Daycare Outdoor Play Area Ideas and Activities

Daycare Outdoor Play Area Ideas & Activities

Play is one of the most crucial aspects of childhood, and daycare is full of opportunities for kids to practice. In particular, outdoor play spaces allow kids to play without structure while engaging in nature. Caregivers should strive to provide a daycare outdoor play area that can enhance child development.

Here are some daycare outdoor play area ideas and the advantages of letting kids in daycare play outside. Read the full article or skip ahead:

The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids in Daycare

Kids in daycare are at a pivotal point of development. Their bodies are growing, their brains are developing and they’re learning how to communicate with others. As a daycare educator, you can enhance kids’ growth by providing development-boosting activities.

Giving kids an outside space to play has even more benefits, as it reduces screen time and lets them spend more time in nature.

Play allows kids to develop physically, socially and cognitively. Giving kids an outside space to play has even more benefits, as it reduces screen time and lets them spend more time in nature.

Here are more benefits of outdoor play for daycare:

  • Physical benefits: Encouraging outside play from a young age can help kids grow into healthier adults. If they become used to outdoor activities when they’re young, they’re more likely to continue these behaviors in the future. As they engage in play, kids can practice motor skills and build muscles. Kids could also lower their body mass index (BMI) with more outside playtime, which can lower health risks overall.
  • Social benefits: Outdoor play also gives kids more opportunities to practice social skills. Playing outside in nature can feel freer than indoors, making kids more likely to open up. And many outdoor activities require teamwork or imaginative components. Kids can make friendships as they navigate playgrounds or other outdoor play spaces, whether they’re sharing and taking turns or engaging in make-believe stories.
  • Cognitive benefits: Many playgrounds are designed with educational elements, allowing kids to continue learning even during playtime. Kids also use critical thinking skills to make their way through playgrounds, try obstacle courses or create their own games. Caregivers can integrate lessons during playground time, as well, from identifying colors to counting features in the play area.
  • Emotional benefits: Spending time away from home and with other kids helps daycare-goers develop and use empathy and compassion. During outside play, kids can use these emotional skills even further as they play imaginatively. Kids also engage with their senses on the playground, gaining new experiences that help them develop emotionally.

Overall, time outside allows kids to think creatively while also developing crucial physical attributes. And with a designated play area, you can allow your daycare kids to experience these benefits more often.

How to Select Equipment

How to Select Equipment

When people think about outdoor play spaces, playgrounds commonly come to mind. These colorful structures let kids practice motor skills, like climbing and swinging, while they have endless fun. Vibrant and innovative playgrounds keep kids fascinated and eager to play. Daycare educators can pick engaging playground equipment that aids in development.

If you’re interested in establishing an outdoor play area, there are many considerations for your daycare playground design. You want to choose equipment that excites the kids but is also suitable for their ages and abilities. As kids make crucial physical and mental developments, they need equipment that challenges them while being suitable for them.

Remember that daycare equipment should also be durable. Kids at daycares use playgrounds very often and can be tough on the equipment. Look for a manufacturer that supplies high-quality and fun options.

You should also consider these factors as you select equipment:


First, think about the size of your daycare and how many kids would likely use the play space daily. It’s essential to design a play area that all kids can use comfortably. Kids can then spend more time with their favorite pieces when there’s adequate space for everyone.

You can also think about adding additional pieces to your outdoor play area for daycare. For instance, adding an extra sandbox or similar activity gives kids different play options. These additional pieces of equipment also increase your capacity. And, the more options available, the more likely kids will stay engaged.


Next, many daycare playgrounds adopt specific themes. A theme excites young kids and might influence them to use imaginative play. For example, a space-themed playground could encourage kids to play like astronauts, which will complement any lessons you’re teaching about space.

Be sure to choose a theme that would enthrall all ages at your daycare. While a theme isn’t required, it’s a cool way to enhance the play experience for the kids.

These are some examples of possible playground themes:

  • Underwater: This theme could feature blue colors and designs of underwater animals like fish or dolphins. You could also add pieces that look like seaweed or coral and even use blue colors in your surfacing.
  • Vehicles: A vehicle-based playground could have a variety of vehicles featured in all areas. From cars and trucks to planes and trains, kids could play on all types of vehicles and imagine they’re traveling to new places.
  • Outer space: You could implement a space-themed playground with a blue and purple color scheme and play panels decorated with moons or constellations.
  • Nature: With a nature-themed playground, you can implement designs of plants like trees and flowers. This theme can help kids get even more excited about nature.

Types of Equipment

As you start selecting equipment pieces for your daycare playground, it’s important to consider age-appropriateness. Ages in daycare can vary widely, from infants to school-aged kids. You need to provide play equipment that appeals to all the ages in your daycare so no child feels left out.

Older and younger kids prefer varying types of play, and the different groups also have different equipment considerations. For example, a 3-year-old would need shorter equipment than an 11-year-old.

A playground for ages 2 to 5 might feature:

  • Age-appropriate climbing opportunities: Kids of these ages are still getting the hang of climbing, so the steps and other climbing spaces on the playground shouldn’t be too high. They should be lower to the ground to fit this age range’s height and use soft materials.
  • Shorter slides: Slides are one of the signature components of playgrounds. For younger kids, slides should be shorter and less steep. That way, they can still have fun on the slides in a size-appropriate way.
  • Sensory activities: Sensory playground equipment engages kids’ senses — sight, touch, hearing, and more. Kids between the ages of 2 and 5 are still discovering their senses and how the world works, making these sensory activities crucial. Sensory playground pieces might have musical capabilities or opportunities to explore tactile senses, like a sandbox.

Some daycares offer before- and after-school programs for school-aged kids, such as those ages 5 to 12. These kids also use playground equipment, but the equipment they enjoy might look slightly different because they are further along in their physical and cognitive development.

To be considerate of older kids’ developmental needs, daycares might need to add additional equipment that they can play on. Play areas for them might include:

  • Taller equipment: School-aged kids are often much taller than preschoolers, so their playground equipment should shift to accommodate this. The playground could have taller ladders, stairs and slides.
  • More challenging activities: Because this age range is older, they often have more developed motor skills. School-age kids could try more challenging features, such as the monkey bars or a balance beam.

Keep these considerations in mind as you begin choosing playground pieces. Try to select a variety of equipment that multiple age ranges at your daycare can enjoy.


You should also plan your daycare playground layout. Consider the outside space you have available and let this guide the size of your playground. Playground manufacturers should supply you with the equipment’s dimensions and adequate spacing suggestions. It helps to have a measurement of your available space ready so you can quickly determine if a playground component will work for your daycare.

You can also think about how you want to arrange your equipment. You might want separate equipment for younger and older kids. Or, you could make all of your equipment blend together. If you want additional equipment, such as swing sets or sandboxes, think about where you want those to fit in, too.

Beyond typical playground equipment, there are many alternative accessories you can add to your daycare's outside play area.

Other Ideas

Beyond typical playground equipment, there are many alternative accessories you can add to your daycare’s outside play area. You can engage kids and keep them excited about playing by implementing creative daycare outdoor activities and stations. Additional elements can also encourage kids to stay creative and curious while outside.

These are a few additional outdoor play ideas in childcare you can consider:

Green Spaces

One way to get kids excited about nature is by implementing green spaces in your play area, which give kids the opportunity to interact with the outdoors. You can add a variety of plants to your outdoor space, from trees and bushes to flowers. That way, kids can spend time around plants while they play outside, which can help reduce stress. Daycare-goers might also become interested in how plants grow and start asking science-related questions.

You could even start your own green space with your kids. Create a long-term project where every student gets to plant their own flower or another type of plant. As the plants grow, you can explain how sunshine and water help growth. Kids can track their plants’ growth and share their homegrown garden pride.

Sensory Equipment

Sensory equipment has many developmental benefits for kids. These components stimulate kids’ developing senses while they play on these innovative pieces. In turn, daycare-goers get inspired to continue exploring.

Sensory play also helps with language development. As they take turns on the equipment, kids can share their discoveries with their friends. This allows them to put thoughts and feelings into words, a critical developmental skill. Using this type of equipment is also relaxing, as kids are mindful of their senses and the playground around them.

You can implement sensory equipment anywhere in your outdoor play space. Some playground sets come with built-in sensory pieces, or you can buy them as separate pieces and fit them into your layout a different way.

Here are some examples of sensory equipment you could include in your daycare outdoor play area:

  • Musical instruments: Musical pieces encourage kids to use their creativity while developing their sense of sound and teaching them about cause and effect. They can have fun practicing on an instrument like the Chimes, or test out their rhythmic skills on drums.
  • Textured panels: Sensory panels are a great way to practice tactile and visual skills. Some are available in a maze or other signature designs that keep kids engaged.
  • Sandboxes: A sandbox offers a fun way to develop tactile senses. Kids can use their hands to sculpt sand into fun designs. You can add sandboxes as standalone features, making them easy to fit into any playground layout.

Safety Considerations

One of the most crucial aspects of play spaces is safety. As daycare supervisors, you put a lot of attention into kids’ well-being. Play areas need to be designed so kids can have fun and stay safe.

These are some aspects to consider:

  • Terrain: The terrain of your play area is the natural land underneath and surrounding it. A flat terrain is usually best for a playground. Avoid areas with sloped land or large tree roots. You should also try to keep your outdoor space away from high-traffic areas.
  • Sun protection: Long hours on the playground in the summer are always exciting for kids. But they need to stay protected from UV rays and too much sun exposure. Make sure your outdoor play space has enough shade for your kids. They’ll need relief from the heat, and shade can help them stay refreshed. If your outside space doesn’t naturally have shade, you can buy additional shade structures.
  • Fencing: You should also add a fence to your outdoor play space. Physical barriers establish the clear boundaries of the play area and can help keep kids from wandering off.
  • Surfacing: Surfacing is another big consideration for your daycare playground. These are the materials that make up the surfaces below your equipment. Installing proper playground surfacing can help protect your daycare-goers while they are having fun. Choose surfacing recommended for playgrounds like engineered wood fiber. Unitary surfacing, like pour-in-place rubber, is more accessible for kids with wheelchairs.

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Design Your Play Area With Miracle® Recreation

Giving kids opportunities to play outside can facilitate positive development. Miracle Recreation is dedicated to creating thrilling and innovative playgrounds for kids, including those at daycare facilities. As one of the oldest and largest playground manufacturers, we understand the importance of healthy outdoor play. We pride ourselves in creating exciting play spaces that aid kids’ development.

If you’re looking to install a daycare playground, get started with Miracle Recreation today. We can help you build a customized play space for your needs. Feel free to browse our products or request a quote from us today!