Play and playground equipment is essential to childhood development at daycare and early learning centers. If you are planning to build a new playground for the first time, the process and equipment choices may seem overwhelming. The decisions you make will affect children for years, so you want to get off to a great start.
GameTime is here to help with these three tips to start planning your new playground. We work with daycare and preschools every day to help choose the right products to support childhood development and fit your space and budget. Read on and learn how to make play a part of the early learning experience.
1. Set a Budget and Start Fundraising
Setting a budget is an important first step. One of the first questions that might cross your mind is, "Well, how much does a playground cost...how much should we budget for a preschool playground?"
Commercial playground equipment is designed to be durable, compliant with safety standards, and withstand years of use. That makes the cost of this type of equipment higher than playhouses or slides you find at big box retail stores. But high-quality playground equipment for preschools will meet current standards and last for decades.
There are many factors that go into the cost of a new playground, but a good rule of thumb is to budget $1,000 per child will play on the playground at one time. That means if you expect 20 children to play at once, you should budget around $20,000 for the playground. Smaller play areas will cost less, and there are many ways to design a play environment to fit your budget.
So how can you raise money or find grants and funding for your new playground?
Each year, more than $360 billion in charitable donations are made in America alone. Nearly $60 billion is donated to health and recreation-related projects like playgrounds for children. Organizations across the country provide grants to help churches, schools, and other youth organizations build playgrounds. We've compiled a list of funding sources in our Playground Funding Guide to help you find a funding partner.
2. Make Room for Play
If you've never installed a preschool playground, you may wonder, "how much space do I need to build a new playground?" Safety standards require a specific amount of space around each play structure or play activity on a playground. This is called a "Use Zone."
Our TotStuff and ECHO preschool play systems pack a ton of play activities in a compact design. In about 500 square feet, you can add fun, interactive, and developmentally appropriate play activities for up to 20 preschoolers.
You can expand the amount of play in your playground by adding freestanding activities like slides, swings, and climbers. And if you have room, you can add to your playground over time as your needs change.
3. Choose the Right Surfacing
Safety surfacing is a piece of the project that is often overlooked. You can't just set up a playground on grass or dirt. And you can't install it on asphalt or gravel like they did a LONG time ago. Modern safety surfaces attenuate falls -- that's a fancy way of saying they provide cushioning when a child falls. Safety standards require approved safety surfacing, and GameTime offers various options for our play equipment.
Each surfacing option has its benefits. Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) has a lower initial cost but requires frequent maintenance and replenishment. Poured In Place Rubber has a higher initial cost but requires less maintenance and is a more accessible and inclusive surface. You can also choose recycled rubber tiles or synthetic turf. All of our surfacing options meet the safety standards for playgrounds and are engineered to work with our play equipment.
Work With Preschool Playground Experts
These are just the basics to keep in mind as you begin your preschool playground-building research. Because there are so many options involved with building a playground, it's important to work with an experienced playground professional who can walk you through the entire process and support you long after the children are having fun on the playground.
Have more questions? Please contact your local GameTime playground expert for more personalized advice!