This is a question we are often asked by school principals and school fundraising committees.
The truth is there is no single answer to the question of what is the best play equipment for schools.
Every school has different needs and what may be the right play equipment solution for one may not suit another. (And there may even be some situations where the best result is gained for your school with a product other than a Moduplay product).
However, this article is intended to help you navigate through the various options early in the playground buying process so you can get the best possible result for your school.
What are most schools looking for when buying playground equipment?
From our experience, I would say schools are looking to address a few key needs for their students.
In no particular order these are usually:
- The children do not have enough to do during their lunch breaks and schools can end up with other problems like bullying as a result
- They need more voluntary physical exercise – to build strength, wellness and stamina
- Students need to exercise to increase circulation which results in better classroom concentration
- Children need to improve their gross motor skills (eg: hand and foot coordination) & teaching staff have identified this as a problem
- The children need opportunities to develop social skills and playing together develops this
- Children are not interacting with nature and natural play elements enough
What are the other key factors that determine play equipment for schools?
Apart from the play experience needs of the students, which are of course the first priority, we then find every project is governed by a few other key factors:
- Budget – are funds already set aside for the project or are they still being raised?
- Maintenance requirements – what will be required to keep the play area in good condition?
- Available space – is the play area in a large open space or in a tight corner between buildings?
- Number of users – how many students will need to use it at the same time?
- Student age range – is it for K-6, K-2 or 3-6? This will be a big factor in the design of the playground
- Inclusive design – are there any children with special needs? The design may need to cater for them as well
What types of play equipment are available to schools and which ones will satisfy the most needs?
After being involved with the design of thousands of play areas for schools all over Australia we reckon there are 3 main types of playgrounds or play spaces that suit most schools:
- Traditional playground equipment
- Individual play elements
- Natural play
… and a 4th type would be a combination of any of the above.
Traditional Playground Equipment
This is the kind of equipment you see in thousands of parks and schools all over Australia. It is also known as “continuous play” or “modular play” equipment.
Traditional Playground Equipment is extremely popular with schools even though it has been around since the late 1970’s. There is a very simple reason for this.
When you look at the first 2 lists above it ticks the most boxes. (Bear in mind these lists are universal needs and factors. Not something that is determined by us as a playground builder).
Traditional Playground Equipment is the most cost effective, potentially fits the most play value into the smallest space, challenges the physical limits of a broad age range of children and can cater for large numbers of students at once. (Absolutely critical when time available for play is so short in most schools).
The other fact that many people overlook is that, whilst we as adults might be tired of “Traditional Playground Equipment”, that’s because we are adults. The actual users of this equipment are not young enough for long enough to get tired of it!
Think about it. They enter junior school possibly looking forward to being big enough to use “the play equipment”… they use the equipment for a few years, taking bigger “risks” and challenges while improving their physical strength and skills and then they’ve moved on to high school.
Individual Play Elements
This is where a play environment is made up of various separate play units such as climbing nets, spinning items, rock wall, balancing items etc.
Individual Play Elements can satisfy many of the requirements but they usually take up more space and require bigger soft-fall areas than Traditional Play Equipment.
However, items such as large activity nets (Wildnets) can cater for many students at the one time and are a great addition to school playgrounds.
Nature play or natural playscapes are rapidly increasing in popularity. Children are not interacting with natural elements enough these days and the idea of encouraging that through play is excellent.
This type of play area requires very careful and professional design to ensure a good outcome. We’ve seen many attempts at nature play areas that have not worked through bad planning and the lack of proper maintenance. Simply placing rocks, logs and plantings in various positions in the intended play area will usually result in a bad result.
There are, however, many examples of brilliant results with natural play areas and we encourage any school considering this approach to involve professional help early.
How can Moduplay help your school get the best result?
We’ve worked with all of these types of play areas over many years. Our designers can work with your school’s needs to get the best possible combination of playground types that suit your needs exactly.