simple. All it takes is a few goals and considerations when building your play area.

1. Integrate Design Elements

One of the first 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. Placing an integrated play area in the middle of your community, park, recreational area or other space 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.

2. 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.

3. Play With Key Design Elements 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 around 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 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 community area.

4. Fit Play Structures Into 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.

8 Considerations for Playground Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture incorporates many design elements. Depending on your needs and goals, you can implement various features and make unique decisions to create a better community playground.

1. Designate Playground Boundaries

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.

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. 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 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 park. Families can go from playing on playground equipment to sitting quietly to eventually exploring the rest of the park.

2. Consider the Pedestrian Walkways

You want 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.

3. Provide a Variety of Play Experiences

Providing a range of play experiences increases the maximum potential for child growth and development. Diverse playground equipment allows children to refine balance and motor skills. Additionally, playground settings are great for improving social, physical and emotional skills. Many playgrounds offer sensory equipment, like water tables or musical boards to aid cognitive development.

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.

4. 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.

5. Emphasize Quality 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.

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.

6. 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 aids 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.

7. Find Accessible Playground Equipment

You can also maximize accessibility and safety by purchasing and installing inclusive playground equipment. Inclusive playground equipment is ADA-compliant and accessible for children of all abilities. Inclusive equipment allows children of a variety of different ages and abilities to participate because it supports different types of play. Here are just a few of the advantages:

  • Inclusive equipment encourages children to play together, instead of restricting access.
  • 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.

8. Replace Outdated Equipment for Increased Safety

Replace any outdated equipment as you update your playground. You might consider this for several reasons:

  • Outdated equipment may relate to 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.
  • Older equipment might not meet today’s 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.

Contact Playworld to see our inclusive playground options.

Contact Playworld to See Our Inclusive Playground Options

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, you’ll need the right playground equipment. Playworld has 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. We designed our equipment to be ADA-compliant, so you can use them to create an inclusive playground design. Kids and families test them 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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