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Five Common Playground Planning Mistakes


Planning a playground is a big investment in your community and the health of families. It's also a lot of fun! But if you don't have a lot of experience planning playground, it can be easy to make mistakes.

Over the years we've helped countless communities plan the perfect playground. And we've heard from many people who tried to do it themselves without success. Here are the five most common mistakes people make when planning a playground.

We can help you avoid them all!

Mistake #1: The Playground is Too Small/Too Big

Playgrounds don't come in one size. That's a good thing. You can design a playground to fit your space, your budget, or the number of children who will play there.

To make sure your playground is the right size, follow these steps:

  • Estimate how many children will usually play on the playground at the same time.
  • Plan for about 23 square meters per child
  • Following manufacturer's instructions for use zones to ensure playground equipment is properly spaced - at least 1.8 meters apart

Mistake #2: We Didn’t Plan For THAT in Our Budget

A common question from our customers is, “how much does a playground cost?” The answer depends on many factors, like how many children will use the playground, the style of equipment you choose, and how much site construction is required. Here are some general rules of thumb when it comes to a playground budget:

  • Plan to spend about $1,250 CAD per child. If you expect 30 kids will play on the playground system at one time, you should budget at least $37,500.
  • Your budget breakdown will usually be 50%-60% for playground equipment, 20%-30% for installation, and about 25% for shipping.
  • Budget for playground safety surfacing. This is essential and required for every playground, but is often overlooked during planning.

Mistake #3: There's Not Enough for Younger/Older Children to Do

A play area used by the entire community needs to have fun and challenging activities for people of all ages. Here are some tips to make sure everyone has fun on your new playground:

  • Include products and activity areas for children of different ages: 6-23 months, 2-5 years, and 5-12 years.
  • Add signage or labels to help parents and caregivers identify the play area appropriate for their children.
  • Consider benches, fitness equipment, and other amenities for adults to use while children are at play.

Mistake #4: The Playground Doesn’t Meet Safety Guidelines

In Canada, CSA guidelines must be followed to reduce the risk of injury on a playground. More than half the injuries on a playground occur because of improper or neglected maintenance, and nearly 75% of injuries occur because the safety surfacing is inappropriate or inadequate. Follow these tips to make sure your playground meets the standards:

  • Work with a playground equipment manufacturer that follows CSA requirements.
  • Plan for regular inspections of your playground equipment and schedule routine maintenance on all play system components. You can request a free copy of our playground maintenance guide to help.
  • Use ASTM-certified safety surfacing that is engineered for your specific playground to attenuate (cushion) unintentional falls.

Mistake #5: Trying to Do it All By Yourself

We frequently hear from people who tell us they wished they hadn’t tried to build a playground all by themselves. Designing, planning, funding, and installing a new play area is a big project. It’s okay to ask for help!

Here are some ways to lighten the load:

  • Work with an experienced play and recreation expert who can help find the right equipment for your needs.
  • Look for funding programs or financing options to make the playground project more affordable and attainable.
  • Hire certified installers who can install playground equipment according to the manufacturer’s specifications quickly and easily.

Plan Your Playground the Right Way

Planning a new playground is fun and exciting, but there are some common mistakes people make. Take time to ensure your playground is the right size, has age-appropriate activities, and meets all safety standards. One of the easiest ways to avoid mistakes like these is working with a GameTime play expert in your community.

Contact a local GameTime expert today and start planning the playground of your dreams!