Playground Landscaping Ideas
Adding a play structure or full playground to your backyard, a common area in a multi-family residential complex or a community space makes the property more family-friendly and increases the enjoyment of children who live in or visit your home, rental property or park.
Safety is, of course, a primary concern when selecting playground equipment, choosing a ground cover option and installing the play set, but you also want to make sure that your playground area fits with the overall look of your landscaping and will add to – not take away from – the overall visual appeal of your home.
Most playground sets with swings, slides and other enticing features are made from plastic, metal or wood. Each of these has its pros and cons, but play sets made from any of these material options can be incorporated into your landscaping for a seamless transition from the play area to other functional areas of your yard or common area.
Focusing on Safety from the Start
Since safety is one of the most important features of any children’s play area, this should be a consideration from the very beginning of the design process.
The area you choose for your playground should be a flat, level surface.
If needed, hire a professional to grade the area for proper drainage and to ensure an even surface on which to install your play set.
Look for potential hazards in the area, such as low-hanging branches or utility lines that may be too close to the equipment or the children playing on it.
Exposure to the elements can shorten the life of your playground equipment or increase the need for maintenance.
It can also pose a danger to children if metal equipment gets too hot from direct sunlight or swings are slippery from rain.
Locating your playground under a canopy of trees provides natural shade and protection from the elements.
Make sure the play area surface is significantly larger than the actual play structure to make sure there is plenty of room for a safe landing after launching off of slides or jumping off of swings.
You will also want to define the play space with a border in order to keep your ground cover where it belongs, provide a designated area for play and help to ensure that your children’s play area harmonizes with your overall landscape design.
A paving stone walkway or patio makes a great border for a play area.
Slip-resistant pavers can help limit potential injuries while significantly enhancing the visual appeal or your yard or common area.
Finally, you should place your play structure in an area that is easily observed by the adult or adults supervising the children.
You will also want to make sure that your play area is well lit and centrally located away from busy streets.
If you are installing a play area in your backyard, make sure it is in a fenced area and that you can watch your child play from your kitchen window or patio.
Choosing a Ground Cover for Your Playground or Play Area
Ideally, the groundcover for your play structure will be safe, low maintenance, attractive and affordable.
You may need to balance these by spending a bit more for a safer option or accepting the need for some maintenance to ensure visual appeal, but these are the four basic features most property owners look for in play area ground cover options.
Here are some pros and cons of the most popular playground ground cover options to help you decide which one is best for you.
1. Pea Gravel
It provides a natural look at an attractive price, but does not provide a lot of protection for soft landings.
It is a low-maintenance landscaping material, which may appeal to some property owners, but parents might not find the bumps and scrapes nearly as appealing.
Gravel of any type can also be a choking hazard if small children will be using the play area.
2. Rubber Mulch
Shredded rubber mulch is a newer player on the playground scene and is quickly growing in popularity, particularly for its ability to provide a nice cushion when children fall.
This springy material also acts as a weed barrier and is a low-maintenance option for play areas, which increases its appeal for homeowners.
It can, however, get dirty after long-term use, is more likely than some other options to escape your play area border and might get tracked into the house after children play outdoors.
It should be noted that much of the rubber mulch available is made from recycled rubber, such as car and truck tires.