How to Improve Your School Playground

How to Improve Your School Playground

Safe, updated playground equipment is critical to get your students outside and active. But what happens when your out-of-date playground equipment becomes damaged – or even dangerous? This is the time to think about investing in playground improvements and bringing new life to your school playground or community park. 


So how do you upgrade your school playground and find the funding to get it all done? We are here to help! Below, we’ll walk through:

  • Questions to ask before starting your playground improvements.
  • 10 ways to improve your playground. 
  • Tips for raising funds to upgrade your playground.

Questions to Ask Before Starting Playground Improvements

What Are My Most Essential Playground Improvements?

First, examine the playground to determine the essential upgrades. What absolutely needs to change for safety or cosmetic reasons? Look for problem areas, including:

  • Rusted or cracked posts and decks
  • Cracked slides
  • Rusted swings
  • Exposed nails, hooks, or bolts
  • Tripping hazards
  • Loose mechanisms that could crush or pinch fingers
  • Exposed equipment getting too hot in the sun
  • Surfacing that does not attenuate impact from a fall
  • Faded slides and roofs


Use the list above to prioritize the items that absolutely need to change. Keep the safety upgrades in mind first before tackling the cosmetic upgrades.

What is Your Budget for Upgrades?

Before you start contacting playground equipment companies or designing your new space, we recommend determining your budget for playground improvements. This is a good time to talk to the school board about how much money could be set aside and also get the PTA involved so they can set up donations and fundraising events. 


P.S. Scroll to the end of the article for ideas on how to raise funds for your playground improvements.

What Equipment Should You Keep or Remove?

As you determine essential upgrades, you should consider what equipment should be fully removed from the area. Is any of the equipment dangerous or damaged? If you can’t answer this question, consider hiring a Commercial Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) to conduct a playground audit. 


If you or the CPSI recognizes anything that is unsafe, remove and safely dispose of all that equipment. The CPSI can also help ensure you are up to date on all playground safety regulations

What Is Your Project Timeline?

Setting a reasonable project timeline will help keep everyone on the same page and allow funds to be used in phases instead of all at once. For example: 

  • Project Milestone One (By the End of January): Create a playground improvements committee to raise funds. 
  • Project Milestone Two (By the End of February): Assess all equipment and remove dangerous or outdated structures.
  • Project Milestone Three (By the End of March): Host a playground fundraising event.

Staying organized and giving deadlines to the people in charge will help alleviate frustration and maintain excitement for the end goal. 

10 Ways to Improve Your School Playground

1. Upgrade Old Equipment

The most obvious way to improve school playground equipment is by replacing old equipment with new components. That does not necessarily mean buying a whole new playground. If your playground structure is in good shape, consider replacing the slides and climbers to add new life and fun to your existing playground. This may be the best way to guarantee playground improvements without going over budget. 


2. Add Freestanding Components

If your main playground equipment is in good shape but the surrounding area is outdated, consider adding freestanding playground components, including:

  • Playground Climbers
  • Swing Sets
  • Water Tables
  • Crawl Tubes
  • Freestanding Play Panels
  • Playground Overheads

Investing in just a few freestanding playground structures will upgrade the entire playground area in an affordable way. 

3. Create Game Markings on Flat Surfaces

Playground ideas for schools do not have to involve buying new equipment; game markings on the sidewalk or concrete are affordable, and kids love them. Get a local artist or company to paint tic-tac-toe, four square, long jumps, hopscotch, or counting games on the ground. This will give children more opportunities to be active and creative, even if they are not playing on playground equipment. 

4. Add Natural Elements and Landscaping

Bringing elements of nature into the play space can make it more attractive. Planting trees for shade, installing colorful planters around the perimeter, or even investing in a community garden are easy ways to add color and life to your updated playground. This can also be a great opportunity to teach children about plant types as they explore the trees, flowers, and even vegetables in the area. 

5. Include Informational Signs

When entering a communal public space, it is always a good idea to post general rules and directions for visitors. Adding informational signage as part of your playground improvements is a great way to ensure everyone respects your upgraded space and helps to make it last for years to come. Playground signage ideas include:

  • Display the playground’s name
  • Thank founders or sponsors 
  • Explain open hours
  • Post playground rules and a code of conduct
  • Distinguish play areas for different age groups


6. Make Playground Accessible

People with all physical  and mental abilities should get to enjoy the playground improvements, so conform your upgrades to ADA standards for play areas, including:

  • Accessible routes to each play structure (ground levels and elevated levels)
  • Accessible entrance and exit around playground and resting areas
  • Handrails on any ramps
  • ADA-compliant playground surfacing

Importantly, these standards ensure that people with disabilities can easily navigate the playground area and access fun activities. 

7. Do Not Forget About the Adults

While it is easy to focus on upgrading the playground itself, you should also consider replacing the surrounding amenities like benches and picnic tables. Parents, teachers, and guardians will thank you for providing a shaded place to rest and supervise while the children play.

8. Shade Structures Extend the Life of Your Equipment

To ensure your playground improvements last a long time, be sure to leave room in your budget for shade structures like playground roofing, bench canopies, and single-post umbrellas. Shade structures minimize damage from direct sunlight, rain, hail, and snow, which will extend the lifetime of your playground equipment. 

9. Update Playground Surfaces

To create clean, even ground for children to play on, you may want to consider updating the playground surfaces as well. Loose-fill (wood fiber or rubber mulch) or unitary surfacing (pour-in-place rubber, turf,  or rubber tiles) are both options that cushion the area surrounding the playground, reducing injuries and minimizing heat reflection. 

10. Add Sensory Play Equipment

Playgrounds do not just have to include resources for active play; sensory play equipment is also a great way to encourage creativity. This equipment encourages children to use hearing, sight, and touch to interact with their surroundings. We love sensory playground activities, including musical playground equipment for hearing, shape and color puzzles for visuals, and Braille panels for touch.

Tips for Funding Your Playground Improvements

Gather a Fundraising Team

The first step of fundraising to assemble a couple of passionate team members who will be responsible and accountable for fundrasing initiatives. Ideally, the team has a combination of project management experience and a solid network of potential donors to tap. For example, if your new playground is for a school, involve influential teachers and PTA members to create a fundraising team. If your playground upgrade is for a church, involve members of the congregation who are well known and well respected. A dedicated fundraising team can help keep track of the playground improvement goals, budget, and project timeline. They can also be your think-tank when it comes to raising money through local events and fundraisers. 

Ask Local Businesses for Help

Ask around your local community to see if businesses want to get involved in helping to fund, clean up, or install your new playground equipment. There is a good chance you will find great supporters and sponsors once you promote the project. Maybe even try to run an ad through a local radio station to raise awareness for your project. 

Host a Community Event

Hosting a community event is another great way to spread the word about your playground renovations and involve the community. Consider organizing:

  • Festival with games and prizes
  • Fun run
  • Cooking or baking contest
  • Car wash
  • Trivia night
  • Raffle

Those are just a few of the many ways to raise awareness and money for your playground improvements – and have fun doing it!

Ask EcoPlay About Playground Equipment for Schools

EcoPlay makes eco-friendly, long-lasting playground equipment for schools because we want to help kids grow through play. We would love to be a part of your playground improvements, finding the best products to extend the life and fun of your playground. Check out our wide variety of play structures, built to fit the needs of any school, church, or community park. And contact us when you are ready to get started! We would love to hear about your fundraising journey and plans for playground improvements. 

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