This post is the first of a two-part series on renovating playgrounds on a tight budget. It addresses the need for planning. Part 2 will examine a number of ways to fund such renovations.
No Fault Safety Surface installed for Arkansas Children’s Hospital Playground in Little Rock, AR
Playgrounds offer opportunities to learn through imagination and exploration. Having a fun and safe environment can make a big difference in a child’s life. Keeping a playground "fun” and "safe” is an ongoing challenge, however. Many communities and schools want to update or renovate their play areas, but find themselves constrained by tight budgets.
Not sure where to start? Whether you’re upgrading a playground for your school, church, or community, there are some things to remember as you make a plan.
You don’t always need a big budget to revamp your playground. What you do need is a schedule. To create one, you’ll need to thoroughly assess your available space, how much you can spend, and the needs of the kids who play there. Whether you’re seeking additional funding or trying to make the most with what you have, it is a good idea to get a clear vision of what you need to achieve. Ask yourself (and your team) these questions:
- What outcome do we need?
- What is the need/primary use for your playground?
- Who currently uses the play area?
- Who do we want to attract to the play area?
- What benefits will the play area bring?
- When is our deadline?
- Do we have enough space?
- Do we need planning permission?
No Fault Safety Tiles at the Birmingham Airport Play Area in Birmingham, AL
Start by looking at what your playground has now and what it lacks. Is it space you need? If there’s not enough open space for running and other gross motor activity, look for ways to create that space. Is it more equipment you seek? A renovation should add or improve opportunities for children to engage in both group and individual play.
Focus on the areas that need the most attention. If there is any broken equipment, should you fix it, replace it, or remove it entirely? Is there a section of the playground that doesn’t get used much? Consider doing something with that space that might be more popular.
Don’t make assumptions about what you need without fully understanding how your playground is being used today. Simply observing kids in their natural habitat (your playground) will give you this understanding. For example, are the kids standing around waiting their turn on a popular slide? If so, think about adding another one.
Also, seek input from the adults who come to your playground — parents, teachers and other community members. Ask what they would like to see. Natural features, landscaping, and safety surfacing around playground equipment are all things that children probably won’t think about, but their parents will.
(That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask kids for their input, however. They are the ones who will be using the playground. Their insights may be just as vital and informative.)
No Fault Safety Surface installed at Stars & Stripes Drive-in Theater Playground Area in New Braunfels, TX
Before looking into ways to fund your playground renovation, make a plan. Set a schedule, assess your needs thoroughly, get a clear vision, and ask the right questions of your team, parents, kids, and other stakeholders. Some thoughtful planning on the front end could save you thousands in unnecessary expenditures later on.
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. For more information on affordable playground upgrades, contact No Fault Sport Group today!