Recently, we've been talking about the importance of playground equipment - and indeed, all school facilities - in kids' development during their school years. It plays just a crucial a role as the classroom, and for that reason, schools need to take a step back and look at the big picture when they're considering what equipment to purchase, and who's going to install it for them.

The proper design, of course, is essential - and we've outlined the key elements that go into playground design. Just as important is deciding what equipment is going to feature in that design. It needs to be something that not only works with the space you have, and the age range of your kids, but can be adapted as things change in the school grounds.

It's important to keep in mind that your school - like all the others - isn't going to design and build a new playground, add bike stands and shelters, refit bathrooms and install outdoor furniture all in one go. For most schools, these are on-going projects that take place over a period of years in a staged approach.

That approach means taking a step back and take a long term view of how areas will flow, what they will look like, and what they might need in the future. Temporary fixtures are useful here and a good equipment designer/manufacturer will be able to provide equipment that's easily removed or relocated. Keep the big picture in mind, and go with a long-term strategy.

Here’s how you can create a successful school ground in 3 steps:

1. Conduct a playground audit

The first thing you need to do is perform am audit - not just of the playground, but other outdoor areas as well. Bike stands, outdoor seating and dining, sports fields - these all need to be taken into account when you assess your playground needs. Keep in mind considerations such as the size of the play area, how many kids might be using it at any given time, and the possibility of reclaiming some of the area for a different function later on.

Your audit should consider what equipment you already have. Are you replacing some of it, or will it be incorporated into the new design? How flexible is it - can it be adapted for a different purpose in the future? How popular is it - will you face a backlash if you get rid of it? Once you have a clear idea of what equipment you're keeping, how it's going to fit in, and what you're getting rid of, you'll be better placed to make decisions around new equipment.


2. Do your homework

It's essential to do your due diligence when researching playground equipment. Check websites, read customer reviews, and ask if any free literature is available on playground equipment selection. Talk to other schools about their facilities - do they have anything you admire in terms of equipment? If so, arrange a discussion with them to find out who provided the equipment and what kind of results they've had with it.

When you're considering aesthetics, you need to make a decision around what kind of statement you're making. Is it going to be bold, colourful equipment that stands out, or do you want to create a setting that blends with your current environment?


3. Selecting an equipment provider

Not all school ground equipment providers are created equal. There are some key considerations to keep in mind when you're sourcing a school and playground equipment provider:

  • Experience – look for someone who's been around for a long time and understands the environment your school is in

  • Their own designs - they should be able to show you examples of what they have done - real-world designs currently being used at other schools and playgrounds

  • Reputation – evaluate online reviews and inspect the work they have done for others

Throughout the process of selecting equipment and a provider, regularly ask yourself: am I keeping the big picture in mind? Am I taking a long-term view of the new playground and other outdoor facilities? Am I being limited by 'brick wall vision' - something I'll run up against in years to come? Try to remain as flexible as possible and communicate your long-term plans and the big picture to your equipment provider. They'll help you to crystallise your thoughts and they'll likely provide ideas that you haven’t considered yet. Their take on a long-term view of your school and its facilities will play a key part in your selection decision.