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A Guide To School Playground Equipment

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Introduction To School Playground Equipment

Sports and physical activities are very important to the growth and development of children and young adults.

Schools should not only operate as institutions where children come to get an education, but they should also provide children with the opportunity to play games and have fun with their peers. Therefore to provide children with all round development, it is important for every school to have playgrounds with fully equipped playground equipment and a range of activities. 

School playgrounds were originally considered insignificant in the early educational system, many deemed them a waste of resources. However, over the years, educators began to see the need to provide children with a way to channel their energy constructively. Thus, with time, more schools started to include playgrounds in their school environment. Now, playgrounds have become an essential facility that should be present in every schooling environment for children and young adults. 

Building an effective playground is no small feat; to aid in the development, design and planning of your playground project, we have put together this guide to provide you with the relevant information to help you make the most informed decisions, so you can create something special for your children.

The History of School Playground Equipment

Children have always been creative with the things they play with, and although playground equipment as we know it today did not really start to appear until the late 18th century, there have always been a variety of creative structures designed to help children have more fun. Modern playground equipment is an advancement over these early designs and a wide range of playground equipment is available today to explore and develop children’s senses and physical abilities.

While many people have helped shape the idea of school playgrounds and equipment, all historical records show that the concept of modern school playground equipment originated from Friedrich Froebel, a German educator in the late 18th century. Between the late 1700s and early 1800s, Friedrich argued the importance of playgrounds for children — as part of their growth and overall developmental process. 

In 1821, a US school in Salem, Massachusetts built an outdoor gymnasium partly inspired by Friedrich Froebel, the German mentioned earlier. Parallel bars and vaulting horses were the major playground equipment in existence at that time and were used in this early example

In the United Kingdom, the National Playing Field Association was established under the royal charter in 1926 and was led by Drummond Abernethy and a team of military officials. By 1960 the NPFA had established up to 700 recreational playing fields with playground equipment; they had also set the national standards for playground equipment designs. 

The earliest playgrounds and playground equipment in the U.K were made from improvised materials reclaimed post the aftermath of the war, however, with time new and advanced playground equipment was designed to meet the national standards as set by the National Playing Field Association. Modern Playground equipment comes in many different shapes and sizes, following strict safety standards and is designed to help and encourage children’s all-round skill set both socially, physically and sensory. The new equipment is a testament to these early designs and the inspired individuals promoting such development.


Types of school playground designs and Inspiration

Designing a school playground from scratch can be overwhelming; since there is a lot of playground equipment available, picking the right combination to form a perfect playground theme can be difficult. Below are some Ideas to help you make the right choice. 

  • Natural Playscape Design: 

Sometimes, a natural playscape is all you need to create a fantastic playground where children can interact with nature. Kids do not always need sophisticated playground equipment to run, balance, climb and have fun. You can create an exceptional children’s playground with simple natural materials and proper planning. Using a natural layout and improving the overall setup with the addition of selected equipment that accentuates the landscape.

A natural playscape also allows the kids to explore their creativity in nature; they can build sand castles, tree houses, sand tunnels, and other exciting things. To improve the experience, you can also provide supplementary items such as plastic toy shovels, cups, planters, and growers. Children can use these tools to manipulate their environment and practice school projects. 

You can hire an experienced planner for advice on the proper way to set up your natural playground. 

  • Musical Playground Designs

Apart from the popular playground designs that encourage physical activities, you could also consider implementing musical features into your playground design. 

There is a lot of outdoor musical playground equipment that can help children discover their musical genius. Examples of this type of equipment include pipe xylophones, rubber drums, and plastic maraca. 

You should get your musical equipment from a trusted and certified manufacturer, this is very important to ensure that the equipment sounds right, and maintain a high standard for a long time.

  • Fitness Playground Designs:

You can also plan your playground to encourage physical and cardiovascular activities that will encourage physical fitness. Outdoor gym and fitness equipment have become a popular option in schools and come highly recommended by the UK government to help address problems such as obesity in children and to get children generally much more active on a day-to-day basis


Types of Playground Equipment available

The world of playground equipment has witnessed an explosion in development over the years in the U.K., From random items to many advanced playground types of equipment designed to bring the best out of children. Below are some examples of popular playground equipment.

  • Children’s Gym Equipment
  • Carousels
  • Picnic Tables 
  • Traverse Walls
  • Jungle Climbers 
  • Play Towers
  • Swings, Springs, and Spinners 
  • Tetherball
  • Sport Target Panels
  • Seesaws ride on equipment

 These are only to name but a few, to view more of the types of equipment on offer you can see all our playground equipment range here.

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Age Range and Playground Design 

Age is one of the most important factors you should consider as you pick your playground equipment. As children grow older, they become bigger and stronger; this makes it very important for you to provide them with new equipment that can support their weight and meet increasing energy levels. 

Playground equipment should correspond to the size and abilities of a child. So it’s prudent to consider how different playground equipment works together to provide an all round experience for the particular age group you are planning for. 

For example, “Playhouse and den making” may appeal more to kids around the age of four and below while five years old and above, you may wish to look at jungle climbers and such. Also, children aged seven and above may not find storytelling areas too interesting but instead opt for climbing equipment or something with a much more physically demanding feel.

In some scenarios, playgrounds may need labels that sectionalise based on the age and size of the group of children using the playground equipment. A climber designed for children between the ages of 6 and 10 may not be usable for children below that age group since it might be too high for them and be considered dangerous. With this in mind, you should consider who will be using different equipment and when and plan accordingly

Special Needs and Inclusive Playground Equipment

Disability should not be a hindrance to experiencing fun. Many playgrounds can now be equipped with inclusive playground equipment for children with special needs. Inclusive playground equipment is specially designed to accommodate children with various degrees of physical and mental disabilities. 

The basket swing, carousel, and wheelchair picnic table are common types of inclusive playground equipment that can be easily integrated into a modern playground design.

For children with physical disabilities, you could look into inclusive equipment that the children can enjoy regardless of the type of disability. Examples of these could include the See-Saw, Merry-Go-Round, and wheelchair-inclusive roundabouts. 


Benefits of School Playground Equipment

Spend More Time Outside

The school playground is a perfect place to help young ones spend more time outside, playing together and building social networks with friends. 

While parents can help their children spend more time outside, the best way schools can encourage participation in outdoor activities is by designing feature-rich and engaging playgrounds with enough playground equipment for each playgroup. An assortment of this equipment will encourage kids to participate in different types of activities that promote indirect learning. 

Enhances Creativity

Kids have great minds. Their imaginations are endless and unique. For proper child development, providing kids with a safe space where their imaginations can run wild, without hindrance is important. You do not necessarily need to buy very expensive equipment; there is a lot of more cost-effective equipment that can encourage a child’s creativity. such as playground markings and smaller standalone equipment.

When kids can express themselves from a young age, their senses are stimulated and groomed for later years. As they grow older, their ability to think critically and create solutions improves — preparing them for brain-tasking situations. 

Development of Motor Skills

Young children are boisterous and so need to expel their energy. School playground equipment allows kids to expend their energy and, in the same vein, develop motor skills. Muscle movement is inevitable when kids engage in a series of recreational activities, helping their bodies develop and grow. 

The ongoing development of these types of motor skills can also help in later years of schooling as their sporting ability and competitive sports participation increase.

Building Social Skills

Social skills are an essential part of life and the development of these skills at an early age is crucial for all areas of children’s growth and development.. The school playground is an excellent place to build such skills, providing communal play areas and options for imaginative play 

In playgrounds, children regularly interact with their peers, build new friendships, and learn essential communication and cooperation skills. The life coping skills formed by children at this young age form an important part of their personality as they grow to become adults.

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How to Start Designing Your New School Playground

Below are some things you should consider as you design your new school playground. 

Space Considerations

Consider and measure the available space before making any purchase or decisions on style and size of the playground equipment. Some equipment needs ample space for safety purposes, while some equipment can be used in more restrictive spaces. Thus the available space determines the design, arrangement and the types of equipment you could buy.

Child Considerations

The age range of children in a school determines the type of playground equipment to consider. 

To ensure safety, the energy level and physical abilities should determine what equipment a particular age group can play with. You should also consider children with disabilities and make an inclusive plan for them. 

Safety Considerations

Most types of equipment come with safety features. However, some guard rail or safety measures may not be sufficient in such cases; extra safety equipment such as playground safety surfacing may be purchased.

Our team at Creativeplay are experts in playground design and so every aspect is meticulously considered to ensure the safety of the children using the equipment.

Finally, it is worth considering appointing a safety instructor who will help the kids understand the correct ways to use the equipment available to them, and can act as an invigilator to ensure upkeep and maintenance. 

Budget Considerations

Budget can be a major factor with any playground design. This can determine the types and scale of playgrounds you wish to design and build. 

We are highly experienced with designing within budget and provide advice and resources to help you work out what the costs of a new playground could be, as well as what’s currently available to you in view of schemes and incentives such as government grants.  


Playground equipment is made from all sorts of materials, from plastic to timber,steel and aluminum , the choice of materials depends on the purpose of the equipment and its intended use

Creative play manufactures most of its products using treated timber which not only last for many, many years but is often considered to be one of the most versatile materials used, for a large range of equipment, suiting all ages.

Government Regulation

Follow government regulations when planning to set up a school playground. There are certain restrictions on the type of equipment to use based on the institution and age range of kids. To understand your obligation feel free to speak to one of our experts.

All equipment manufactured by creative play is certified to meet international standards. Before this equipment is delivered and installed, they are signed off by a Register of Playground Inspectors international who ensures that the equipment is designed according to the BS EN 1176/1177 national standards.

Creative play also offers an annual maintenance inspection that ensures that the playground and playground equipment meets national standards.

Playground Design Example

Playground Ideas by Setting.


A nursery playground setup requires a soft and colourful layout. Toddlers enjoy objects that make a sound, dangling play toys and equipment they can climb on. It is however essential to consider safety as toddlers are more prone to fall.

At creative play, all our installation processes are done with the safety of your children in mind. We use anti-slip resin-impregnated products to reduce the chances of slips and falls, our timber is cut to minimise splitting, and we also use HDPE plastics and steel core ropes that reduce the chances of accidents as well as promote creativity. 

Primary Schools

Primary school playgrounds can be fitted with more challenging equipment. With their high energy, children will love to engage in climbing and jumping activities. Primary school playground equipment could include frames with moderate height, monkey bars, zip line structures, balancing beams and trim trails.

Secondary Schools

At this stage, the playground equipment is much more advanced. Teens are ready to experiment and push to the limit; therefore, Multi use game areas and full sports facilities, such as basketball, tennis, and football, may be prudent.  Gymnastics equipment and simple outdoor games are integral to a secondary school playground setup and gymnasium, offering varied physical activities


Children are the future of our society, and it is our responsibility to prepare them for that future by raising them in an environment that encourages healthy physical and mental development. 

Providing children with a well-equipped and properly designed playground can be challenging, however with the help of established companies like Creative Play, you rest assured you will be supported and guided throughout and new playground design and build. 

Creative play has been manufacturing, installing and maintaining children’s playground equipment for more than 30 years. 

Over the last 30 years, Creative Play has installed long-lasting playground equipment in more than 10,000 locations across the UK.

To discuss or start planning your playground, speak to us today.