This is the second post of the two-part series on renovating playgrounds on a tight budget. It looks at a number of ways to find the funds necessary to make improvements.
Funding shouldn’t be a barrier in order to provide kids with a quality play space. But let’s be real — without money, your grand plans will never leave the drawing board. Budget considerations include safety surfacing, site preparation, shipping of equipment, installation, and ongoing maintenance.
Playground grants can help you bridge the gap between your budget and necessary costs. There are many charitable foundations and nonprofits devoted to children’s fitness and well-being that allocate funds. Many local and federal government agencies offer assistance as well.
When you apply for playground equipment grants, you’ll need to provide detailed information about your plans including what type of equipment will meet your goals. You’ll also want to consider any compliance stipulations set forth by the granting group. Make sure you are up-to-speed on safety guidelines to assure these agencies that your proposed plans will meet all appropriate safety standards.
Ultimately, a successful playground renovation gives children a better opportunity to enjoy vigorous exercise and creative expression. It improves the space kids have for organized games and unstructured play.
If increasing the physical size of your playground and purchasing new equipment are beyond the scope of your budget at this time, you and your team can get creative. Parks and Rec departments and schools working with tight budgets implemented the following small-scale changes and saw a real impact as a result:
Put On A Show. Create a “performance” area, a small area for a stage with seating in front of it. It’s an affordable way to give kids a place for creative expression. For not a lot of money, you can buy a supply of loose props to help kids unleash their inner thespian or musician.
It’s Just a Phase. If your group can’t undertake a full-scale renovation all at once, consider doing the work in phases. You might consider building out play structures for younger kids (kindergarten and elementary school), then focusing on larger, more challenging installations for older kids. Kids get excited about each new phase and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Get Everyone Involved. A handful of volunteers can make a big difference. Ask a church youth group to come paint aging play structures. Know some retired folks who are handy with tools? Ask them if they’d be willing to make benches or picnic tables. Get the community involved, and they’ll become a partner in keeping your playground nice. The kids and their families can enjoy small improvements over time and the community volunteers will feel pride and a sense of accomplishment. After all, parks and playground renovations benefit entire communities!
Give Budding Artists a Canvas. Install an outdoor chalkboard or “graffiti wall” for drawing murals and other artwork. No, you don’t have to hand the kids cans of spray paint (that’s a BAD idea, in case you’re wondering), but they can have endless creative fun with water-soluble paints or colored chalk.
Get Your Game On. With some paint and some imagination, the top of a picnic table can become a chess/checker board. An unused area of asphalt can become a hopscotch area. Turn under-used surfaces into games and other opportunities for collaborative play.
Think Inside the Box. If you need a low-cost addition for the youngest visitors to your playground, a sandbox is a no-brainer. Keep it stocked with plastic shovels and pails and you’ll keep toddlers occupied. Keeping the sand clean and within the box is important, so make sure you have the resources for ongoing maintenance.
Include Inclusivity. If you only have enough money to make a few changes, use it to ensure your playground is accessible to all children. Inclusive equipment will help children with disabilities feel included and give them the developmental benefits of outdoor play.
Upgrade the Surfacing. If safety is the main motivator behind your planned upgrades, look for opportunities to protect kids from falls. Gravel and wood chips don’t offer the protection you need, and they make it harder for children who use walking devices or wheelchairs to get around. Replacing wood chips with poured-in-place rubber surfacing or bonded rubber mulch makes play areas easier for kids who need walking assistance. It makes the play area safer for everyone, too.
Public school administrators, commercial park owners, school boards, and parks administrators have a lot to consider when planning a playground renovation: accessibility and ADA compliance, sustainability, safety, maintenance costs, and child engagement. No Fault Sport Group can help you find affordable playground surfacing for a fun and safe space to play.