Ways to Upgrade and Enhance Playgrounds

Playgrounds can provide years of childhood fun for the kids in your community. Keeping your playground in excellent condition is a great way to entice families to keep choosing the outdoor play space you’ve cultivated.

Whether your playground could use some fixing up or you’re simply looking to make it more appealing to a growing and diverse community, you can make various updates to freshen it up. Kids will enjoy any new thrills you offer, and adults will appreciate your dedication to keeping the playground an exciting setting for exercise and imaginative play.

Why Update Older Playground Equipment?

When considering a playground upgrade, think about your community’s specific needs. Chances are, if you’re considering a playground update, you already have a few reasons in mind. Installing new playground equipment or revamping the surrounding area provides many benefits, including making the playground more:

Children on spinning playground equipment

  • Appealing to visit: As kids grow, they need activities that will challenge and excite them. If they’ve been playing with the same equipment for the past few years, change things up with a new section or two. Parents and caregivers will also appreciate additional places to comfortably supervise playtime, and everyone will want to make a habit of coming back.
  • Fun: New play elements open up entire worlds for kids’ imaginations. You can add various equipment to complement what you already have, or create a brand new setting for kids to use as a backdrop for their games.
  • Welcoming to more kids at once: Maybe your current playground is too small, or your community is expanding. As more kids come to play each day, you can prepare for everyone to have fun with a playground perfect for many kids to use at the same time. A bigger playground also fosters increased socialization, as kids can meet more friends and include more of their peers in imaginative games.
  • Accommodating and inclusive: Kids of all abilities deserve opportunities to play in spaces that help them grow and explore. When drafting playground upgrades, including accommodating equipment should be a top priority. In particular, if you’ve noticed a need in your community for more specifically inclusive spaces, an upgraded playground can help meet that need.
  • Commercially successful: If your playground belongs to an organization, such as a park or a place of worship, new play elements can help bring more families to your location.

10 Ways to Upgrade a Playground

Your older playground may still have years of life left in it. You have plenty of options for playground updates, from revitalizing the surrounding area to adding completely new structures and attractions.

Some options that can transform your playground into a thrilling, comfortable space for kids and caregivers include:

1. Climbing Elements

While all types of playground equipment provide thrilling adventures for kids, climbing, in particular, has many developmental benefits. It introduces a safe yet exciting risk, as kids find creative ways to summon their bravery and conquer new heights. Climbing helps kids build confidence in their abilities, and complex climbing structures even strengthen problem-solving skills.

In addition, as kids learn their way around new climbers, they’re also exercising. While climbing, kids engage a range of muscle groups in their arms, legs, back and core, and improve their hand-eye coordination. Climbing is a prominent feature for active play, enticing kids to get their heart rates up and increase their balance skills.

You can find numerous climbers to add to your playground that will introduce new thrills and upgrade play experiences for kids of all ages. A new climber or two is the perfect way to modernize an existing playground and complement the other equipment. Kids will love the new structures and may even incorporate them into imaginative games that broaden their creative thinking skills.

2. Free Play

Beyond providing opportunities for physical activity, playgrounds should also stimulate kids’ imaginations and promote many free play experiences. Free play is periods of unstructured activity that help kids expand their imaginations, develop social skills and improve their mental health.

Many positive childhood activities, such as sports, classes and playground games, have defined structures and rules. While these types of play are beneficial for giving kids structure and teaching them how to be patient and follow rules, kids should also have an equal mix of free play opportunities. Without specific rules to follow, kids can relieve stress and have natural occasions to socialize with other kids, share ideas and learn how to cooperate and compromise with each other.

Set the stage for all kinds of free play opportunities with a playground filled with equipment fit for roaming imaginations. Adding new equipment to your playground expands kids’ worlds and inspires them to create lasting memories. When kids encounter exciting new play elements, they’ll have even more fun exploring their creative sides.

Imaginative Themes

3. Imaginative Themes

Enhance the free play spaces at your playground with themed structures. Themes are the perfect way to jumpstart kids’ imaginations while leaving plenty of room for them to create their own stories based on the setting your playground provides. Some popular playground themes sure to enchant the kids in your community include:

Playground themes can also be educational. Kids can learn about history while exploring a castle-like structure or be inspired to follow a science career after pretending to be an astronaut planning the next space mission. You can also create a custom theme that honors your town’s history or prominent careers in a way that’s engaging for kids of all ages.

4. Inclusive Playground Equipment

All kids deserve play spaces they can fully enjoy. Inclusive and accessible playgrounds help make that possible by providing fun and enriching equipment and activities for kids of all abilities. You’ll make a difference in your community when you upgrade your playground to make it welcoming for everyone.

little girl on inclusive spinner

Inclusive equipment is one of the most important aspects of modern playgrounds, as it allows kids with and without disabilities to enjoy numerous playground activities. When you upgrade or replace your playground equipment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires you to comply with certain standards for people with mobility devices, including:

  • Accessible routes to the playground
  • Accessible routes to at least one of each type of ground-level play structure
  • Accessible routes to at least half of the playground’s elevated components
  • Handrails on both sides of any ramps
  • ADA-compliant surfacing that’s inspected and maintained regularly

For your playground to be a true asset to your community, consider going above and beyond the ADA standards. Rather than simply meeting minimum wheelchair accessibility requirements, aim to create a play area that’s truly innovative and fun for everyone in your community.

Your playground should also be inclusive for kids with a range of developmental needs. Quiet areas can be a refuge from loud, social play for kids with sensory processing disorder or autism spectrum disorder*.

In addition, you can make your playground enjoyable for kids with visual impairments and kids with hearing impairments by adding a range of sensory activities, such as musical instruments and chalkboards for writing messages and drawing pictures.

Making intentional decisions about playground accessibility and inclusivity can spark change for kids and adults. Inclusive playgrounds should also extend to sitting areas and equipment that allow parents or caregivers with disabilities to comfortably supervise their kids or join the fun. Your inclusive playground can serve as an example of how to make all spaces more inclusive throughout your greater community.

5. Playground Surfaces

All playgrounds need a comfortable, even ground surface to help cushion falls and absorb shock during active play. From toddlers learning how to walk to kids imagining elaborate games, everyone can benefit from a soft ground covering.

Depending on the type of ground surface your playground already has and the condition it’s in, you may want to upgrade it to provide a better, more accessible play experience.

Little girl on playground balancing log

Playgrounds can have two types of surfacing:

  1. Loose-fill: Loose-fill surfacing, such as engineered wood fiber, provides all-around cushioning. Keep in mind, however, that this surfacing does require continual maintenance to ensure appropriate depth.
  2. Unitary: Unitary surfacing provides the same coverage as loose-fill and is ADA-compliant, so everyone can easily move around.

If your playground needs new surfacing, consider a unitary option that allows for minimal maintenance and maximum accessibility.

As with any new playground equipment or accessory installations, follow the most updated guidelines regarding surfacing measurements and requirements.

6. Shade Structures

Transform your playground into a summer oasis with shade structures designed to keep everyone cooler and out of the sun.

Shade structures have many benefits, including:

  • A cooler play area: A shade structure stretched across your playground can make your play space up to 20 degrees cooler.
  • Cooler equipment: Lower temperatures in the shade make for equipment that’s cooler to the touch. Hot days often deter kids from playing on heat-retaining metal playgrounds. Shade can help decrease the chances of burns and let kids play outside comfortably on even the hottest days.
  • Sun protection: Shade structures can help protect kids from direct sunlight as they play. Many canopy fabrics can block up to 96% of the sun’s harmful UV rays, helping reduce the risk of sunburn so kids can spend more time outside.

Playground Shade

  • Inclusivity: Shade structures make your playground more welcoming to people with sun allergies or sensitivities. Many kids take medications that make them more susceptible to overheating and sun poisoning. Shade gives all kids the opportunity to play on sunny days.

Whether your playground is big or small, you’ll find a shade structure that adequately covers everything it needs to. Choose from several styles, including:

  • Cantilever: Benefit from a single-post design without it taking up space in the play area by using a cantilever structure that positions the post off to one side.
  • Hip: Get just the right shade fit for your playground with flexible hip styles.
  • Pyramid: Use a structure with a distinctive pyramid-shaped canopy for a sturdy and attractive shade solution over large play areas.
  • Integrated: See about using existing posts in your play equipment as a base for a shade canopy to minimize the number of poles you use and maximize play space.

You can mix and match numerous structures to customize the area of shade you need. Use a large canopy over the playground equipment surrounded by a few smaller canopies for seating areas and other site amenities.

7. Site Amenities

While your playground’s main features are its play structures, the surrounding accessories help make the space enjoyable for all who visit. Whether your play area is part of a larger park or a focal point of its own, you can add several elements to round out the playground experience.

Site Amenities for playground upgrades

If you want to upgrade your playground, consider these amenities:

  • Benches: Give adults a comfortable place to sit while they watch their kids play with benches scattered around the play area. Kids can also benefit from places to sit if they need a physical or mental break from active play.
  • Picnic tables: Offer additional seating with a few picnic tables around the playground. Families can take advantage of a nice day to pack a lunch when they head to the park, knowing they’ll have a comfortable place to spend the whole afternoon.
  • Litter receptacles: Wherever you encourage people to bring food, place a trash receptacle nearby. Containing trash helps keep your playground looking great and reduces the amount of litter going into the environment.
  • Bike racks: Encourage a healthy lifestyle that continues beyond play equipment by installing bike racks near your playground, inviting families to ride their bikes to and from playtime.

8. Greenery

One of the reasons playgrounds are so enticing is their outdoor setting. Nice weather calls kids and adults alike to go enjoy the sunshine. Make your playground even more of an outdoor haven by adding a variety of plants.

Whether your play space is already part of a vast natural landscape or is set in a more urban environment, plants can add charm to any play area. Visitors will love to sit among shrubs and vines that tie the outdoor experience together.

Research to find plants that will thrive in your area and look the best around your playground without becoming overgrown. Opting for native plants is a great way to contribute to the local ecosystem without introducing invasive species. You may want to avoid flowering plants that attract bees, as they might deter kids from enjoying your playground.

9. Fitness Stations

While your playground equipment may be strictly for kids, the adults in your community can also benefit from an active lifestyle. Make exercise as exciting as play by providing adult fitness stations.

Some of the biggest benefits of fitness stations include:

  • Time outdoors: Whether adults are accompanying kids to the playground or looking for a reason to get out of the house themselves, outdoor fitness equipment is a great motivator. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors can improve mental health and even boost physiological health.
  • Free exercise opportunities: Gym memberships and exercise classes can be expensive, which may make people feel at a loss for how to maintain an active lifestyle. Making your fitness stations free to the public can draw more people to the area and help your playground thrive.
  • Variety: Outdoor fitness areas invite people back again and again with their innovative designs. Some equipment looks like standard gym components, while other styles resemble classic playground structures, all of which will pique interest.

Man on Adult fitness equipment

  • Convenience: A fitness station near your playground will attract people who already frequent the area, such as parents who bring their kids to the playground. Parents and caregivers can take turns, with one exercising while the other supervises the kids.

You can also incorporate fitness stations for kids and teens who want to get their heart rates up. Fitness equipment helps your playground stay relevant as kids grow, so people of all ages can stay healthy and come back to your play area year after year.

10. Signage

If people in your community seem confused about playground rules or who the play area is for, consider adding signs that clearly state important information. You can customize these signs with details like your playground’s name, open hours and any rules you want everyone to follow.

Signs can also help distinguish between areas of your playground. Use them to designate suggested age groups for different sections of play equipment or to introduce fitness stations and explain how to use each component.

Signs lay out expectations for playground guests so everyone can help keep the space clean and fun. Additionally, they welcome visitors to the area and let everyone know who’s allowed to use the equipment and when. Offering added clarity about your playground will make people feel free to keep coming back.

Tips for Funding a Playground Upgrade

Tips for Funding a Playground Upgrade

If your playground needs a few updates that seem out of your budget, think again. Luckily, playground makeovers are possible to implement without breaking the bank.

When your organization needs some extra funds to add some more excitement to your playground, consider these tips for gathering community interest and financial support:

  • Build a fundraising team: Whatever fundraising options you go with, you’ll need a team of people dedicated to finding the best financial solutions.
  • Determine your budget: Decide what upgrades you want to do and figure out how much they’ll cost. Then, decide how much money you can realistically spend on certain updates and how you’ll cover those costs. Think about equipment prices and installation costs.
  • Involve local businesses: Look for community support from businesses that already have strong ties to your surrounding area. Local businesses may agree to sponsor your playground’s renovations in exchange for you recognizing their donations through signs and plaques around the play area.
  • Apply for grants: Depending on the scope of your playground renovations, you may be eligible to apply for federal, state and local government grants. Research grant opportunities to see which organizations could support your endeavors.
  • Host an event: Get your entire community involved in your playground’s future by hosting a ticketed event, where the proceeds go toward funding playground upgrades. Celebrating with families at a carnival, festival, fun run or other gathering helps your organization connect with the people your playground serves while crowdfunding from your community.

Contact Us

Partner With Miracle® Recreation for Your Playground Upgrades

Whether your playground’s needed upgrades are big or small, updating the space is a great way to keep families coming back to enjoy the thrills and comfortable outdoor environment. Upgrading your playground to make it more welcoming for everyone ensures you’re giving back to your community in a meaningful way.

Miracle Recreation offers a wide variety of equipment and amenities to make modernizing your playground possible. From our themed elements to our inclusive play equipment, we have everything you need to make your space the perfect place for all kids to play.

Contact us today for more information about our products and services, or request a quote for your next playground project!

*At Miracle Recreation, we’re aware of the ongoing debate in the autism community regarding the use of identity-first (autistic person) and person-first (person with autism) language. We understand the choice is a highly personal one, especially for individuals in the autism community, so we’ve decided to use a combination of person-first and identity-first language.