How to Design Outdoor Play Areas


You know how important it is for your kids to get outside and play. It's good for them in a lot of different ways: It helps them develop physical skills, it helps their health and it's good for their mental attitudes. You also know how important it is to create a safe space for them to play. It's an important project, but you can learn how to design outdoor play areas.

Things You'll Need

  • Space for play area
  • Paper and pencil for drawing
  • Budget

Designing Your Space

  • Identify the activities you want to include in your outdoor play area. You have a number of options, from the traditional (swing set, play set, sand box) to the special (basketball hoop, vegetable garden) to the more extreme (climbing wall, skateboard ramp). Choose activities that are appropriate for the age of the children who'll be using the area.

  • Look at your budget. It would be wonderful to create a play space that looks and feels like a fantasy theme park, but a plan like that may take more than you have in your bank account. You can make a very nice outdoor play area on a small budget if you use your creativity and build sweat equity.

  • Walk around the space you plan to use for your play area and note its physical characteristics-its contours, the trees and shrubs in and around it, and any hardscape features (fencing, walkways). Make a drawing of the space that includes all these features and experiment with different layout ideas. Your first drawing doesn't need to be to scale, but eventually, you will need to create a scale drawing that you can work with.

  • Arrange individual activities in such a way that they complement each other and make the most of the space you're using. Set things out so kids can run through the area without wrecks. Make use of shade to keep them comfortable while they play.

  • Safety needs to be your No. 1 concern. Start from the ground up. What will you use for ground cover? Many play areas use a rubber floor that won't attract insects or cats. Make sure they can't get stuck in a nook or cranny. Remove any tripping or hanging hazards and police the area constantly to make sure the kids haven't dragged in anything dangerous.

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