Designing a School Playground: What a Planner Must Consider

Before you ever see the final design of a playground, months of city and school planning go into preparing the area, and things from setting up the ground to hiring an inspector to surveying the location for the playground itself occur. For a school or park planner, planning the design of the playground can present several issues, from deciding where to place restrooms to how large the parking lot will be for parents. Each decision involves consequences and restrictions that a professional must consider.

Playground Area

Chances are you are not an inspector certified to decide where a good location will be for a playground, which is why most people will contact a professional. A pro will tell you the best location—a flat surface with suitable soil for draining and supporting the playground. To the untrained eye, most surfaces appear flat, but a surveyor will tell you for sure and describe how your soil may or may not be suitable for holding a playground. Planning out where the play area will be will typically be the first step, as the playground’s location will determine where the restroom, lights and fencing may go.


Design within the current landscape or around it? Those are your options. You can design a playground around a tree with plenty of shade, or remove the tree and allow for an open, uninterrupted environment. Of course, the professional surveyor will recommend whether you should keep certain brush or trees close to the playground or not, but it is strictly up to you.


If you are designing a school playground, chances are the restroom will be fairly close to the playground. For a park, designers do not need to put restrooms nearby. Some cities and towns will require the playground to be within a certain distance of a restroom, others will not. You may put the restroom wherever you see fit (but within a certain distance of the playground if your town or city requires it).

Parking Lot

One requirement all planners will have to take into consideration is the parking lot. According to the ADA, all playgrounds must be connected to the parking lot. Unfortunately, you cannot get around this requirement.


Some playgrounds look nice with fencing, and others do not. Some parks do need fencing to keep kids from running out into the street. The only types of playground sets that do require fencing are those within areas where high volumes of traffic pass by.

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