Building 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.
Location, 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!