Category Archives: Playground Planning

Playground Fundraising Ideas

What is the best fundraiser for your school playground?

Playground fundraising is one of the most challenging obligations any school PTA/PTO or church can take on. Finding the balance between time, energy, and overall fit given your school’s region and resources and maximizing them is a science. An average sized commercial playground for a school of 1,200 students will cost close to $50,000. That’s $41.67 per child! Fortunately, the Fundraising Success E-book Suite takes all of the pain out of the research process for determining the best fundraising ideas.  Kimberly Reynolds has reviewed over 170 fundraiser ideas that work for schools, churches, daycares and non-profits and quantified each of these to determine the best overall performers. To view the complete list of over 250 pages and 170 products, in addition to the 300 pages of supplier profiles by category and a whopping authoritative guide to fundraising, visit Fundraising Success and scroll to the link on the left address bar to “My Book” to gain instant access to the e-book suite. This is THE definitive guide to school fundraising. Continue reading

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!

Playground Planning: The Definitive Guide to Planning a Commercial Playground for Your Church, School, Daycare, Neighborhood, or Public Park

playground equipment postingWhether it’s a church playground, school playground, daycare, or a neighborhood public park, each outdoor playground requires significant planning to maximize your funds.  Playground planning should recognize that each playground experience is unique to each child, and each commercial playground is unique in its site features, layout, design components, and visual appeal.  Also See 14 Layout Considerations for Your Playground.  The cycle consists of the following:

Community: Playground Planning: top

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5 Ways to Save Thousands When Buying Your Playground Equipment

Stretching your playground equipment budget:

Commercial Playground Equipment Blue over Rubber Playground Surfacing_620x350Buying playground equipment requires a wealth of resources including funds and manpower.  With some commitment from your local community, you can save thousands with these tips. Here’s how your playground equipment budget will normally be allocated by percentage with a typical turn-key project:

Description Percentage
Equipment 60%
Installation 28%
Playground Borders 7%
Mulch/In-fill 10%
Taxes/Shipping 5%
Total 100%
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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:


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.

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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14 Layout Solutions for your Playground Design

Bonded Rubber Playground Surfacing1. Organize zones to facilitate play and minimize conflicts, e.g. locate quiet play areas away from active spaces

2. Provide areas that encourage group interaction as well as places from solitary and partner play

3. Avoid putting high-activity zones close to transitional zones

4. Locate compatible play zones close together, e.g. creative play and social play can be placed adjacent

5. Design all play zones for child-initiated activity

6. Locate play areas for toddler and areas involving quiet, creative activities near the entry to building

7. Use low, natural partitions and different surfacing materials to define zones, i.e. EWF hardwood fibers around swings, and pour-in-place rubber surfacing around the playsystem

8. Use space wisely, leaving some areas open. Cluttered playground detracts from children’s explorations and cause injuries

9. Plan zones to take advantage of any prominent or unusual elements, e.g. physical area around a sloped designed for running

10. Be sure that equipment landscaping do not interfere with visual supervision. Adults must have a clear line-of-sight

11. Retain as many existing trees, shrubs, and other landscaping as possible.

12. Locate equipment away from dumpsters, heavy traffic and loud noises. Plant trees or build fences and visual barriers to block nuisances.

13. Make sure site is accessible for maintenance and emergency equipment

14. Use your imagination. Paint stones, create a mural, make hand prints in cement. Cue children through the color, shape and type of materials that this is their place to play.

The following was adapted from Tracy Theemes’ “Let’s Go Outside! Designing the Early Childhood Playground”

If you’re looking for a fundraising partner or program, don’t forget to review the Fundraising Resources pages on the top right tab.  If you are located in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, or North Carolina and would like assistance with designing your playground,  please contact us at

8 Important Planning Considerations for your Playground Design

Good playground design involves balancing your children’s needs, volume, age distribution, developmental aspects, and site conditions. Assess your present space by drawing a rough diagram. Include the seasonal aspects of your layout including sunlight, wind direction, snow/ice/rain. Observe the following:

  • type and amount of natural materials
  • small vs. large space
  • topographical features, e.g. steep slopes, trees, rocks
  • shared spaces with other age groups
  • shaded area–either hard shelter or shade structure

You’ll need assess the following site conditions:

1. Measure your site and scale to your drawing. Triangulate your area be placing flags that will act as your measuring points, e.g. pt A, pt B, pt C. You’ll then be able to take effective measurements as triangles. Once you have all sides to a triangle, e.g. A to B to C, you’ll be able to calculate your area. The site can be split into rectangles, triangles and circles as you place your flags.

2. Identify all existing elements on the site: paths, trees, shrubs, fencing, buildings, large rocks, drainage, and swales.

3. Identify the plants and trees present and check that are all nontoxic

4. Note any areas affected by the sun, shade, wind, rain, and snow

5. Locate any underground services, such as sewer, water and gas. Any overhead power or phone lines? Any overhanging roof or tree branches?

6. Indicate any natural slopes or valleys

7. Identify any drainage problems

8. Determine if there’s a connection to water for play activities

Operational aspects:

In addition to overall environment, address the folloiwing:

* How will it be financed?

* What are the zoning requirements? What permits are needed?

* Determine the best source for evaluating, and ordering equipment and materials. KorKat can assist with the initial design and specifications for obtaining quotations.

* Consider your installation method–self-install, community build, turn-key installation

* Who will do landscaping and initial site preparation?

The following was adapted from Tracy Theemes’ “Let’s Go Outside! Designing the Early Childhood Playground”

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.  If you are planning a playground in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, or North Carolina and would like additional advice as to making the most of an existing budget, please contact us at