Designing a playground for early age kids involves more than choosing age-appropriate equipment. It’s important to design a whole play environment that helps them develop the skills they need and enjoy their playtime. Whether you are designing for daycare centers or preschools, keeping a few key developmental needs in mind can help ensure that your playground design provides both skills development and fun.
Simple interactions with both equipment and environment can give kids experience with how the physical world works. Provide opportunities to push, pull, dig, build, roll, collect, or spill things. Try to include items that have multiple uses and/or settings that the children can alter by themselves to encourage hands-on discovery.
Appeal to children’s senses. Think beyond brightly colored equipment. Engage touch, hearing and smell in addition to sight. Textured surfaces and natural materials can provide a range of different tactile experiences. Incorporating trees, gardens, and other natural features adds sensory appeal and encourages movement as well.
Consider the importance of risk and challenge. Children are built for adventure. They test their limits through play and repeat skills in order to master them. Provide graduated levels of developmentally appropriate challenges that nurture children’s natural curiosity and taste for adventure, allow them to try out their problem-solving and creative thinking skills, and build confidence.
Encourage imagination. Young children have an active imagination and naturally engage in creative play. Playgrounds that include structures like forts, tunnels, and other components that facilitate storytelling and dramatic play allow children to express their creativity, invent scenarios, and act out their imaginary worlds.
Support individual exploration and discovery. Playground structures designed to allow opportunities for children to control the environment and select their level of risk without sacrificing safety build confidence and encourage independence.