Avoid These Five Mistakes When Building a New Playground


Designing a playground can be a fun and rewarding experience! However, it’s easy to make a mistake if you don’t have a lot of experience with commercial playground equipment. Many of our customers tell us they aren’t sure which playground equipment to choose or how to install it.

Over the last century, we’ve learned a thing or two about designing playgrounds. We are passionate about helping people find the right products to serve the needs of the entire community. Here are five mistakes to avoid when creating a playground.

Mistake #1: The Playground is the Wrong Size

Playgrounds aren’t a “one-size-fits-all” type of purchase. You should design a playground to fit the number of children who will use it. If you’re adding a play system to a small neighborhood pocket park for a dozen families living nearby, the size of your playground will be much different from one installed at a school with 500 students. To make sure your playground is the right size, follow these steps:

  • Estimate the number of children who will likely use the playground at the same time.
  • Design a play space that provides 75 square feet per child.
  • Install playground equipment using appropriate use zones to prevent overcrowding and potential hazards. All playground equipment should be at least six feet apart.

Mistake #2: We Didn’t Budget Enough Money for Everything We Needed

One of the most frequent questions we receive is, “how much does a playground cost?” The answer to that question varies based on many factors, including the number of children who will use the playground, the type of equipment you choose, and how much site preparation is required. Here are some general rules to consider when planning your playground budget:

  • Your playground budget should be $1,000 per child. If you expect 30 kids will play on the playground system at one time, you should budget at least $30,000.
  • Playground equipment accounts for 50-60% of your total budget. Installation accounts for 20-35%. Site preparation and shipping will vary by location.
  • Remember to budget for safety surfacing. Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is the most economical choice up-front but requires more frequent maintenance.

Mistake #3: There’s Nothing for Younger/Older Children to Do

When schools design a new playground area, they know the age range of the children who will play there, such as children in preschool or kindergarten (usually between the ages of 2 and 5) or older students between the ages of 5 and 12. However, 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 the United States, ASTM and CPSC guidelines exist to eliminate hazards and reduce injuries 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 ASTM and CPSC 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 Everything 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 a Playground the Right Way

Planning a new playground is fun and exciting, but there are some common mistakes many people make. It’s essential to make sure your playground is the right size, has age-appropriate activities, and meets all safety guidelines. One of the easiest ways to avoid mistakes and make the process easier and more enjoyable is working with a GameTime play expert in your community.

No matter the size of the project, one of our experienced play experts can help you select the right equipment and install it properly. Our network of professionals live, work, and play in 28 countries on six continents. Wherever you are, we’re local!

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