Design Your Dream Playground

When you're designing a great place to play, consider not just the play equipment, but site enhancement projects, or side projects.

It's a good idea to have a separate budget set aside for projects meant to enhance the site, providing places to gather, play, and promote creativity. The questions below will help you think about your site and how it could be improved.

  1. What are the main features of the playground site?
    Start by drawing a base plan of your site. Include as much information as you know, including dimensions, topography, paths, existing natural or man-made elements, shade, amenities, trees, parking, fences, access points, proximity to hazardous areas such as busy streets or parking lots, etc. Don’t worry about making it perfect. The aim is to understand the site.

  2. Now think about how the space is currently used and how you want it to be used.
    If it’s a school, how is the yard used throughout the day? Is it open to the community after hours? Is the yard divided by grade level? Do any academic activities take place outside? If it’s a neighborhood park, what kind of community members or groups are using the space? What are their needs? Make notes on the site plan.

  3. What is the flow of traffic through the space?
    Consider pedestrian, vehicular and bicycle circulation through the site as well as ADA accessibility. Does the site provide an accessible path to and from the playground? Is the site too close to vehicular or bike traffic? How can your planning team remedy that?

  4. Considering what you just learned, think about the amenities you can add to the site to give it a coherent design that reflects the community and encourages people to use the space.
    Rank them in order of importance:

    ___ Landscaping (i.e. stepping stones, community gardens)
    ___ Play elements (i.e. chalkboards, asphalt games)
    ___ Seating (i.e. picnic tables, benches)
    ___ Painting projects (i.e. murals, maps)
    ___ Shade structures
    ___ Other ideas (write your own: ___________________)

  5. Based on your answers to #4 above, look through the side project plans available and write down the ones you'd like to have.
    Be as specific as you can, including the number of each item you'd like. Then sketch them into your site plan.

  6. Finalize your overall design.
    Share and discuss your ideas with your planning committee. As a group, come up with a wish list of side projects. Finalize the list based on the project budget, number of volunteers and resources available.