10 Factors to Consider When Designing Outdoor Play Areas
A young mother recently told me of an embarrassing situation she experienced back in kindergarten. “While my class was playing outside on the playground, I had to use the bathroom. My teacher said to ‘run real fast’ back to the room – then come back immediately. I ran as fast as I could, but it was too late.”
I retell this story here to illustrate how important playground design is. A bathroom conveniently located near the playground would have saved this child from embarrassment, and many other young children, the humiliation of facing peers with soiled clothing. If you’re designing a new playground or making changes to an existing one, consider all of the factors that make a difference to your children and their parents.
For example. In a recent poll of parents who have children attending child care programs, safety is the number one concern. Parents want their children to attend programs where teachers and staff carefully supervise outdoor play and check equipment for safety hazards. Ask yourself, “What is the condition of the play equipment?” and “What happens if a child gets hurt?” Put policies and procedures into place for regular playground inspection or when designing your play area, consider all factors: How far is the playground from your indoor classroom? Is it near an outside entrance?
Can children come directly from their room to the play area, or do they have to cross a side street where there may be car traffic?