8 Modern Playground Equipment Trends

8 Modern Playground Equipment Trends

How Have Playgrounds Evolved Over Time?

Hot metal slides, rusted tire swings, and non-inclusive play platforms – free from ADA standards and industry guidelines – are mostly things of the past. Thankfully, we no longer worry as much whether playground equipment is manufactured with safety in mind. Trends for contemporary playground equipment prioritize inclusive play for children of all abilities, comfort and safety for children and adults, and sensory play that encourages creativity. 


Let’s go through eight modern playground design trends and discuss how you can bring your school, church, or neighborhood playground into the future.


Eight Modern Playground Equipment Trends

1. Inclusive Play

The number one shift in modern playground equipment is toward inclusivity. Children of all abilities and ages deserve to play freely and safely together. Modern playground designs that comply with ADA standards include the following characteristics: 

  • Shock absorbing, unitary surfacing
  • Wide ramps and decks with double rails
  • Easy transitions on and off play equipment 
  • Options for ADA-compliant swings
  • Sensory panels at ground level
  • Spaces for solitary and cooperative play


Children of all ages, physical abilities, and cognitive abilities should feel included on your playground. Prioritizing inclusivity while designing your playground lets both kids and parents know that everyone is welcome. 

2. Shade Structures

After the COVID-19 pandemic, people found a new appreciation for being outdoors, especially with their children. Outdoor play is important to a child’s cognitive and physical development. It is important that we enable the children in our care to get exercise and vitamin D without prolonged sun exposure and overheating. That is why playground shade structures are a critical addition to modern playground design. But more than just keeping kids out of the heat, the benefits of shade structures for playgrounds include:

  • Keeping the playground equipment cool
  • Extending the life of playground equipment
  • Allowing children to play for longer
  • Making the playground more visually appealing 


Additionally, shade structures can be incorporated around the playground area and over benches and picnic tables, allowing parents and guardians to relax in the shade as their children play. When the summer and fall heat gets cranked up over 90 degrees in places like Georgia, you’ll thank your playground designer for incorporating those shade structures into the design!

3. Climbing Structures

Playgrounds provide more than just a safe space for children to have fun and socialize. They can also play an important role to encourage a child’s physical and cognitive development. This is why climbing structures are becoming a staple for modern playground equipment. 


Climbing walls, monkey bars, and freestanding climbers help children work on the following:

  • Problem-solving 
  • Gross motor skills
  • Strength building
  • Sense of balance


Climbing structures are also easy to incorporate into playgrounds as access points to upper platforms or slides. You can also integrate climbing walls at various heights and difficulties, so that children of all ages have an adequate challenge.

4. Sensory Play with Colors and Sounds

Modern playground equipment not only engages children physically, but it also arouses other senses like hearing and sight.  Children understand and interact with the world through their five senses, so it is vital to encourage them to learn new things through sensory play. Imagine the benefits of play stations with color and shape panels or musical activities involving sights, textures, and sounds. This allows children to interact with the playground equipment in new ways while also developing creativity. 

5. Structures for Kids and Adults to Play Together

Because many families have both parents working outside of the home, spending quality time with your children is even more valuable. This has contributed to a modern playground design trend that allows children and adults to play with the equipment together. These intergenerational spaces include swings, freestanding activities, and structures that can accommodate kids and adults, allowing them a comfortable place to play together. 

6. Eco-Friendly and Safe Material Initiatives

In the past, playground structures were typically made of all metal  that was subject to rust over time and overheating in the sun. Modern playground equipment trends feature recycled plastic materials that are not prone to rust and overheating to make playgrounds safer and extend their lifetime. 


Some playground manufacturers, like EcoPlay Structures, have taken it a step further to create contemporary playground equipment that is not only safe and long-lasting, but is also truly Eco-friendly. EcoPlay’s sustainable initiative turns recycled milk jugs into environmentally friendly playground equipment built for 50+ years. This important modern playground design trend shapes a positive future for children and the planet. 

7. Outdoor Learning Spaces

Beyond using the playground for recess, many schools and communities are incorporating outdoor learning spaces into their routine. There is at least some evidence to suggest that allowing kids to get out of the classroom and be outside has increased school performance and focus. This means some children learn creativity, independence, problem-solving, and decision-making more effectively in a relaxed, outdoor learning space. 


Ways to incorporate outdoor learning spaces in your contemporary playground equipment include:

  • A stage for acting and imaginative play
  • Water tables
  • Learning panels
  • Game markings on the pavement
  • Seating for outdoor classroom time

8. Including Natural Elements 

Modern playground design is leaning more toward natural elements and encouraging discovery in nature. This means pulling nature into your space with shrubs, trees, flowers, and green spaces. But you can also take it a step further by:

  • Planting flower beds or vegetable gardens
  • Providing an area with tools and trucks for digging in dirt or pebbles
  • Including safe, natural elements like boulders and stumps
  • Creating an  imaginary  garden with gnomes, fairy houses, and wind chimes
  • Installing a water table


These unique elements show children the beauty of nature and invite them to interact with plants, dirt, and green spaces in new ways. 

Let EcoPlay Bring Your Playground into the Future

Thoughtful, modern playground design creates a safe space where kids of all abilities can freely play, learn, and have fun. Modern playground equipment can benefit schools, churches, public parks, and private residences.  If you are looking for the best resource to complete these upgrades, contact EcoPlay!


EcoPlay Structures manufactures and installs eco-friendly playground equipment made from post-consumer HDPE plastic. Our unique modern playground equipment is durable, rust-proof, and has a 50-year warranty. Let our expert playground consultants help you make the best choice to bring your playground into the future!

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