Designing the perfect playground and outdoor space

17 November 2017

We understand that, when you’re running a business, spending money on the outside space can feel like a bit of an extravagance. It can be hard to see the direct ROI. But our evidence, and case studies, give a clear link between putting thought into designing your outdoor space, and seeing improvements visitor numbers, duration of visit and ultimate contribution to revenue. In fact, one of our latest case studies, about the ‘Who’d A Thought It’ pub talks about a three-times improvement in turnover.

But getting it right takes expertise and an understanding of what children, and parents, need and want. That’s where we come in. We think that every great leisure space needs a well thought out playground.  A place to give children (and parents) a central place to meet, engage, learn and – above all – have fun.  Most importantly, getting this right means parents will visit more regularly and spend longer, as well as spending money once there… we know this for a fact… our research proves it [link to article].

Here are our top tips for designing the perfect playground.

? Think about the space around it as well as the playground itself – we call this ‘transitional’ space but considering access points, drainage and other surrounding spaces is important.  If people don’t feel comfortable getting to the play area then they’re less likely to use it and spend time there. And don’t forget to consider whether you need bike and scooter ‘parks’ as well.
? Consider your surroundings – it’s important that your playground fits in with the wider construction scheme you’re developing.  Playgrounds don’t have to be all bright colours – some are entirely wooden and natural in style.  When you’re selecting your equipment and planning the space talk to a landscape specialist to make sure the overall look and feel fits in with your other plans.
? Nothing is the same, twice over – in the same way no two children are the same, neither are two playgrounds.  It’s important you consider the different groups that will be using the space, when and how.  It’s not just a case of thinking about how old the children are but whether it will be used in the evenings, with lots of adult supervision (or limited), and the overall tone you want to set. Having a variety of age appropriate thing is one of the key things families look for in a play area.
? But age is important - there’s a big difference between play equipment for Early Years and what a thirteen year-old will want. For starters we don’t know may tweens or teens that like to think they’re still playing! Getting a balance between equipment for little children, as well as facilities that offer versatile sports and less ‘play’ focused fun, is important.
? Children like to explore – we think that play is one of the best ways of learning.  When you’re creating your playground consider Free Play and installing equipment that children can use in different ways.  Free Play is great for building social skills, confidence and learning, as well as stimulating brain development.  Our experts can help you understand the different opportunities each piece of play equipment offers.
? Risk is good – nobody wants to put children at risk but reasonable, measured and controlled risk is central to learning and development.  Once again, our experts can help you to identify equipment that will challenge children (and keep them interested) in a controlled way.
? Don’t limit it to active play – it’s easy to think that communal play space has to be all about active play – and don’t misunderstand us, we’re all in favour of getting children active.  We also have specialist ranges designed with art, music, theatre, literacy, science and maths in mind.
? Quiet space is also important – it’s not all about swinging from a timber trail.  Playgrounds can also include quiet space for chatting as well as imaginative play. These spaces can be particularly good for developing social skills and reducing bullying.  Make sure your playground has a pace to it with active, exploratory, imaginative and quiet spaces.
? Don’t forget the surfacing – it’s easy to get carried away thinking about equipment but, when you’re planning your budget, surfacing needs to be an important factor.  Our experts can give you guidance on exactly the right surfacing to suit the equipment, ground and children.  Options range from bright and cheery patterns through to natural effects.
? Always ask the children – when you’ve spent time thinking about surfacing, equipment, design and budgets it can be easy to forget fun. The most important part.  It’s always a good idea to involve children in the design process for every playground.  They will be your toughest critics and help you make sure it’s not only current but great fun!
? And always ask the adults, too - when we did our recent research we asked families what they look for in outdoor space. The most important factor was that it was well-maintained (80%). Having obvious safety features and a range of age-appropriate equipment were joint second (74%). Zoning and imaginative equipment were joint third (67%). But one of the key messages that kept on coming back, over and over again, was the importance of having lots of space for parents to sit, near the play space, without being too close.
? Build an expert team – we’ve spent decades creating the very best play areas across the UK and further afield.  What makes us stand out, however, is that we don’t just resell the best products from other suppliers but we also design our own equipment.  Our team of designers spend every single day living and breathing play equipment – so, not only can they tell you all you need to know about it but they can also design something especially for you, if you don’t see what you want.

If you’d like some advice on getting the best return on your outdoor space, why not book a free consultation with one of our experts today? You can call us on 01225 976237 or click here

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