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5 Tips to Build the Ideal Playground and Recreational Amenities for Your Apartment Community

Girl riding on Grandmother's BackWell-designed playgrounds and recreational areas in apartment and condominium communities add beauty to the grounds and create a more attractive environment for potential residents. Making use of the natural environment and incorporating features geared towards the largest demographic groups can help your top-notch community stand out amongst the competition.

Here are 5 tips to build the ideal playground and recreation amenities for your apartment.

1. Assess the play and recreational needs of the community.

Determine who will be using the recreational areas. Is the community family-focused, located near a college campus, or built for the needs of retirees? How many units does the community have?

For example, family-oriented communities should feature playgrounds and places for children to be active. Athletic facilities, such as basketball courts and outdoor fitness centers, will draw much wanted interest. Communities for retirees would best benefit from walking trails, outdoor fitness stations, and social gathering spaces, like a pavilion with seating and tables. If the community allows pets, designated dog-walking areas and off-leash areas are big a benefit to draw prospective residents.

2. List the community’s needs.

List the most important needs for your community. Whether the community is large or small, having a list of needs is key to ensure the most important features are included in the construction plan. A sample list of playground equipment and amenities is listed below to help guide the list-making process.

Family-Focused Community Sample List
1. Age-appropriate playground equipment and safety surfacing
2. Walking and biking paths
3. Spray ground for zero-depth water play
4. Dog-walking and off-leash areas
5. Athletic areas
6. Picnic pavilions and shaded outdoor seating areas

Retiree Community Sample List
1. Outdoor fitness zones
2. Walking and jogging trails
3. Social gathering areas with pavilions and seating
4. Shaded seating around the pool
5. Dog-walking and off-leash areas

Most importantly, create a marketing plan for the new playground and recreational area. Work with local media outlets and update the community’s website to make sure the public knows about the exciting opportunities to play, exercise and socialize in the community.

3. Create your construction plan.

A well-defined plan for playground and recreational areas is key to aquiring the funding needed and ensuring the completion of the project. Working with your local park and playground consultant is the best way to make sure the plan meets safety and accessibility guidelines as well as meets the needs of the community. A knowledgeable, experienced consultant can help create an overall design the flows with natural features of the area, such as trees and hills, and match the aesthetic influence of the community by incorporating coordinating colors and interesting focal lines into the design.

4. Building the community’s playground and recreational areas.

Most playground companies work with certified installers and contractors who are experienced with building playgrounds, outdoor fitness stations, pavilions, dog parks and spray grounds. If the community is already working with a contractor, the playground company can provide detailed construction drawings and even a construction supervisor to aid in the building process.

5. Watch the community play!

Launch your marketing plan to tell the public about the newly-built playground and recreational areas. Invite prospective residents to visit and see the new features that makes your community a place to truly call home. Providing a wealth of comforts and activities for your community creates an inviting and attractive environment for prospective residents. By utilizing these simple tips, you can build a welcoming atmosphere for your community.

Building Church Playgrounds for Congregation & Community

Church PlaygroundsBuilding a church playground has many benefits. It offers a sense of stability for its members by investing in a fun, safe place for children to play. Church playgrounds offer a visible location for children to gather before and after services and keeps them away from parking areas or roadways. An attractive play space draws families looking for a new church home and offers an opportunity to reach out to others through church-led events that reach out to the community.

Use of the play space should be the first consideration when planning for a church playground. Will the playground be used before and after services or as a part of church day care or school programs? This is key in determining how many children and what age groups will be using the playground. Refer to our Playground Planning Guide for additional details.

Church Playground EquipmentLocation, location, location! The playground should be positioned on the church grounds so it makes the most impact. A visible playground invites families to visit the church and encourages the community to participate in outreach activities. Making use of natural elements on the property (such as trees or boulders) can make the play space even more appealing. The church playground equipment itself can be themed or brightly colored to create a whimsical play space or incorporate interesting lines and colors that match the architecture of the church building. If the church is located in a downtown area or historical district, check the local building codes to make sure there are no restrictions regarding height of equipment, bright colors, shade structures, etc.

The best way to begin planning for playground equipment is start from the ground up. Check for adequate drainage, so that the new playground does not become a bog after heavy rain. Gather information on the different types of safety surfacing and choose which one is best for the play space. Remember, some types of surfacing, such a poured in place rubber, require sub-bases that increase cost. Loose fill surfacing can be installed over a layer of geo textile cloth to prevent weed growth at a lower rate than solid playground surfacing, but a containment system will be needed to keep the surfacing within the borders of the play space.

Select equipment and activities to create a balanced play environment. Transitional areas between buildings and play zones allow children to decide how and where they want to play. Zones for creative and imaginative play, social and dramatic play, physical play, and interaction with natural elements are key to a well-rounded environment. A balanced play environment encourages children to engage in active play and healthy social interaction on the playground. Examples of playground components include:

  • Merry Go Round (merry-go-round)- Most available in stand-up dozen w/up to 3-4 children
  • Seesaw (See-saw)– Either spring-mounted, or fulcrum based with soft impact cushion underneath
  • Monkey Bars (overhead ladder)– If kids under 5 years of age, must be <60″ tall w/access ladders, otherwise <84″ tall w/ladder over 5-years of age
  • Playstructure– Composite playsystem with multiple modular climbing, sliding, interactive components
  • Swingsets (multi-bay, multi-access swings)- Infant seats, Belt seats, or Tire Swings

Will the playground be a community build project (built by church volunteers) or built by certified playground installers? A community build is a great way to reduce the overall cost of a playground project. Organize a weekend for volunteers to pitch to build the new equipment. Few playgrounds are built in one day, so allow a few days to complete construction. Also, volunteers need to supply tools, heavy equipment (such as an auger), concrete, ladders, wheelbarrows and other items depending on the equipment being built. Other volunteers can provide beverages, snacks and childcare during the community build. Follow up with the volunteers regularly prior to the build to date to ensure everyone arrives with the necessary supplies on the big day. Having a playground installed by a certified installer takes away the worry of ensuring the equipment installed to meet safety standards and manufacturer’s specifications. A certified installer can stream-line the installation process, taking stress off of the project leader and completing the project (in some cases) in less time than a community build. Refer to the Community Build Guide

Now that the new playground is completed, invite church members and the community to come outside and play!

Commercial Shade Structures distributed by KorKat, Inc.

Commercial Shade Structures distributed by KorKat, Inc.

Shade structures offer great protection from overexposure to UV rays and discomfort from elements when enjoying the outdoors.  Commercial shade structures are an affordable alternative to wood or steel structures.  In addition to protecting your skin, tension membrane structures offer protection from foul balls, cover from rain up to 80%, heat by up to 20 degrees, and block up to 97% of UV rays.

Commercial shade structures can be built into or over existing playground equipment; over bleachers; parking lots and car washes; water parks and over pool decks; picnic areas; or over sidewalks/walkways, or any outdoor gathering places.

Superior Shades offer a number of benefits compared to most other manufacturers.  The tensioned fabric will not stretch or flap in heavy winds as a result of wind stress.  It’s unique optional glide elbow is a release mechanism to easily remove the fabric for storing during the off-season or during inclimate weather. The fabric itself is warranted against fade resistance in addition to being fire-retardant. The shade fabric is offered in fourteen colors and is also mildew and rot resistant.

There aren’t many areas that can’t be covered by shade given the variety of options.  For example, a traditional square or rectangle shade is ideal for picnic areas, pools and pool decks, playground enclosure, bleachers, dugouts or concession areas.

Cantilever shades are suspended on two posts and can extend up to 24’ out over parking areas, sidewalks or walkways, pool decks.

Polygons are available in five, six, or eight sides and perfect for picnic areas, playground equipment, or over a water park or splash park

In addition to traditional shades, modular shade structures can be integrated into playground equipment as a canopy, or offer cover to swing seats, and individual benches and tables.

Shade sails are the ultimate in terms of flexibility and functionality.  The variety of designs are endless offer a … In addition to being utilized for traditional environments such as playgrounds, picnic areas, water parks, shade sails can also be used for amphitheaters, sports fields, and spectator seating areas.

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How To Compare Playground Designs

Comparing your playground designs

Be sure your playground incorporates as many play experiences as possible.  Remember, it isn’t always the number of play events that are on a play structure that make it a good value, but the value of the play itself.

Comparing your playground equipmentAs an example, let’s compare Playground A vs.  Playground B

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Playground Planning: Include These “7 Zones” To Create a Balanced Playground Environment

Before choosing the actual layout for your playground, it’s helpful to have an overall plan or design for the placement of furnishings.  You will want to organize the space in a way that will promote physical and social play while minimizing conflicts.  The following is called the zoned approach and was outlined in Esbenson in his book “The Early Childhood Playground: An Outdoor Classroom”. Similar to the way a classroom is arranged  into specific areas or centers, small groupings of functionally separate outdoor play areas called zones can enrich children’s interaction with the equipment, nature, adults, and one another.  Instead of having one large, central structure that attempts to provide a variety of experiences and activities for children, each zone includes several smaller, related activities and pieces of equipment. This allows more active play areas to be separated from areas that involve less noisy creative of manipulative activities and can help minimize the tendency for louder, bigger boys to dominate a play structure.
Esbenson outlines seven distinct zones:

1. Transition zone: The area between your building and the playground or between different play zones.  This area allows children time  and space to decide where they want to go as they enter the playground.  This can include open space, or seating areas. Items to consider: picnic tables and benches, Shade Structures, Picnic Shelters, Bleachers. Continue reading

Playground Equipment and Autism- The Sensory Rich Playground for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Young children learn by using all of their senses, so your playground should offer as many experiences as possible. For kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, this need for balance can be extreme. The more sensory experiences, the more is learned and gained during development.  The playground should include the following sensory areas:

Visual:top

girl_playingColor and Varying Elevations: Adults tend to look at the functional aspect of playgrounds that includes the natural coloration and a traditional theme.  Ofttimes, the natural looking playground is aesthetic for the adult rather than the child.  It’s rare that the typical child-oriented environment consists of typical natural coloration, i.e. beige, green, brown.  More likely, a playground with a variety of shapes, colors, and forms will offer the most stimulation and improve spatial perception.

Vestibular:top
The vestibular system consists of small, liquid-filled tubes in the inner ear and is important in maintaining a child’s sense of balance.  The movement of liquid through these canals produces stimulation of the nervous system. Sensory experiences change every time the head moves in a different direction or at a different speed; this explains children’s great enjoyment of whirling, spinning, swing, or being tossed in the air.   During the first years, children’s vestibular systems are very receptive to even small amount s of stimulation, and slight variations in speed and direction have a substantial effect on balance.  The vestibular system works with the senses of touch and vision as well as sensations from the joints and muscles to help children orient themselves in space.  When children go down a slide, for example, they both feel and see themselves moving downward through space.  by about the age of 8, the sensory-motor development of children is well established.

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Playground Safety in Georgia, What Do You Need to Know?

While the national safety standards for playground equipment as established by ASTM and CPSC are still considered as “voluntary standards”, each state may have its own criteria. The Childinjurylawyerblog has a great summary of Georgia daycare center playground rules and regulations.

You can download the Georgia Daycare Center Playground Area Standards here. The outdoor play area requirements begin on page 3.

Here’s a reference to an evaluation of Georgia daycare center playgrounds that likely led to the adoption of these facility standards. Atlanta playground hazards in childcare centers

Georgia does not recognize a national standard for playground equipment, according to the National Program of Playground Safety.  They’ve included a list of State Regulations for Playground Safety Standards.

In addition, the Georgia Construction Industry Licensing Board does not license general contractors or specialty contractors such as playground contractors. In order to do business in this state, you will need to contact the local city or county where work is to be performed. Website: http://www.sos.state.ga.us./plb/construct/

For a Licensing Requirements for Contractors In Your State.

Your best solution is to find a reputable vendor, design consultant, and installer that is NPSI certified.  The equipment should also be IPEMA certified, and the design and access should all meet ADAAG (accessibility standards).  If you are planning a playground in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky or North Carolina and would like assistance, please contact us at .

Don’t forget to reference the Fundraising Resources page on the top right tab, for products and resource to help you with your playground fundraiser.

Restore Rubber Playground Surface with a Roll Coat Application

Restore Rubber Playground Surface with Roll Coat Application

[leadplayer_vid id=”52B311704B0D2″]  Rubber playground surfaces, referred to as poured-in-place (PIP) surfacing, are a great investment for your public playground, but may require restoration through a Roll Coat topping. Unfortunately, rubber playground surfacing is not a maintenance free option and you’ll see that through normal use and exposure to elements, the surface will start to degrade from:

  • fading and discoloration,
  • thinning of the top course through the loss of granules around high traffic areas
  • peeling off of shredded rubber when using a bonded rubber

Once the granules are washed off  they can not be reapplied without completely adding another layer application (approximately 3/8″ thick). Generally, the fading and minimal loss of granules is not covered by the warranty.  If steps are taken through a Roll Coat process early on, you’ll extend the appeal of the surfacing with color in addition to  potentially extending the warranty of your investment.  Given the average cost of $12.50 per square foot for PIP rubber, and the average playground size of 2000 square feet, you’ll want to extend this capital project as far beyond the 5-year warranty of most PIP surfacing manufacturers.
If used in a waterpark, or splashpark, the use of a Roll Coat is essential to preserving the life of the product.  Most warranties for a waterpark setting are one year. The added chemicals, or salt break down the glue (binder) and the rubber granules will wash out through the filter system.  The glue is not intended to be submerged in a water, so annual or even semi-annual applications may be required.  The Roll Coat binder is “painted” on w/roller brushes, so we can provide the materials for future applications, as well as ship to any of your other locations.
The benefits of rubber playground surfacing are tremendous in terms of added play value through integrated designs, accessibility to special needs individuals, and a consistent fall absorption. As an alternative to engineered wood fiber (EWF–certified playground surfacing), or other loose-fill playground surfaces (including loose-fill nuggets or shredded rubber mulch) that require replenishment rubber surfacing will add years of fulfillment to your park, school, church or daycare playground.  Contact us at www.korkat.com for do-it-yourself Roll Coat Kits,  Poured-In-Place Patch Kits, Bonded Rubber Patch Kits.

Save Thousands By Installing Your Playground Equipment As a Community Build

One of the best ways to stretch your playground budget is by having a community build to install your playground equipment. Considering installations run between 25-40% of your total budget, it can be a disappointment to know that $6000 of a $10000 budget actually goes toward the equipment, while the rest is applied to installation/shipping/mulch/borders/taxes, etc. Those who install their own playground gain a sense of ownership and responsibility toward the finished project, and the pride felt by the volunteers in their accomplishment translates into pride toward the school or the community. You’d be surprised the number of people willing and able to put their tools & efforts to work.

What is needed for your playground installation: Unfortunately, the major power tools should be left at home. The only major tools/equipment (assuming the site is level) are an auger/bobcat and a great attitude.  Depending on the scale of your installation, the community build can be completed in a day or two (weather & volunteers permitting).  Usually, the day prior to build is spent laying and punching the holes; prepping the components; and laying out the equipment in advance of your volunteers. The key to organization is having activities for everyone to do, without requiring a lot of cooks in the kitchen.  The groups can be split into teams to tackle the various phases:

  • offloading and unpacking  and sorting equipment
  • site preparation
  • post and platform assembly
  • panel and component assembly
  • borders and mulch installation team
  • 1 or 2 runners for hardware/tooling drinks & food
  • Project managers to coordinate the event.

The most important priority is to remember that this should be FUN!!!!  Ask local companies to donate goods or services to the Build Day, from construction materials to food and beverages. Offer free publicity or advertising on your playspace’s signage as an extra enticement. Here are a few more tips:

  1. Check before you dig!!!! Call ahead to have your local services identified on your build site—includes sprinkler lines
  2. Verify that your design plans and installation instructions are in-line with site
  3. Offload and secure equipment until build day
  4. Review all of the installation instructions thoroughly before build day
  5. Make sure the site has been prepared properly, i.e. less than 2% grade
  6. Secure area off for 72 hrs to allow concrete to cure
  7. Secure area from access if no surfacing has been installed
  8. Provide adequate dumpster and haul off packaging

COMMUNITY BUILD PLAYGROUND

TOOLS & RESPONSIBILITIES

  1. Customer to dig and clean holes and remove spoils. This must be done a minimum of one day before the actual build day.  Customer is responsible to meet and unload truck and assist in sorting hardware if we are providing supervision on build day.
  2. Manufacturer Representatives will assist and laser holes in some cases if we are also providing supervision.
  3. Customer to provide and install concrete and provide 2” thick concrete paver blocks(stepping stones) to be placed in the bottom of the main structure holes.
  4. Recommended Tools:
  • a.      14” – 18” Auger bit – 12” minimum-Recommend using a Bobcat with auger attachment
  • b.      Post hole diggers – 2 or 3
  • c.      Tape Measures – Long and Short
  • d.      2 Foot Level – 1 or 2
  • e.      4 Foot Level – 1 or 2
  • f.       Ladders – 2 each 6 foot or 8 foot or possible other heights
  • g.      Torpedo Levels – 12” Magnetic – 2-3
  • h.      Various Shovels and Garden Rakes
  • i.        Ratchets Wrenches 3/8” – 4-5
  • j.        9/16” sockets – 4-5
  • k.      Electric Drills – 2 – Don’t recommend cordless
  • l.        ¼” Drill Bits – 4-5
  • m.   Extension Cords
  • n.      Water Hose and Nozzle
  • o.      Wheel Barrow – 3-4
  • p.      Pry Bar (Digging Bar) 6 foot – 1 – CRITICAL
  • q.      Concrete
  • r.       2 – 4               8ft pressure treated 2 x 4’s
  • s.      2 Tables 3×6 or 3×8 in width and length or 2 picnic tables.
  • t.       2 Long handle sledge hammers if plastic border timbers  ordered
  • u.     4-6 Milk crates used for various purposes