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How To Incorporate Safety into Your Custom Playground Design

Outdoor custom playground surrounded by green grass and blue skies

When creating a playground, you want one that is not just fun and engaging but also safe. This involves a careful balance of imagination and practicality, of adventure and precaution. Every swing, every slide, and every climbing frame must not only inspire joy and creativity but also protect the little ones who will use them. Safety, after all, should never be an afterthought when it comes to the laughter and learning spaces we provide for our children. In this article, we will delve into effectively merging safety considerations with your unique playground design ideas.

Introduction to Custom Playgrounds

Custom playgrounds offer a unique opportunity to create an engaging, exciting, and safe play space tailored to the specific needs of your community. Unlike standard playgrounds, which often come with pre-set equipment and layout, custom playgrounds can be designed from scratch, incorporating elements that cater to children of different age groups and abilities. Whether it’s a themed adventure playground, a nature-inspired play area, or a sensory-rich environment for children with special needs, the possibilities are endless. This personalized approach not only enhances children’s play experience but also fosters their physical, social, and cognitive development.

Safety in Custom Playgrounds

When designing a custom playground, safety should be a top priority. From the materials used to the design of the playground equipment, every aspect should contribute to creating a secure environment where children can play and explore without risk of injury. Here are some key considerations to ensure the safety of your custom playground.

Choosing the Right Surfacing

One of the most crucial aspects of a safe playground is the surfacing material. The floor of your playground should be designed to absorb impact and minimize injury from falls, which are the most common type of playground accidents. Options include engineered wood fiber, rubber tiles, poured-in-place rubber, and synthetic turf. Each material has its own benefits and considerations, such as cost, maintenance, accessibility, and fall height protection. For instance, while rubber tiles may be more expensive upfront, they require less maintenance and provide excellent shock absorption. On the other hand, engineered wood fiber is a more affordable option that also offers good fall protection, but it may require regular topping off to maintain its effectiveness.

Age-Appropriate Design

A well-designed playground caters to children of varying age groups, each with different developmental needs and abilities. Playground equipment should be age-appropriate, meaning it matches the physical coordination, cognitive development, and social interaction skills of the children who will use it. For example, for toddlers and preschoolers, play structures should be lower with spaces for crawling, gentle slides, and interactive panels. School-aged children, on the other hand, might enjoy more challenging equipment, such as climbing structures and swings. Furthermore, areas for different age groups should be separated to prevent younger children from straying into areas with equipment not suitable for their age, which could potentially lead to injuries.

Rounded Edges and Safe Materials

When it comes to playground equipment, safety is of paramount importance. One aspect to consider is the design and materials of the equipment. Rounded edges are a key feature to look for as they can help prevent injuries from bumps and falls. Sharp corners and edges can pose a risk of cuts or punctures, so opting for equipment with smooth, rounded surfaces can significantly enhance safety. In addition, the materials used in the construction of playground equipment should be non-toxic and durable. Materials such as plastic should be resistant to UV radiation to prevent them from becoming brittle and breaking over time. Metal parts should be rust-resistant and wooden structures should be splinter-free and treated to resist rot and insects.

Avoid Entrapment Hazards

Entrapment hazards are another important consideration in playground safety. These are spaces that could trap a child, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs. According to safety standards, any opening that is closed on all sides should be either less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches to prevent both head and body entrapment. This includes gaps in and between play equipment, as well as openings in moving components. It’s also important to avoid equipment with ropes, nets or chains that could potentially strangle a child. Regular inspections of the playground should be conducted to ensure that no new entrapment hazards have developed due to wear and tear, vandalism, or shifting of equipment.

Good Drainage

A well-designed playground should have efficient drainage to prevent water from pooling in the play area. Puddles can create slippery surfaces, increasing the risk of falls and injuries. They can also lead to faster degradation of playground equipment and surfacing materials. Therefore, it’s important to incorporate a good drainage system into the playground design. This could include sloping the ground away from the play area, installing French drains, or using permeable surfacing materials that allow water to drain through. Regular maintenance checks should also include ensuring that the drainage systems remain clear and functional.

Shade Structures

Shade structures are an important feature in playgrounds as they help protect children from harmful UV rays and keep the play area cooler on hot days. This not only makes the playground more comfortable for children to play in, but it also helps prevent sunburn and heat-related illnesses. Shade can be provided by natural elements like trees or man-made structures such as shade sails, pergolas, or gazebos. When designing the playground, consider the sun’s path throughout the day to strategically place these shade structures for maximum effectiveness. Additionally, certain types of playground equipment, especially metal ones, can become too hot to touch in the sun, so providing shade is crucial to prevent burns.

Proper Lighting

Lighting is another key aspect of a safe playground, especially if the area is intended to be used during the early morning or evening hours. Good lighting improves visibility, helping to prevent accidents and deter vandalism or other unwanted activities. It can also make the playground more inviting and extend its usability into the evening hours. When planning for lighting, consider both the placement and type of light fixtures. They should be positioned to illuminate the play equipment, paths, and entrances without causing glare or dark shadows. Opt for energy-efficient and durable lighting options, such as LED lights, to ensure long-lasting, sustainable illumination.


In conclusion, designing a safe and engaging playground involves careful consideration of various factors – from choosing the right surfacing and age-appropriate design to ensuring good drainage, adequate shade, and proper lighting. At SPI Plastics, we specialize in creating custom playgrounds that meet all these requirements and more. Our expertise and commitment to safety and quality ensure that your playground will not only be enjoyable for children but also provide peace of mind for parents and caregivers. Contact SPI Plastics today and let us help you create a playground that children will love and parents will trust.

SPI Plastics Inc.

165 Stoneman Drive, Box 100
(Shouldice Block Road & Joynt Street)
Shallow Lake, ON
N0H 2K0

T   519-935-2211
TF 800-269-6533
F   519-935-2174

Business Hours

Monday - Thursday: 8am to 4:30pm
Friday: 8am to 4pm
Saturday & Sunday: Closed

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