Playground Design: Five Things to Remember

Playground Design: Five Things to Remember
9/13/2017 10:11:56 AM
Poured-in-Place Rubber

No Fault Safety Surface (poured-in-place rubber)

If you’re designing a playground or park play area, your job is to maximize your budget and provide a safe and fun space for kids. Whether you work for a school or municipal parks department, you want to make your school or park a better place for years to come.

Here at No Fault Sport Group, we have our own in-house playground surfacing designers, and we also work with playground equipment representatives all throughout the country. We can assist with the early stages of building the right playground for your budget and needs and with finding the right playground surfacing materials to keep things safe. We’ll also help with the installation process when you’re ready to build.

Here are five points your team needs to consider when designing a playground. These points will help you get the planning and design process off to a great start.

1) What Are Your Goals?

Consider what’s most important to the families who will use the playground. You also need to think about the goals of everyone who will have a hand in its creation. Ask every question you can think of. What are the zoning requirements? What’s the budget? What permits are needed? Are there underground utility pipes or overhanging cables to take into account? What kind of ongoing maintenance (both in manpower and dollars) can you afford to keep the play area safe and looking great?

Playtime is serious business, and gathering input from all stakeholders early on will help you come up with a design that everyone will be proud of. People whose input you should seek for the planning phase might include:

  • Playground Surface and Equipment Representatives
  • Parents
  • ADA Compliance Professionals
  • School Officials
  • Budget Advisors
  • Landscape Architects

There is another group whose opinions and suggestions you should seek—the kids who will use the playground. There are scholarly studies that can show you what kids respond to and enjoy on modern playgrounds. That’s a good place to start, but talk to the kids in your community and give them a say as well. Let them feel invested in the process early on, and they’ll take pride in what you create together.

Bonded Rubber Mulch

No Fault Bonded Rubber Mulch

2) How Will Your Play Space Be Used?

There are demographics to consider, such as is your play area meant for kids of a particular age range? Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines call for separating play areas intended for children ages 6 to 23 months from play areas that are meant for 2- to 5-year-olds, with additional areas for elementary school ages and tweens. This is done for safety and to keep kids from getting bored with features not suited for them.

If you’re building to accommodate a broad range of ages, you may decide you need toddler-friendly features that build motor skills in one area and a separate area for "tweens” that offers challenging climbing features, for example.

There are "hours of operation” to take into account, too. Will the play area be used at a particular time during the school year, or is it a public park that is accessible to all ages, all year-round? Shutting down for the summer or winter obviously gives you time to make repairs and upgrades. Scheduled downtime also means your play area won’t get the heavy use and inevitable damage of a playground that’s open year-round.

Sample Playground Design

Sample playground design via the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD)

Playsafe 50 Turf

No Fault Playsafe 50 Turf

3) What Will Your Budget Allow?

Today’s playground equipment manufacturers give you a LOT more to choose from than the simple slide/merry-go-round/swing set features some of us remember as kids. Also, today’s colorful rubber safety surfacing (like No Fault Safety Tiles and No Fault Safety Surface) gives you the option to incorporate colorful themes and patterns into your playground design.

However, your budget is NOT limitless. It’s important to consider not just the up-front costs of building the play area, but also the long-term costs of maintenance and upkeep. As mentioned, playgrounds that close for a season tend to need less maintenance annually, but heavy use can mean constant work is required even for seasonal spaces.

Over the last 40 years, we’ve shown our clients that premium quality athletic and playground surfacing products pay for themselves many times over due to their long-lasting durability.

Our bonded and loose rubber mulch, for example, offer an easy-to-install, non-toxic alternative to pea gravel and wood chips. Our mulch is an environmentally sustainable product with color that won’t fade, decompose, rot, or attract insects like the cheaper "natural” alternatives—and the bonded mulch will stay in place, meaning your groundskeepers won’t constantly be raking gravel or replacing wood chips.

No Fault Rubber Mulch (Loose-Fill)

No Fault Rubber Mulch (Loose-Fill)

4) What Kind of Equipment Do You Need?

Slides, swings, and climbing features come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s plastic, wood, or aluminum, you’ll want to ensure your playground equipment is designed to American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specification and complies with Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

You’ll need age-appropriate playground equipment that stimulates and challenges children at the educational, physical, social, and emotional levels you’re targeting. This might include climbing features (including net-type climbers), slides, seesaws, and upper body strengthening components like chin-up bars. It might include ramps and accessible swings for kids in wheelchairs and sensory features for visually-impaired kids.

No Fault Safety Tiles

No Fault Safety Tiles

5) "Location, Location, Location"

The old phrase is true for buying real estate, and it’s also true for playground planning. Where your play area goes really matters. You’ll need to take into account things like "required use zones” (or "fall zones”).

Essentially, the playground equipment manufacturer will outline an area on your design to show how far out the playground surfacing should go to prevent a head injury if a child falls off the equipment. The zone changes depending on the type and height of the playground equipment used.

Is parking necessary (and available)? Are there nearby restrooms? You’ll also need to consider drainage and topography, surrounding vegetation, soil conditions—even the position of the sun in the sky relative to the times of day you expect your playground to get the most use.


No Fault has been in business more than 40 years and has installed over 13 million square feet of poured-in-place rubber surface!

With over 100 years of combined staff experience in the athletic and safety surfacing industry, we continue to provide quality product installations by the most experienced and knowledgeable crews in the industry. Please contact No Fault Sport Group, and we’ll help you design the best playground area to meet your goals.

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