Design and Planning

Creating spaces that nurture and inspire safe, fun play starts at the design and planning phase. By taking the time to understand the needs of the children that will be using your playground and carefully evaluating different options available you will lay the foundation for a successful play space.
This guide walks you through important topics to consider when designing and executing your playground project to ensure the most immersive and inclusive play experience you can offer.


Your target demographic: kids

iStock 000006723155Small 300x199 Design and PlanningDesigning a playground begins by answering a few basic questions about the needs of the children that will be using it:


  • What age group are you targeting and is there a need for multiple areas separated by age?
  • Does your playground have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act?
  • What is the maximum capacity you must accommodate?
  • What are the positive outcomes you would like to achieve with your project? Improved physical fitness? Inspiring group play and cooperation?


Once these questions are answered the road ahead is simplified, as you will be able to easily define the scope of your project and choose a play system that accomplishes exactly what you want in your playground.


Evaluating your site

The location for your playground is just as important as the playground itself. In preparing for a new playground project it is important that your site meets the following requirements:


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A level surface free of debris or contamination.

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Ability to excavate to allow for installation of play structure support columns and adequate fall protection surfacing.

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Foot traffic can freely bypass playground area to ensure safety of all guests and avoiding unnecessary degradation of fall surfacing.

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Easy access to restroom facilities and other site amenities.

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A safe use zone of six feet or more around all play components.

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Adequate natural shade or the ability to add shade as necessary


Once your site meets these requirements it is recommended that the site be inspected and measured by an NSP3 representative in order to create site maps that can be used to accurately position play components.


Choosing your play components


Choosing high-quality equipment is essential to creating a fun, safe, and durable playground. In the past most playgrounds were constructed from wood timbers or welded steel. While cheap and effective, these types of structures require large maintenance costs and are susceptible to the elements becoming more prone to hazard as they age.


In contrast, we believe that the best modern playgrounds should include:

  • A wide range of activities that appeal and are accessible to children of all shapes, sizes, and ability.
  • Structures engineered with maximum stability, rigidity, and safety compliance.
  • Materials that are durable and hold their appearance while being free of toxic chemicals that could harm young bodies.
  • Manufacturing processes that maintain consistent quality while protecting the environment.
  • Durability and low maintenance costs.


Because they meet all of these requirements we have partnered with Playworld Systems, one of the largest providers of playgrounds structures and equipment. We believe their products have longevity due to powder-coated metals and PVC-free plastics that retain their color even in the toughest climates.
Their products also comply with all Consumer Product Safety Commission recommendations for safety and engineering quality. Read more about products by Playworld Systems.


Creating your plan


The actual timeline for building a playground can vary widely. Relatively simple projects can be completed in a matter of weeks while larger, more complex projects could possibly take several months. Regardless of timeline there are many factors to consider:

  • Does your project require special permits, or inspections?
  • Will your site need additional construction work before playground installation?
  • Do you require special equipment to offload materials or install?
  • Who will be doing the labor of installation?
  • Who are your project managers?
  • Is there access to the site to complete delivery?
  • What measures will be taken to ensure all parts and materials are inventoried?

Once you have answered these questions you are better prepared to create an overall project timeline that covers the design, ordering, delivery, and installation of your playground. One of the most important aspects of this plan is coordinating delivery and installation.
Because different products ship via different carriers it is extremely important to schedule your delivery dates to align with your install dates so that workers are prepared to complete the day’s goals.


Getting help

Installing playgrounds is an incredibly labor intensive process that requires different levels of skill at each step. By coordinating an installation workforce early you are ensuring that your playground install will go flawlessly. For most projects we highly recommend a licensed contractor with experience installing commercial playgrounds. We have many installation partners that you may choose from at very competitive rates.
In situations where installation budgets are tight you may also enlist the help of volunteers to complete the work with the guidance of a trained playground installation representative. Volunteer builds are exciting community-supported events that can draw all the help you will ever need to build your playground.