Planning a Playground With the Playworld Playground Planning Guide

To create a playground the children in your community will appreciate, you need to plan every step of the way. Follow the steps in this guide to develop the perfect play space!

Read the full article or jump to a specific section:

Steps to playground planning

STEP 1: Appoint Decision Makers

Planning a play space means making many decisions, from choosing a site to determining the layout of the playground. Designing a playground tends to involve a lot of passion from everyone involved, so appointing decision-makers will make the process a little bit easier. Instead of having too many people voicing their opinions, you can have a few people collecting ideas, holding votes and determining the best way to proceed.

When planning a playground, look for a small committee of decision-makers. This should include some parents, a few children, property owners and any other important people the playground will impact.

Need help getting started? Our Play Experts can help.

Contact Us

STEP 2: Research and Plan

Take Measurements to Determine Your Play Area Size

Carefully measure the total amount of space you can offer for the playground. Keep in mind that every piece of equipment will need to have some clearance around it. Don’t forget to measure upwards to determine whether overhanging trees or any overhead structures could interfere with taller pieces of equipment.

Determine Surfacing Options and Playground Mounting Options

Part of your playground planning should include surfacing, especially at the bottom of slides and under climbing equipment, where extra protection may be needed. Keep in mind this will also impact mounting options.

In-Ground Surfacing

In-ground mount equipment is anchored below the ground’s surface with concrete used to reinforce the piece of equipment.

Surface Mount

Surface mount equipment is anchored to the ground’s surface using a concrete pad. No need to dig holes. If installation costs are a concern, or you can’t dig holes for direct bury installation, a surface mount is a good choice.

Playground Surfacing

Playground surfacing helps keep kids safer as they play by absorbing the energy of head impact. It can also help children with different abilities get around more easily.

Determine Appropriate Surfacing for Needs and Budget

The playground surface material you choose will depend on the playground equipment you select. There are various standards for different playground equipment. For example, the playground surfaces under swings and slides will need to be thicker to be able to handle more impact. Standards for surfacing under climbers and bars can be thicker to reduce the chance of head injuries from falls. No matter what playground equipment you have, you need to ensure your playground safety surfacing has enough depth and cushion to help keep everyone safer.

When selecting playground surfacing, consider:

1. Unitary Playground Surfacing

Unitary playground surfacing is one option for your playground. This type of surface creates one unified whole without moving around like loose-fill surfacing. The smooth surface allows for easier access for children and adults who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. However, unitary surfaces cost more upfront and require professional installation.

There are also a few different options for unitary solutions:

  • Poured in place: This surfacing creates one whole surface with no seams. It meets all Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) playground-surfacing requirements because it is easiest for individuals using wheelchairs and all children to navigate and provides a good cushion for head strikes.
  • Rubber tiles: A rubber playground surface made of interlocking tiles is easy to install, and it is easy to replace part of the surface as it gets worn. However, this is not an option for any area where exercise or ball games take place, and it can be harder to fit tiles into unusually shaped spaces.
  • Concrete asphalt: This surface is only a good option for providing traction for sports activities. It is prohibited for use under swings, slides and other playground equipment.

Despite slightly higher upfront costs, unitary playground surfacing is ultimately a more accessible, durable choice. Note that some options might be slippery when they become wet, such as after it rains, and tiles can become loose. Regular inspections can help ensure unitary — and all other types of playground surfacing — remain safe.

 2. Loose-Fill Playground Surfacing

Loose-fill playground surfacing options are made up of tiny pieces of surfacing materials, such as rubber mulch or woodchips. This more traditional type of surface is flexible and cost-effective. It can be made to fit any play area size or shape, especially for non-traditional play equipment, and you can build up a larger cushion just by piling up more surface material.

Loose-fill materials are also easier to install and more cost-effective upfront. They work best with a border to contain the materials in the play area.

However, it also has a few drawbacks. Among them are the maintenance needed to keep the material at an even and safe depth all over the playground. Children can compact and move loose-fill playground surfacing over time, especially in high-traffic playground areas where the loose-fill surfacing may begin to thin. Regularly maintaining this type of surfacing by topping it off can help it stay safe for kids to play on.

Note that this type of surfacing can make it harder for individuals with wheelchairs to get into the play area.

3. Playground Mats

In highly trafficked areas, playground mats offer extra protection and prevent erosion. They are not to be used alone. Over an adequate amount of loose-fill surfacing, they can add an extra layer of protection under swings, bars and other playground equipment. They can keep your playground looking tidier, and they are easy to set up and replace as needed.

If you need more information about how your playground can meet all playground-surfacing requirements while proving a great place to play, contact Playworld, and a play expert can start helping you plan your playground!

Account for Child Capacity and the Ages of Children

Young children may require different safety measures and respond better to multisensory and brightly colored equipment. They should also have a separate play area from older children for safety reasons, as well as to ensure that the equipment is age-appropriate. Additionally, young children and children with different capacities and motor skills may require other forms of equipment to stay active.

Determine Inclusive Play Needs

Plan your playground with all children in mind, as traditional playground equipment will not be appropriate for everyone. Children on the autism spectrum, for example, may need cozy spaces or quieter spaces. Children who utilize wheelchairs or other mobility devices may need flat surfaces as well as playground equipment they can roll around or even into. Create an inclusive playground by selecting equipment all children can use.

Prepare a Timeline for the Completed Playground

When does the playground need to be completed? What needs to happen first to reach that goal? Set benchmarks with mini-deadlines so you can keep track of progress and use a playground planning checklist to make sure nothing is overlooked.

Browse Through Our Catalog or Website to Determine Your Playground Interests

Has it been a while since you’ve reconnected with your inner kid and played in a playground? Today’s play spaces are worlds away from the monkey bars and slides of days past. Before you make any choices about your playground, take a look at all of the options available today.

View Our Catalog

Talk With A Playground Specialist

Talk With a Playground Specialist

No, we don’t mean your child! Contact us to speak to someone who’s familiar with our entire catalog and who has helped design playgrounds before. We can help you customize your playground so kids will be thrilled to give your play space a try.

STEP 3: Determine Financing and Funding

Select a Budget

What comes first — the dollar amount or a general idea of what playground equipment you need? It’s a trick question. You may start with an idea of the playground equipment you need and formulate a budget based on that. Or, you may have a specific dollar amount in the bank. In either case, developing a budget or a range of costs to consider helps you plan for funding.

Determine Financing Options (If Applicable)

If you’re eager to build but don’t have the necessary funds, there are financing solutions to consider. Leasing, loans and other plans are all viable options. Contact us to discuss our financing solutions, which enable you to get started on your play space faster.

Start Fundraising (Optional)

If cash flow is an issue and financing isn’t appealing, you may need to turn to fundraising. Consider applying for grants or organizing a bake sale. Luckily, we have a handy guide for raising money for your project.

View Our Playground Financing Guide

STEP 4: Select Your Components

Choose Your Playground Equipment

When choosing your playground equipment, think about how you want kids to really have a great time at your playground. Consider:


Children are delighted by brightly colored equipment that makes noise, is surrounded by nature and offers visuals. Look for textured, vivid and engaging playground equipment to appeal to all the senses.


Being on a playground isn’t just a chance to play. It’s also a terrific way to build social skills and get to know other kids. Make sure your playground structure makes it easy for children to make friends and play together. Look for equipment that encourages children to role-play in groups or work together.


With so many kids leading sedentary lives, look for playground equipment that encourages activity. Look for equipment that promotes jumping, climbing and other types of movement.

View All Products

Determine Appropriate Surfacing for Needs & Budget

Surfacing needs will depend on the type of equipment on your playground. There are safety standards for equipment such as swings, slides and other pieces of equipment. You need to make sure that the surfacing has enough depth to keep everyone safe.

Select Complementary Items

Your playground is a lot more than just surface and equipment. There are certain items you can use to enhance the play area:

  • Benches: Children aren’t the only ones visiting your playground. When parents and other adults visit the space, do they have benches where they can sit and supervise?
  • Pathways: Pathways are essential for children who utilize mobility devices and to naturally take kids from one piece of playground equipment to another.
  • Independent play items: While your playground should be a social place, you also want areas for independent play. For example, slides and tunnels let kids explore on their own.
  • Shade: Shade allows kids to stay at a playground longer and lets them get away from the sun. On very bright days, it also saves young eyes from glare.

Shop Playground Accessories

STEP 5: Install Your Equipment

If you need to dig to install your play space, you need to check with your utility company before breaking ground. If you choose a more involved piece of equipment, you may need assistance from others and handiness in using a level, tape measure and other tools.

Determine an Installation Game Plan

If you’ve ever assembled furniture, you know that everything isn’t always as “easy to assemble” as you might have hoped. We make every effort to make sure our items are actually easy to install, but if you ever need help, one of our play experts would be happy to assist with finding an installation expert in your area.

Learn More About Installation & Assembly

Enjoy and Celebrate

STEP 6: Enjoy and Celebrate!

Congratulations! Now that you have designed, purchased, and installed your playground, you’re ready to mold young minds and transform childhoods all over your community! Luckily, our involvement doesn’t end there. If you need help at any point after the installation process, our play experts are there for you. In fact, we have a handy rapid response form that you can use if you run into a problem. Just fill out the form and one of our pros will contact you shortly.

Previous Article Developing Balance, Coordination and Fine Motor Skills From the Playground Next ArticleSun Safety for Kids on the Playground