Playgrounds come in all shapes and sizes, offering kids different forms of play. The best playgrounds for kids include stimulating configurations and bright colors that engage kids in unique ways they don’t experience elsewhere. In recent years, playgrounds have evolved to include more accessibility and safety features among the staples of any kid-approved play area.
Common examples of playground features and equipment include swing sets, climbing walls, slides, spinners, spring riders, monkey bars, teeter-totters, merry-go-rounds and rings. If you want to incorporate a playground into your community or school, it’s essential to understand what the most popular playground equipment is and how to select the right components for your play area.
What Makes Playground Equipment Popular?
Playground equipment refers to a variety of recreational equipment that kids use for play. Playgrounds should appeal to kids, so it’s important to recognize what makes playground equipment popular among them and encourages them to want to engage in play. The following are factors that make playground equipment popular:
It’s no secret kids love vibrant colors. Whether it’s a butterfly, book, game or playset, bright colors can captivate kids of all ages. In the early stages of development, kids distinguish between shapes by relying on color, and as they grow older, they associate bright colors with emotions. Bright colors are linked to happy memories, the beautiful outdoors, a favorite toy or their favorite playground.
Along with moods and memories, color is associated with stimulating and activating the mind. Few activities appeal more to a kid than going outside on a sunny day to have fun on a bright, colorful playground.
Ability to Play Together
Many childhood friendships start on a playground. Playing with a group of kids helps each child understand cultural rules, social roles, verbal language, social norms and body language. Kids can also develop a shared system of symbols and cooperation skills through group games and challenges. Playground equipment enables kids to utilize their surroundings and establish obstacle courses, and plenty of components allow for playing in a larger group, such as climbing walls and monkey bars.
One of the best parts of playing outdoors is getting to experience nature, so a playground that offers a natural look will draw in kids of every age. Kids love to learn more about animals, insects and birds, pick up leaves, pluck flowers and climb trees.
Soft colors that remind kids of nature can be appealing and comforting, so you may want to include a section of your playground that utilizes cool, calming colors. This can give kids a break from other areas of the playground that are more brightly colored and high-energy, especially for kids who live with anxiety.
A natural look is particularly important in a growing concrete jungle, where a kid’s interaction with nature is limited. Introducing kids to the natural world in their early stages of development is crucial for their physical, emotional and social health. If you want to implement a playground into your community, give some of the features and equipment a natural appearance.
The most popular playgrounds offer challenges to kids of all ages. While many playgrounds challenge younger children, older children are often forgotten and expected to participate in sports instead. A great playground will have separate, clearly defined areas for meeting the needs of specific age ranges. Younger and older children vary in their abilities and needs, so it’s important to include a section for older children who need difficult challenges, speed and elements like treehouses that are separate from younger kids.
With their own zone on the playground, older children can have the space to express and understand their emotions and take advantage of an uninhibited area to put their energy into something productive. In the age of technology and hours of daily screen time, it’s essential to develop spaces for kids where they can leave behind the TV and phone screens and include physical activity in their daily lives.
Nothing is more refreshing than cool water on a hot summer day. Water play can be exciting and refreshing, and there are several advantages of water sensory play. Water play is a soothing, fun activity that allows kids to play and learn together or alone.
Kids of all abilities can participate in water play and develop hand-eye coordination, concentration abilities and problem-solving skills. Depending on the type of water play, they’ll better understand the associated concepts of float versus sink, shallow versus deep, heavy versus light and full versus empty. Additionally, kids will learn to cooperate and share with others.
Playground equipment including these elements and characteristics will be popular among kids of all ages.
Ranking the Most Popular Playground Structures and Equipment
Playground equipment plays an essential role in childhood development. A playground offers kids of all ages the opportunity to develop cognitive, emotional, social and motor skills. To help you develop the best playground project for your community or commercial needs, we’re ranking playground equipment by use — for schools, communities and commercial properties.
Popular Playgrounds for Schools
The most popular equipment on school playgrounds includes swings, slides, seesaws and music and game panels.
- Swings: Perhaps the most popular piece of playground equipment is the swing. On swings, kids feel like they’re flying — the wind blowing around them, the ground far below. Properly designed swings are essential for fun on the playground. Swings come in a wide variety of styles, including belt, bucket, rope, tire, porch, baby, hammock, canopy and tandem swings. If you’re building a playground, swings are one of the best investments you can make.
- Slides: Slides are a playground staple. Kids climb up a ladder and sit to slide back down to the bottom. Slides can come in all shapes and sizes — some are flat and short, others are wavy and long. Some are open and others are covered. You can choose double slides, triple slides, tunnel slides and even elite slides with gates or arches. Plastic slides are the most affordable, but height and shape also impact the cost. The most popular school playgrounds include a variety of slides.
- Seesaws: Another popular playground item is the seesaw, also known as the teeter-totter. Kids love flying up and down on a seesaw, and it’s a piece of playground equipment that requires a partner. Seesaws encourage cooperation and can be fun for both users. Whether you choose a traditional seesaw design or a more modern one, this can be one of the most well-loved pieces on your playground.
- Music and game panels: Freestanding music and game panels are fun and stimulating for kids. Children can beat a rhythm using freestanding drums or play tic-tac-toe with a friend. Music and game panels require less physical exertion, so they can be a good activity for kids who are winded and need to catch their breath or want something quieter.
- Monkey bars: Also known as a horizontal ladder, monkey bars are fun for climbing and swinging from one end of the structure to the other. When kids use the monkey bars, they can develop their upper body strength. Monkey bars can either be freestanding or attached to another structure like a jungle gym.
- Jungle gym: Similar to climbers, jungle gyms are used for climbing. Traditionally, this structure has consisted of steel, offering strength and longevity. Today, however, jungle gyms are also made from other materials like plastic, rope and wood.
Popular Playgrounds for Communities
Popular park playgrounds include swings, slides, seesaws and panels, along with the following equipment:
- Merry-go-rounds: Merry-go-rounds have always been one of the most popular pieces of playground equipment. Kids love spinning the merry-go-round and then hopping on to spin in circles themselves. Kids love being dizzy, and the merry-go-round is the best way to make that happen. Select the traditional design or a more modern style, but no matter what form you choose, be sure to include a merry-go-round on your community playground.
- Sandboxes: What kid doesn’t love building sandcastles? Bring the beach to your park by including a sandbox for kids to play in and express their creativity. Sandboxes come in numerous sizes, so you can find the perfect one for your community playground.
- Climbers: Freestanding climbers are great for offering several difficulty levels. While having fun, kids can improve their strength by using a climber. Climbing elements can include climbing walls, climbing boulders, net climbers, balance beams and stump steppers. These structures offer advanced play that can help kids develop their strength and coordination. From overhead climbers to rope and panel types, every design promises a fun challenge.
- Rings: Kids dangle from rings and swing from one to the next. Rings are traditionally attached to a playground structure, and they can dangle from a chain individually or be connected to other rings for easier use. Rings are commonly used by gymnasts and can help kids improve their upper body strength.
- Tetherball: From the top of a pole, a rope attaches to a ball, and kids hit the ball back and forth. The goal is to get the ball around the pole, wrapping the rope around the pole until the ball touches it. Tetherball is a popular playground game that takes up little space and can suit a playground of any size.
- Spring riders: Spring riders come in several designs and colors and some can accommodate multiple passengers. Traditionally, spring riders are seats placed on a horizontal pole, but today, there are several fun designs, including animals and vehicles. These structures are stationary yet bouncy, providing kids with balance practice along with stimulation for the imagination. To add color and fun to your playground, select a few spring riders to include.
- Tubes: Tubes are another popular piece of playground equipment among kids. Some function as enclosed bridges, while others are more similar to enclosed slides. An enclosed tube can connect two pieces of playground equipment. A tube is a great addition to a playground, and you can choose from all shapes and colors.
- Funnel ball: One of the most prevalent playground games is funnel ball, which involves tossing a ball into the top of the funnel and waiting to see from which hole it emerges. Every hole is assigned a certain number of points. Whoever reaches the designated number of points first is the winner. Funnel ball is an easy, fun game that can be included on playgrounds of any size.
Popular Playgrounds for Commercial Properties
Commercial playground equipment includes all of the above, but you will also need to focus on the needs of the residence and the visitors. For example, a commercial property that attracts very young kids may want to focus on early childhood playgrounds and equipment.
Depending on the property, there may even be extra space that can allow for even more components and inclusivity. For example, you can include merry-go-rounds and swing sets that are accessible to kids of all abilities. At a condominium or apartment complex, on the other hand, there may be less space, so it’s important to focus on added value and flexibility as the housing complex grows.
Important Considerations When Buying the Best Playground Equipment
Since there is such a wide variety of playground equipment to choose from, it can be challenging to determine which options are right for your play space. Before you make your purchase, account for a few important considerations.
Age of Users
Not every piece of playground equipment is well suited to every age group. Since younger children are at different stages of development than older children and don’t yet have the same skills, consider the age of your users when choosing playground equipment.
Most playground equipment comes with age recommendations, making it simple to determine which pieces are right for your playground. At a daycare, for example, a playground will mainly cater to younger children, so equipment may include swing sets with child seats, panels and small slides. At a park, on the other hand, a playground is more likely to be used by every age group, so you may want to include equipment appropriate for both younger and older children, such as climbers and sensory panels.
Location and Space
One of the major factors that affect what kind of playground equipment you can choose is the amount of space you have available. Location and space are common limitations, regardless of whether you plan to build a playground at a school, park or commercial lot.
Luckily, most products come with precise dimensions required for optimal use, so you can determine whether your location has enough space for that swing set or merry-go-round. To ensure your location can fit your preferred playground equipment, measure the area where you plan to build your play space before you make a purchase.
Keep in mind, however, that product dimensions are not the only factor that determines how much space is required. You also need to factor in the use zone, which can vary by equipment type, and fall heights. Follow all the regulations that pertain to your location to avoid incorrectly installing equipment.
The ideal playground should be accessible to kids of all abilities. Equipment that is wheelchair accessible and includes safety harnesses should be included in a school, community or commercial playground. For example, you can select an AeroGlider, which is a stepping platform that allows all kids to enjoy the swaying fun.
Be sure to also consider how many kids can be expected to be on the playground at the same time. Kids of all abilities should have the chance to play, so you want to have enough equipment for your community.
Another crucial consideration for playground equipment is the material. The main materials used for playground equipment are plastic, metal and wood. Each has its own set of advantages, so determine which benefits work best for your playground when making your decision.
- Plastic: Plastic playground equipment is easy to clean and cost-effective. Plastic also requires little maintenance, so plastic play components are both affordable upfront and in the long term.
- Metal: Metal playground equipment is durable and weatherproof. If your playground is in an area where it will be exposed to the elements, you may want to choose metal equipment.
- Wood: Similar to metal, wood playground equipment is durable. It will be sturdy and can withstand the high foot traffic a popular playground can expect. Wood also tends to be an aesthetically pleasing playground material.
Material and durability go hand-in-hand. Some materials, like metal and wood, are more durable than others. You want your playground equipment to last — and in the case of outdoor play space, to withstand the elements. If you can expect harsh winters and summers or heavy amounts of rainfall, durable equipment is essential. Sturdy playground components may also require less maintenance, saving you money over the years.
Are you looking to purchase economically or make an investment into your commercial property or community? Playground equipment can vary widely in cost depending on its size and features. Before you make a purchase, determine what your budget is.
Assess your existing budget and determine whether you want your playground to be completed at once or in phases. Additionally, consider your sources of funds like grants, donations and fundraisers. These considerations can help you determine what playground equipment is the right investment for your needs.
Playground Equipment Provider
Finally, another important consideration is your playground equipment provider. Your provider is your partner through every step of the building process, so you want to work with one you can trust and depend on. When selecting your playground equipment provider, consider the following:
- Experience: Choose a company with years of experience in providing playground equipment to schools, communities and businesses. When you work with an experienced provider, you’ll have a partner with knowledge about every step of completing a playground project who can give you valuable advice according to your specific needs.
- Customization options: Though in some cases, you may want to purchase pre-designed equipment, you may also want to customize some of the components to meet the exact needs and layout of your playground and the personal preferences of your organization and community. The right playground equipment provider will offer a variety of structure designs and customization options to choose from.
- Payment options: Ask providers about whether they have financing partners who offer payment options that work for you. For example, you may want to select a business with a partner who offers a pay later option.
Whatever your needs, take your time choosing the best playground equipment and provider for your school, park or commercial playground.
Playworld’s Playground Equipment
Our playground equipment is suitable for kids of all ages and abilities. When you choose Playworld as your playground equipment provider, you can find:
- Early childhood products: Our early childhood playground equipment is intended for younger kids. Our products include slides, ladders and steps.
- School-age products: Our school-age playground equipment is intended for kids between the ages of five and 12.
- Fitness and wellness products: We also offer fitness and wellness products. These permanent fixtures offer guided exercises and stretches that use bodyweight.
- Electronic products: Our electronic playground equipment combines the importance of exercise and fun.
- Playground furnishings: No playground would be complete without site furnishings like benches, trash receptacles, picnic tables and bike racks.
Learn More About Playworld Today
At Playworld, we understand how essential play is. Play areas can transform communities, encourage self-discovery and unite us. Kids learn life lessons on the playground, which is why we’re dedicated to providing heavy-duty indoor and outdoor playgrounds with innovative, inclusive designs and exceptional customer service. When you’re ready to build a playground for your community, school or daycare, get started with Playworld by following the steps below:
- Form a committee.
- Make decisions.
- Solicit feedback from the community.
- Locate a site.
- Speak with a playground specialist.
- Create your budget and raise funds.
- Choose a playground manufacturer.
- Establish a timeline.
- Hire a contractor to install the playground.
- Invite the community to your grand opening.
With our legacy in innovative leadership, a daring approach and research-based universal design, we have become an industry leader in providing outdoor play equipment. Contact us at Playworld to learn more about our popular playground sets and equipment.