Selecting Age Appropriate Playground Equipment

Selecting Age Appropriate Playground Equipment

Perhaps nothing is more important when it comes to purchasing playground equipment than to make sure that the playground equipment you select is appropriate for the age of children who will be using it. The easiest way to make sure that you will be selecting the right playground for your children will be to answer a few simple questions:

What is the youngest and oldest age of the intended users?

If for instance you have an area that is only used by pre-kindergarten age children, say as young as 2 and as old as 5, then a playground unit designed for ages 2-5 would likely be the best choice for your users. There may be situations in which the age group is varied, say from ages 2-12. In situations such as these you may use a unit that has features for all age groups, such as a 2-12 playground, or you may consider purchasing multiple units and separating the age groups out.

What level of supervision will be present on the playground?

It goes without saying that the more supervision on a playground the better. In areas where supervision will be limited, it is more important to strictly adhere to age group recommendations.

Understanding Age Groups in Playground Equipment

So, what exactly do age groups mean? In a nut shell, age groups on a piece of playground equipment tells us that the features on that unit have been designed to be used by and are appropriate for that specific age group. This includes deck heights, climbing features, slides, etc. So, for example, if a piece of playground equipment is designated for children ages 2-5, then you will find play activities that will be ideal and safe for that age group and their development level. Older children would be able to use the equipment; however, they would likely find it boring.
It is important to mention at this point that some units are designed for a wide age group, such as units designed for ages 2-12. This means that the unit will have features that area suited for a variety of age groups and that are not separated. 2-12 structures required a higher level of supervision as they may feature play activities that are too advanced for younger ages.

Playground Equipment for Infants and Toddlers (6-24 Months)

Infants are sensory creatures who explore relentlessly with their eyes, hands, feet, torsos, noses and mouths. They creep, crawl, sit up, pull up, and otherwise exert themselves at ground or floor level until they learn to walk, when they launch themselves on the journey to being “toddlers” — a term that is defined more by state licensing requirements than by any universally recognized developmental standard. Toddlers need space to exercise their new physical freedom while avoiding territorial conflict with their peers.

Playground Equipment for Pre Schoolers (2-5 Years)

Two-year-olds (in some states, 2-1/2- or 3-year-olds) represent the lower age limit of the preschool group. These children are new to the playground, and like having a place of their own, sized appropriately. These youngsters have a limited attention span. For this audience, the best playground challenges involve climbing over, under and around things, plus activities that foster fine motor skills. Older preschoolers, in the 3- to 5-year-old range enjoy dramatic play and imitating others. Social skills are just developing, and a desire to be like the “big kids” may result in conflicts and exposure to physical risk. Supervision is quite important at this age.

Playground Equipment for School Age Children (5-12 Years)

Children ages 5 to 12 are learning and building skills rapidly. They are working on fine motor skills, gross motor skills, coordination, strength and balance. Their social skills are becoming more evolved and elaborate games and competitions abound on the playground. At the older end of this age range, there are children who are about to make the transition from elementary school to junior high. These 12-year-olds (or older) can be nearly twice the height of a preschooler and can have more than eight times the grip strength. They are high-spirited, subject to peer pressure and fond of “goofing off” on the playground. These traits can lead to aggression and vandalism on the playground. In addition, older children often forget that preschoolers are smaller and weaker and accidents can result. For this reason, it just makes good sense to have separate areas for preschoolers and older kids.

2-12 Playground Structures

Many of our clients who only have room for one structure, or can only afford one structure decide to purchase a structure designed for children ages 2-12. These structures are great because the provide play activities that are geared towards a variety of ages. It is important to note however that because these units cater to a large age range, additional supervision is required to ensure safe use by younger children.

Examples of Age Appropriate Playground Equipment

Toddler – Ages 6-23 Months

• Climbing equipment under 32” high

• Ramps

• Single file step ladders

• Slides*

• Spiral slides less than 360°

• Spring rockers

• Stairways

• Swings with full bucket seats

Preschool – Ages 2-5 Years

• Certain climbers

• Horizontal ladders less than or equal to 60” high for ages 4 and 5

• Merry-go-rounds

• Ramps

• Rung ladders

• Single file step ladders

• Slides

• Spiral slides up to 360°

• Spring rockers

• Stairways

• Swings – belt, full bucket seats (2-4 years) & rotating tire

Grade School – Ages 5-12

• Arch climbers

• Chain or cable walks

• Free standing climbing events with flexible parts

• Fulcrum seesaws

• Ladders – Horizontal, Rung, & Step

• Overhead rings

• Merry-go-rounds

• Ramps • Ring treks

• Slides

• Spiral slides more than one 360° turn

• Stairways

• Swings – belt & rotating tire

• Track rides

• Vertical sliding poles