A Guide to Architectural Playground Designs

Commercial Outdoor Playground

Designing a playground requires following certain architectural principles to help create fun, accessible play areas for kids. Landscape designers know that design principles and architectural playground equipment are two key elements when creating a playground.

With the following design principles and suitable playground structures, you can make an amazing, cost-effective playground that gives kids endless entertainment.

The 8 Principles of Playground Design

As with any building, architectural design plays a significant role in creating a playground. Eight main principles of playground architecture affect every aspect of a playground. These principles ensure that play areas are fun and accessible for all kids.

1. Designing for Different Kinds of Play

Kids engage in and enjoy different kinds of play throughout the day. Some kids may focus on sensory play, while others may spend their time coming up with imaginative games.

When designing a playground, it’s essential to provide space for various types of play so kids can choose their favorite kind. Some of the most common types of play include the following:

  • Active play
  • Creative play
  • Sensory play
  • Imaginative play
  • Social play

Play lets kids explore and understand the world around them while learning crucial life skills. Consider how you can accommodate as many types of play as possible when designing a playground.

2. Creating a “Sense of Place”

Your community is unique, and your playground should reflect that. A sense of place keeps playgrounds from becoming generic. When designing a playground, try to incorporate elements that tie it to its location. You can add logos for local sports teams or businesses to play-pretend areas or paintings of local fauna and flora.

You can also create a sense of space through the landscaping or the colors you use for equipment, benches and fences. Playgrounds that represent their communities can help transform them, giving kids a culturally relevant space to play in and develop their imagination.

3. Encouraging Kids’ Creativity

Adults can be pretty clinical when designing a playground. To an adult, swings are for swinging and slides are for sliding, but kids are different. They are highly creative and often use playground equipment in ways outside of their original intent. They can also make games and find fun in something as simple as a stick or stone.

Design a playground with kids’ creativity in mind. Consider adding elements with parts that people can alter or move around so kids can use them differently. Consider adding fun secrets for kids to discover, like hidden pictures, compartments, peepholes and sounds that can help encourage creativity. These can all help kids be more creative while playing.

Kids move throughout an area when they play, going between pieces of equipment and from one section to another without a set pattern.

4. Planning the “Flow” of the Space

It’s crucial to consider how kids move around a playground as you design it. Kids move throughout an area when they play, going between pieces of equipment and from one section to another without a set pattern. A great way to accommodate this excitable movement is to ensure there are pathways and connections between all the play structures and play areas. Allowing an open flow of movement makes it easier for kids to explore every inch of the playground and prevents bottlenecks.

5. Constructing Sections

Kids’ moods and energy levels can fluctuate throughout the week. Some days they may want to engage in loud, high-energy activities like playing on the monkey bars or creating a new game with friends. On other days they may want to spend time on quieter, low-energy activities like playing in a sandbox or garden and drawing on a chalkboard.

Planning for various types of play allows more kids to engage and interact with their environment. You can create sections and areas to accommodate these different energy levels — give kids space to be loud or quiet, to be active or sit and lie down.

6. Creating Intersecting, Inclusive Spaces

Kids of different ages and physical and mental abilities use playgrounds. However, separating a playground into different sections based on abilities or strength can result in a dull, exclusionary play area. Instead, look for ways to create inclusive intersections where kids of all abilities can interact and play together.

These spaces should look at strength and abilities as a scale.  Consider including play structures that have a range of difficulties for kids of varying strengths. You can even add ways for kids to interact at different levels on a single structure through elements like ramps or talking tubes.

7. Landscaping and Working With Nature

Working against nature can be time-consuming and expensive — uprooting a tree or removing a boulder takes considerable time and money. On the other hand, nature can be an excellent playground for kids to learn about their surroundings and the environment. Evaluate the existing natural elements when designing a playground and see if you can incorporate them into the new play area. Logs can become seats, trees can provide shade and rocks can make excellent stepping stones.

If an area has few natural elements, you can add them. Gardens filled with flowers, sand and logs are great places for kids to explore. Trees can border a playground and provide shade for kids, parents, teachers and guardians to play and supervise comfortably. Natural elements can also enhance the beauty of a playground, making it more appealing to kids and families.

8. Creating a Comfortable Space for Everyone

The final step in designing your playground is ensuring it is comfortable for everyone, from kids to adults. Ensure you have adequate seating for teachers, parents and guardians supervising kids while they play. Consider adding shade structures, covered benches, trash cans, water fountains or taps and playground signage. Early planning will help make the play area more comfortable and accessible for everyone who uses it.

Designing a Unique and Exciting Playground

Designing a unique and exciting playground can be challenging, but the results are well worth it. Miracle® Recreation provides a range of playground structures you can incorporate into your playground design.

Our products are designed to help landscape architects create playgrounds that can fulfill the design principles of playground architecture. For example, you can use single structures from our Hyperbolix™ range or connect several to form an intricate play area with varying difficulty levels. Consider our Miracle® Museum™ products to help you take advantage of underutilized space.

Our comprehensive range of playground equipment can help kids of all ages, abilities and skill levels enjoy the playground to the fullest. You can also customize them to suit your community, school or place of worship.

Design Something Beautiful With Miracle Recreation

Design Something Beautiful With Miracle Recreation

At Miracle Recreation, we work closely with professional landscape architects to design and install beautiful commercial playgrounds. Our team of design professionals combines your vision and budget with playground design architecture principles to help you create an exciting playground.

Contact a sales representative near you to get started on your next commercial playground!