Choose your Playground Equipment in 6 Steps

Cory GabelArticles

As ECE Owners and Operators, you know, all our decisions affect our schools, staff, and the children we serve. One of the larger decisions we are tasked with is selecting playground equipment. If you’ve been the decision-maker on this task before, you know how daunting and overwhelming it can be. You’re faced with a multitude of options, prices, and deadlines. Believe me, we’ve been there, done that. To make this process slightly less daunting, here are six points to take into consideration that will help narrow down your choices and give you a clear view of what you need. 1. Your budget 2. The size of your space 3. Your location/climate 4. The age of the children using the equipment 5. National requirements 6. Staff capability Budget When considering your budget for playground equipment it’s very important to consider if anything else in your budget will need to be sacrificed by adding a playground. Will you be taking away from other important features of your school that are beneficial to the children’s development and well-being? If the answer is no, let’s build it! As you already know or can imagine, playground equipment is NOT cheap. Whether you are building an entire playground or looking to replace a certain component, you’ll need a sizeable budget. In our experience, playground equipment does not last long and parents during perspective tours notice if your equipment looks worn or the plastic has holes in it. A playground is a representation of your brand and something you should have a sizeable budget for. In our experience, we’d recommend budgeting $1,000 per child at your school. Once you’ve distinguished your budget, you’ll have a better idea of what is available to you and this should help narrow down your options. Size The size of your space will also impact the playground equipment you choose. If you have a smaller space, you may want to consider choosing several smaller components. If your space is larger, we would recommend looking into one larger component and several smaller components to fill the space. It’s important to know the exact measurements of your space when you call for a price estimate. Playground equipment companies can help you out with a computer-aided design to ensure that they maximize every square foot without over-purchasing Location/Climate The playground equipment you use will depend heavily on the location and climate of your school. If you are in a hotter climate, stay away from shiny metals (although most companies have moved away from offering those) and darker colors like black or dark blue. The trend among a lot of ECE schools is to choose primary earth tone colors that won’t get as hot. You’ll also want to consider the direction your equipment is facing if you’re in a hot climate location. For example, if you have a slide that’s facing South or East, the slide will have more time in the sun making it hotter and could potentially injure a child or at the very least, detour them from wanting to use it. I would suggest facing the slide or whatever equipment you’re using towards the North or West to avoid lengthy sun exposure. In a colder climate, you don’t have to worry as much about the direction of the equipment or the colors you’re choosing, but it is very important to select the correct flooring or “fall zone” for your playground. For example, something like a tiled floor would buckle during the winter and could cause a tripping hazard for the children. When choosing the floor for your playground, otherwise known as I suggest selecting one surface floor to avoid tripping hazards. Age There are three age groups for playground equipment; 2 and under, 2 to 5 and, 6 to 12. Make sure your equipment is suitable for each of the age groups you accommodate. This ensures the safety and enjoyment of the children. If your school consists of only 1-2 of these age groups, you will be able to eliminate some of the playground equipment and narrow down your options. If you accommodate all of the age ranges, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear plan in place to avoid something like a 4-year-old trying to play 6-12-year-old playground equipment and injuring themselves. National requirements As ECE Owners and Operators, the safety of our children is the number one priority. It is imperative to be aware of all the safety regulations and requirements when building a playground for your school.  Most companies have a certified playground inspector as their installer. We highly suggest ensuring this is the case when selecting your playground company. This will ensure your playground meets national requirements from day 1. Another resource we’ve found to be very useful is the National Program for Playground and Safety. This will help keep your children safe and avoid potential lawsuits that could result from not adhering to regulations and requirements. Staff capability If you’ve already pursued the National Program for Playground and Safety website, there are a lot of regulations required of you to ensure the safety of your children. Your staff must understand how essential their dedicated supervision is to your school and the children. The five considerations I listed above come down to the capability and preparedness of your staff for this new responsibility. When the children are on the playground, this isn’t the time for staff to stand around and chat. They need to give attentive supervision and make sure they’re adhering to the required regulations. For example, if an unsupervised child falls and injures themselves on equipment they aren’t supposed to use, that’s a potential lawsuit. If there isn’t enough cushioning in the fall zone and a child gets hurt, there’s another potential lawsuit. We understand these are the most extreme case examples. We’re not trying to scare or detour you from investing in a playground. We more want you to be aware of the responsibility that comes with it. We’ve seen a lot of good come schools investing in playgrounds. It brings the children a lot of joy and fun. If you’re ready to take on a playground but aren’t sure where to look, our team has you covered. Our team at IC360 works closely with Discount School Supply, Beckers, and Constructive Playthings. Our members receive discounts of up to 20% on playground equipment, which can help with the cost. If you want to learn more about our membership and the discounts we offer, visit our Group Purchasing page and fill out the form at the bottom of our page to be contacted by myself or another sales team member. Best, Julie Pelletier