Written by

Grant

Children and Playgrounds 😍 The Ultimate Equipment Guide

Published on 

October 23, 2021

Red Alert!!

New research indicates 1 in 3 Australian kids do not play outside more than twice per week!!

Kids now spend more time on screens than outside playing!!

Kids playing outside for only 5.5 hours per week but on screens for 9.5 hours per week!!

71% of Australian kids spending less than an hour a day outside!!

WOW... this research conducted in 2019 on behalf of the food giant Golden Circle is startling, along with the fact that Australian parents report the biggest obstacle preventing their kids from playing outside is lack of interest!

How much playground time do kids spend outdoors
How much playground time do kids spend outdoors

No matter where you look……….. whatever country you are in around the world. There is an abundance of research and it all points one way!

Upgrade Your Play areas With Slides, Swings, Monkey Bars and a Flying Fox!

The benefits of exercise and being physically active are plain to see!

The importance of playgrounds and equipment in backyards at home for families to tackle this fight against boredom and inactivity is paramount, as they provide ample space and challenge for kids to reap all the benefits that physical exercise offers.

More playtime for kids means more chances to expand their physical, social, and mental abilities.

If play is limited during infancy and the early years, there’s no going back to the childhood days to reap the benefits of play.

It'll be lost and it will tell on the child's physical and social abilities.

And it will be plain for all to see!

indoor or outdoor play
Indoor or Outdoor Play

You just go to the prep school yard or the local playground and as a parent you can see straight up – those physically capable kids that move, swing, run, climb and jump with ease.

It’s obvious those ones that have been exposed to playgrounds and outdoor physical play in their early years.

Online stores stock a range of these play items for different budgets that are quite easy to assemble

Swings

These develop spatial awareness, fine and gross motor skills, along with core muscle development and balance. Your home simply must have one of these for the children otherwise they are missing out! Trips to the park are great, but to have one of these on hand is a must for any families who need activities for their kids at the disposal at home - and that is all of us!!

Slides

Similar to swings, this apparatus is perfect for developing upper and lower body strength, along with improving coordination, balance and core body strength.

Flying Fox

Along with the equipment mentioned, a flying fox will provide hours of entertainment each week and will give the user a sensory experience like no other. It will also assist their body strength and confidence. Simple ones are able to be set up in backyards, however a community park is probably best for these apparatus.

Monkey Bars

These are essential in any local parks and assist in developing body strength and posture, along with being a great way to exercise and relieve stress. They can also be installed in the backyard by any person who is handy on the tools.

There are plenty of swings, slides, monkey bars and flying foxes available in online stores with most of them being relatively easy to set up yourself so go ahead and check them out! Your kids will love you for it!

Nature, Parks, Playground Equipment and Space For Kids

So how do you make sure your child is free to carry out all those death-defying physical feats mentioned above in their early years and ensure they gain key fundamental motor skills that they are able to transfer into all other aspects of their life?

And how do they do this without risking death or injury as a result?

When we were youngsters and living on a farm near a small town there was not a single community outdoor playground within miles where one could push their body’s physical capabilities to the limit in relative safety.

To experience the simple thrill of a flying fox it was decided by us kids that this was easy.

Just run a rope from the top corner of dad’s hay shed and anchor it to the bottom, low branch of a nearby tree. Then just grab a pair of mum’s stockings, double them over a few times for thickness, hang them over the rope at the top of the shed, hang on tight and bob’s your uncle!!

Slide down the rope for hours of risk-taking fun and enjoying the exhilaration of pushing yourself to the limit.

WOW!! HOW DID WE EVER SURVIVE?

............as those pair of stockings grew thinner and thinner. Lucky big brother was there to decide when to replace the stockings!

Thankfully there are safer options available these days that still provide the excitement many of our children and teenagers crave.

Read on for a complete run-down!!

The Best Types of Facilities for Kids

There are different types of outdoor and indoor playgrounds defined by the kind of equipment that they include and all are valuable tools for motivating kids or a family to exercise and reap the benefits of physical play.

Inclusive Playgrounds

These places have equipment like swings, lookout towers, disability swings, sensory panels and other sensory equipment that allows for adults, older kids, and children with disabilities to play alongside every other kid. These playgrounds are frequently in outdoor settings like community parks, however, they are also found in schools and homes.

playground for special needs kids

Nature/adventure space

With advanced equipment like flying foxes, climbing frames and other adventurous equipment that builds strength, these fill up the curiosity gap in kids and give them an idea of how the adventurous outdoors can be.  Along with traditional equipment they include natures elements and many have play apparatus constructed from trees, logs, wood, rocks and water. These are mostly found in parks and community areas and are great fun for all.

fun balancing on board in the Park

Fitness Area

With equipment like wooden monkey bars, climbing pyramid, gym equipment, and many other pieces that are meant to build strength, balance, agility, and develop the muscles of kids, they are found in schools, parks, and community centers.

agility features play gym equipment

Where to get something for your play area

In more recent times, online stores selling playground equipment have exploded in popularity.

Many offer good quality brands and have items ranging from under $100 to larger and more sophisticated configurations with many features that can see costs increasing into the thousands.

Many playgrounds are mass-produced by plastic manufacturing companies and sent to warehouses where retailers and organizations come to get them.

The warehouses or sellers may also assist in the installation of this playground equipment if need be.

Now you can find these playgrounds in your local community at the community centers, daycare centers, schools, and some government facilities.

While taking your kids to these centers can help build up their social lives when they interact with other kids, you can also have them at home for easy and frequent access when you don't have the time to take them out.

Benefits of Play For All Ages

Play is important and beneficial to kids as they grow within the ages of 0 to 12. It helps them evolve in certain areas of their lives like in;

Social Development – This helps them overcome anxiety and shyness as they interact with other kids. It gives them their first experience and basic understanding of teamwork as they take turns to enjoy some of the equipment. It also helps them to cooperate and build lasting friendships.

Kids Social Development
Kids Social Development

Physical Development – Playground play helps your kids to work out, build resilient muscles, improve flexibility, build balance/stamina, and boost their immune system. They won't struggle with balance as they grow older, or struggle to run and do other physical activities required of them because of the foundation that has been laid.

Emotional Development – Backyard play can also improve their emotional lives by making them happier. It’s difficult for kids to play without smiling and giggling. Simply put…..happier kids are more willing to cooperate and learn than sadder kids. you can read all about calming Anxiety in kids here.

Children's-Emotional-Development
Children's-Emotional-Development

The Structure of a Playground and the Benefits of their Design

Playgrounds are well structured to suit their unique purposes. Beyond just the equipment which can come in different shapes and sizes, there's the essence of the space and the environment.

Some equipment is not ideal for certain spaces.

There's also the need for creative concepts to be laid out in a blueprint before being implemented on the ground.

It goes beyond having the most popular features in playgrounds like the climbing frames, lookout towers, climbing pyramid, swings, slides, monkey bars, and the likes.

It’s more of a mental job which brings us to the points below.

How the best play environment is designed

The best facility is designed with the following principles in mind:

The Principle of Space – Children play haphazardly which is understandable because play is spontaneous and never planned. This is why the need for space can’t be over-emphasized.

The best playgrounds are designed to accommodate lots of equipment but still have plenty of ground floor space available for the kids to run around. This comes foremost in the blueprint design of every playground.

The Principle of Creativity – Kids are naturally inquisitive and will always try out new things. It’s part of their creative makeup to always seek out newer ways of doing things.

The best playgrounds are designed to accommodate the creative needs of children like having equipment designed for more than one purpose. These pieces of equipment should be flexible and have loose parts so the kids can unlock them to form something else just to fulfill that undying urge for creating new things.

The Principle of Theme – Although quite expensive to acquire and install, themed playgrounds are more exciting for kids.

 If a playground looks plain and simply generic, there’s hardly much fun in it for kids.

But if it’s themed after something that kids are familiar with like a church, castle, beach, pirate ship, school, home, nature, train, plane, or just anything creative, then the fun just got started.

It gives them the sense and thrill of an environment which can make them so attached to it.

The Principle of Versatility – The best playgrounds are versatile in usage. They can be used by kids with disabilities and regular kids. This is the key element of inclusive playgrounds, which cater for all users.

They can be used alongside older kids and adults who help shy and scared kids acclimatise with the environment.

Every child deserves playtime regardless of his/her disabilities, and a playground that makes provisions for all people will always be loved and admired.

The Principle of Energy Levels – A play ground is designed for different energy levels.

There are times when the kids will want to recuperate from the ups and downs because they are tired.

There should be green areas with seats for this kind of need, perhaps even place some boulders or rocks around to rest on if it fits with the nature theme.

Kids who just arrived might want to start from a lower energy level by playing with smaller equipment to build momentum for the bigger slides and swings.

While some might start high and end up low, so an ideal playground should incorporate equipment of varying energy levels.

wooden Play structures
wooden Play structures

Which Structures Have the Most Benefits for Children.

All playgrounds equipment is beneficial to kids even the sandpits help them build flexibility in their fingers.

However, some equipment stands out among the lot and helps kids the most.

Some of them include:

Loose Parts Equipment – These pieces of equipment can help them build their creativity and satisfy their steaming curiosities.

When they tangle and untangle plastic and wooden toys to form different things, their cognitive reasoning is being streamlined.

It gives them the satisfaction of creating things and this is healthy for their growing esteem.

It’s more of an encouragement to keep pushing and gives them the first sense of failure because some of the fixings might not work initially but they try again until they become successful at it.

Gross Motor Equipment

This equipment is built for higher, physical activities.

They include slides, swings, climbing frames, a climbing pyramid and monkey bars.

They help kids build strength, strong bones, balance, endurance and resilience.

They benefit the kids physically more than any other kind of equipment.

Social Equipment

Social equipment and zones are for recuperating and of course, socialising.

They include water fountains, gazebos for shade, sit-outs and the likes.

They help the kids socialise with others by chatting and giggling.

Other equipment in this zone that is beneficial in terms of communication, interaction, teamwork, and socialising

include; sandpits, spring rockers, play panels, forts, picnic tables, gliders, water play areas and slides.

sandpit-spring rocker-kitchen

Installing Play Areas at Home – What You Should Know!

In Australia, you should be okay to just go ahead and install a playground in your backyard as long as it is under 3 metres in height. If it is over this height you may need approval under council planning schemes so it's best to always give your local council a call before you start working away.

This will ensure you are not endangering the lives of your kids while trying to make them happy, but also keeping the neighbours on side.

Before installing a playground or cubbyhouse in your backyard, you should consider the following:

Available Space – Looking to install a playground in your backyard in Australia?

Then you must consider the available space in your backyard first!

Making a playground for kids is a very serious business. They’ll want to jump and run around so they need all the space they can get.

Consider these things:

Ground Condition – The ground housing the equipment should be in good condition.

It shouldn’t be too hard and rocky because your kids would have to fall on it occasionally.

It should be covered with artificial turf, pine chips, soft fall or any other flooring for a safe landing.

You might not have sufficient space to install different kinds of flooring so make the one you have comfortable enough.

Play Set Construction -  When constructing a playset if you are going the DIY way, then you should go for sturdy materials that are resistant to heat, water, and light.

In Australia the sun can be harsh!

Ensure the wood being used is resilient and can withstand extreme weather conditions, and if you are using metals, consider using galvanized steel which is durable.

Always ensure all platforms above 4 feet have guard rails for the optimal protection of your kids.

Involve the Experts – If you are not experienced in the field, you should hire the experts to do it for you.

However, you can source the equipment yourself at reputable online stores and warehouses, of which many can also install them for you safely.

Or a simple search for a handy man or woman in your local area should be suffice.

While play is important, it's also one of the riskiest adventures for kids and if not handled with care, it can be devastating.

So, you might want to spend the extra bucks to invest in a professional playground equipment installer for safe installation and consequent guidance.

Safety First Playground Sign

Safety Considerations for Families

These safety considerations are for you as a parent if your child is below 6.

As a general rule, when you take your toddlers to the playground, you have to look after them as they play until they are of age (above 6 ) to fend themselves. Some kids might be independent at even 4 or 5, it all depends on your kid’s growth pace so the level of direct supervision may vary.

You’re the parent so you be the expert on this one!

In light of that, as a parent, you should educate your child on the need to play safely around the playground.

While watching your child play in the public park, there are no “safety police”.

You must balance the elements

- allowing your child to experience the freedom of play and not being the “helicopter parent” hovering above them – yet still be providing adequate supervision and in striking distance when they take a turn that will surely end in disaster.

When it comes to safety you need to ensure you prepare your child for using the playground safely by doing the following:

  1. Ensure toddlers and younger children wear suitably fitted clothes before they use the equipment to avoid having the fabric entangled on the various parts of the equipment.
  2. Use sunscreen on them to avoid sunburns.
  3. Keep every other item not related to the playground away from it to avoid kids stumbling on them and falling.
  4. Ensure the equipment is firmly rooted on the ground to avoid it pulling out of the soil due to excess pressure. This is for your backyard. It's always good to do a quick risk assessment of the equipment first. Don't just presume that because council look after it that all will be okay!

Precautions for Swings

  • Other kids should steer clear from the swing area to avoid getting knocked down.
  • The swing is for one person at a time and not otherwise.
  • The swing should be stopped completely before any child gets out.
  • Encourage the child to fasten his/her grip on the handles of the swing.
  • Don’t let your kids stand on the swings, they must sit on it at all times.

Precaution for Slides

  • Sliding in groups should be discouraged. One kid at a time.
  • It’s dangerous to slide down with the head – always feet first.
  • Instruct your child to first look down the slide to ensure no other kid is below before sliding down.
  • The slides are meant for sliding, so ensure the kids are not jumping down. 

Precautions for Climbing Equipment

Climbing equipment causes the most injuries for kids because they are naturally risky with the heights involved. Unless you are certain your child can manage on his/her own (usually above 7 or 8), never leave the child alone on the climbing equipment. Always standby and watch. Consequently, ensure the following:

  1. Teach them to jump down safely – bend knees when landing to absorb the impact. This is particularly important when dismounting from heights.
  2. They should be certain of a safe way down before engaging in the climbing exercise.
  3. Teach climbing technique – ensure what you are grabbing is stable and always connect one hand before letting go of the other hand.
  4. When climbing down, they should be careful of those climbing up.

Every other piece of equipment should be thoroughly inspected before a child participates. Safety is very important for kids as they play on the playgrounds.

They are less careful when playing so it’s easier for mishaps to happen and cause them injuries. In some cases, injuries might be permanent which is why safety must be guaranteed first.

All of the safety procedures mentioned should be adhered to whether it's a community park, school playground, or the one in your backyard.

If you have any concerns, you can also contact the operators or caretakers of these playgrounds and communicate your thoughts, to ensure your child and others are protected into the future.

The Cost of Setting up Equipment at Home

Depending on the size of your backyard and the kind of equipment you'll be using, setting up a gym in your backyard can gulp any amount between $500 to $5,000.

If you're into DIY, it could be less than that.

When setting up your own playground, it is always best to choose quality products from reputable suppliers!!

You may pay more for it upfront, but the peace of mind will be worth it.

If you want to save money by going for cheap things, then I advise doing this in other areas – not playground equipment!

Cheap stuff inevitably will not last, particularly in our harsh summer conditions and the ongoing safety concerns you will have from opting for lesser quality will not be worth the worry.

You can purchase all of the equipment in physical stores or online by simply placing an order on the online shops. From Swings Sets, Slides, Monkey Bars, Trampolines, Sand Pits, and even Cubby Houses, you can purchase everything online should you wish to go that way.

The prices here also vary. For the main equipment, you should be looking at spending figures around $1,200 and $2,000 for good quality, sturdy climbing equipment.

For the other extra equipment that is dispensable, the prices are lesser and can range from $250 to $700 at maximum.

You can do the installation yourself if you know how to find your way around pieces of equipment. However, a professional commercial installation team can get the job easily done while sticking to the right standards for safety.

Installation of the playsets can cost up to $500 and may vary according to the company or personnel doing the installation. If you are doing the installation yourself, then you must comply with the safety procedures outlined in the product manual.

Contact your local council if you have any concerns about the size and structural conditions for large pieces of equipment or if you are exceeding 3 metres in height.

In general, always do your research. Look at products that have high amounts of positive reviews.

Don’t be spooked by the odd low review as there’s always someone out there ready to slam something for a minor defect, however the majority should be good.

wheelchair Playgrounds
wheelchair Playgrounds

Inclusive Spaces and Funding

An inclusive playground is an environment reserved for the recreational and playtime needs of all children regardless of age, disabilities, race, or color. It’s a playground that is equipped with the right facilities and play space that can help kids develop mentally, physically, and socially.

For sensory kids with anxiety or autism this can create a space which allows them their own products and adventures, explore with bean bags, sensory pods, and lightening and plush weighted toys.

Inclusive playgrounds are facilities built to accommodate the needs of everyone, including those with disabilities which is why you can often find various kinds of sensory equipment and modifications to traditional playground items.

  • Wheelchairs and their designated paths – adequate space is considered to cater for those people in wheelchairs or mobility devices so they can safely access all the equipment.
  • Wheelchair playground equipment – many include swings and spinning items that allow for easy wheelchair access. Some are available where the user can wheel their chair directly onto the device.
  • Vestibular
  • Disabled swings
  • Slides, Swings, and Climbers 
  • Sunshades and cafes
  • Picnic tables
  • Water play areas
  • Sandpits
  • Artificial lakes
  • Sensory panels
  • Sensory playground swings
  • Monkey bars
  • And other integrated play equipment for families and couples.

Inclusive playgrounds can be accessed by any child, parent, or couple. The quickest way is to look online at your council website or contact your local council directly for the precise locations and lists of user equipment. Toilets and adequate changing facilities might be another consideration for you in choosing which venue to visit.

Funding For Play Equipment Resources Under NDIS

The NDIS scheme is geared towards helping children and adults with disabilities get by every day in life, achieve their personal goals, reach their full potential and be happy.

NDIS Australia Provider
NDIS Australia Provider

When it comes to funding for indoor and outdoor playground equipment by the NDIS it can be tricky and confusing for many people.

There are many parents out there who are having some success at purchasing items of playground equipment under NDIS funding – yet there are also some parents who are having their requests denied.

If the purchase is reasonable and necessary, cost effective and aligns with your goals your goals set out in your NDIS plan then you are more likely to be successful in your attempt to purchase a piece of playground equipment with NDIS funding.

If items are "low cost" (under $1500) and also "low risk" (note that things like monkey bars are deemed "high risk") then you may be able to simply purchase yourself with your funding or send through the invoice to your plan manager if you are managed that way.

If you are able to gain reports from qualified professionals (sometimes time consuming) to support your request, such as an Occupational Therapist and your item aligns with your NDIS plan goals and is essential to the success of these goals, then you increase your chances further.

If you are trying to purchase "high risk' or "high cost" items with NDIS funding, then you will definitely need recommendation reports form allied health professionals. An Occupational therapist is a great starting point, but also be aware that reports can be submitted on many occasions from psychologists, exercise physiotherapists and even your local GP.

So, my advice……… Don’t go down the path of constructing your own flying fox hooked from the old man’s shed!!

The old stocking honestly did give way a few times, however I am still here to tell the story!

Instead, go with the times, make safety a priority whilst still allowing your child the freedom of play.

Dive right in and purchase the good quality playground equipment for your backyard and combine it with many outings to the local community playground.

The skills they attain will benefit them in every aspect of their life (and for the rest of their life)!!

Frequently Asked Questions
😍 What are the benefits of playgrounds?

Playing on playground equipment has a number of mental and physical benefits for children of all ages including increased muscular strength, balance and co-ordination, enhanced cognitive function along with improved self-confidence and social skills.

😍 How do I find playgrounds near me for my child?

Google is great for finding your local playgrounds. Just jump on your computer, phone or tablet, head straight to Google Search and type in "playgrounds near me". This will bring up not only maps showing your local playgrounds but some information, pictures and reviews on each one. It's a great idea to get some information on a specific playground before jumping in the car and trekking off, only to find that it is not suited to children under a certain age group.

😍 What are the best games to play at the playground?

Children are great at making up their own games at playgrounds and using your thinking skills to design new games and challenges should be encouraged. However, some of the favourite games for many children include Capture The Flag, Treasure Hunts, Tag and Hot Lava.

😍 What's the best playground in Australia?

The "Nature Play At Royal Park" playground, adjacent to the Melbourne Children's Hospital was recently judged Australia's best playground by an expert panel of judges. It has many paths, lawn spaces and equipment for children of all ages and being so close to the hospital, it allows the opportunity for kids and their therapists or doctors to interact easier.

😍 What are the main safety considerations when using playgrounds?

When using playground equipment always ensure your are wearing appropriate clothing. This means no clothing with drawstrings and you should also avoid wearing necklaces, scarves and other loose clothing that could become tangled. It is also a good idea as a parent to conduct a quick risk assessment of the playground prior to letting your child use it. Look and feel to determine the equipment is not too hot if it's summer, not wet or slippery, and that all equipment is structurally sound and with no sharp objects.

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