21 Aug
10 Favourite Natural Playground Elements
Posted by Joanna Francis

We think that natural elements should be a key part of any playground, not just an afterthought. It pays to start by creating a natural ‘canvas’, defining the main pathways where people will transition through the site (‘desire’ lines) and then create natural elements around that. Think about this from the start and then design your play elements around the natural elements, rather than the other way around. Today in the final post of our series, we’re sharing 10 of our favourite natural playground elements that are low cost, easy to install and that will help bring some green to your kids’ play space.

1. Hills. All hills require is clean fill. You can get it from your own garden, or stop trucks going past and save it from going to landfill. All soil is a mixture of things… silt, clay, sand etc. A good way to check for what it is, is it to take a small handful and put it in a glass jar, fill it with water and shake until dissolved and if it’s really sandy, it will sink to bottom and the water will be fairly clear. If it’s got too much clay, the water will be really murky and if it’s silty it will be somewhere in between. So you may need to adjust the content, ie. if it’s got too much clay you may need to cap the hill with some kind of sand or soil or mulch so it doesn’t slide. Top soil is the best! It’s good to cordon off sections of the hills, plant a variety of plants and define some pathways. Help stop erosion with sand, gravel, rocks, logs etc to help that part of the slope together.


2. Sand. Every child has a natural affinity with sand. It’s the original loose parts playground. It doesn’t dry out like play-dough or paint, it doesn’t go hard and need re-hydrating like clay. Yes, it gets stuck in your shoes and your pockets but it comes cleanly off your skin and you can spend the whole lunchtime playing in it and it doesn’t stress out the teacher. The properties of sand are miraculous. Good sand can be poured through a funnel and will run like a liquid, but add some clean water and you can build roads and tunnels and castles. And the best part is, tomorrow you can do something completely different. Here at Playground Ideas, sandpits are the one element that we think every playground should have.


3. Trees are a fantastic addition to any playground. Not only do they look great, but they can be climbed, they provide shade and also add loose parts that kids can then play with, such as sticks, seed pods, leaves etc. They also bring worms, butterflies, insects to the playground and can also form the structure of built elements such as swing frames, tree houses etc. Try and incorporate existing trees into the design of the playground, or research native trees in your area and plant your own.

4. Flowers and vegetables. Another great addition to any playground and one that can help facilitate children’s understanding and love of gardening. Why not get the kids involved in planting flowers, herbs and vegetables that they can then pick and eat? We love creating bean teepees and so do the kids! The sensory experience of smelling herbs, seeing the bright colours of flowers and picking beans or sweet peas is perfect for all children, but particularly tactile toddlers.

5. Screening plants are any plants that will grow up and obstruct ground level to around 2m high vision. Some will be tall, skinny plants (eg. bamboo) some will be busy and wide and are great for creating mazes, circular, enclosed quiet spaces, pathways and colonnades that can stop traffic from certain directions, therefore protecting areas from unwanted foot traffic. Depending on where you are in the world, and the time of day, screening plants can provide fantastic shade and protection from early morning and late afternoon hot sun.

6. Round logs and stumps for stepping stones. Kids naturally love jumping between stepping stones and round logs or stumps are great for this. They can form the boundary of a sandpit or be placed throughout a playground as a kind of pathway.

7. Climbers using logs and sticks. If you’ve got large, smooth logs or branches, why not try creating a climber out of them that kids can clamber up, jump off and create games on, such as this one that we created in PNG a few years ago.

8. Rocks/ stones. A lot of people think rocks are dangerous in playgrounds because of their hard material but this is not true at all. They’re great because their surface is “grippy” and once in place, it will be there for a long time to come. Finding smooth rocks that have been pummeled in rivers or beaches is often not hard and even if sharp quarried stones is all you can find, you can often use a grinder and a sledgehammer to crack off and shape the edges. So that at least the surface that’s on top is not sharp. One thing to be careful of is that most elements above 600mm from the ground surface or forced movement elements (see-saws, slides) need a 1.5-2m safe fall zone and so rocks need to be outside of this area. (nb. Swings have their own safe fall zone that are larger). One of the simplest ways to use rocks is as stepping stones, and an extension of this is stepping stones that gradually get further away from each other. Rocks also make perfect steps up an incline, to the top of a hill or a hillslide for eg. Larger rocks are the perfect edging for a sandpit. Using masonry tools or a stone grinder blade, you can etch pathways, board games, roads, or water channels into the surface of stones.

9. Water. Water and children go together like bacon and eggs. One of our favourite pieces of parenting advice that has served us well is, “when kids are grumpy or having a bad day, just add water”. Water can be added into playgrounds by adding loose parts water elements such as a water play tub with funnels and cups, creating a channel that water can be poured into and a pump added, or why not create our Sand and water table, made from recycled tires.

10. Found and seasonal natural materials, such as seed pods, wild flowers and leaves. These may come from trees or plants that are in the playground or can be collected from elsewhere and included in a box or designated area. Kids are naturally creative at taking objects that us adults easily look over, and turning them into games or play items. Pebbles become marbles, long sticks become a teepee, large leaves from a plane tree become a bed for little seed pod people. Collect what you can find, and let their imaginations run wild.

Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!


15 Aug
10 Playground Elements For Tiny Tots
Posted by Joanna Francis

Toddlers are bundles of energy. They’re constantly squirming, crawling, spinning, and jumping. Playgrounds can be great environments for toddlers to play, challenge their abilities and engage their senses. But play spaces often require a bit more intention in design to make them appropriate and fun for younger kids. We’ve put together a collection of ten of our favorite DIY elements for toddlers. Check them out!

1. Tire Tunnel

The tire tunnel could not be easier to build, and it’s a great versatile element for toddlers–they can climb through it, crawl over it, or hide inside.

2. Sensory Garden

Toddlers are highly tactile, so a playground garden is a perfect element –they love touching new textures, looking for patterns and smelling the flowers. Be sure to exclude any poisonous plants and include a few edible vegetables or herbs to add to the sensory experience!

3. Earth Mound Small

Simple hills are perfect for toddler playgrounds because they add dimension to the space and are endlessly fun to run up and down and up and down and up and down.

4. Slide Tile

This simple slide is nearly indestructible. It’s made from concrete and floor tiles, so the slide surface won’t get too hot in the sun. Combine the slide with an earth mound and toddlers will have a gentle slope to climb up to their slide, which is prevents tumbles and falls from a traditional slide ladder.

5. Bucket Seat

This toddler swing seat is super simple to construct. It just requires a few tire threads and bolts!

6. Tire Sandpit Combo

We believe every playground should have a sandpit! Sand is the perfect creative play material because it allows kids to shape, mold, and create new forms each time.

7. Big Xylo

Add a little music to your playground with this DIY xylophone!

8. A-Frame Cubby Climber

This cubby climber is perfect for a toddler playground. They’ll love crawling inside and playing peek-a-boo with their friends outside. It also allows for a safe, cozy space when kids need a little spot to sit and watch the world. More confident or older kids can use the peek holes as climbing holds and crawl all over it.

9. Half tire square

An easy design to put together, and great for little kids to climb, jump and balance on.

10. Double drum.

We love incorporating musical elements into playgrounds, and this is a great one for toddlers (and older kids too!)


Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!


13 Aug
10 Free Resources To Help You Create Your Own Playground
Posted by Joanna Francis

Building your own playground can be a daunting task. Whether it’s to be part of a school, an early childhood centre, or as part of a community you’re involved with, there is much to think about. How do I work with the community to ensure that they and their needs are at the centre of the design? What elements should I include? What materials should I use? How do I make sure it’s safe? All these questions (and no doubt many more) will inevitably be running through your head, and if you don’t have much experience in building, it can feel overwhelming. Enter this week’s post which contains within it 10 FREE resources that can help you answer these questions, and indeed all the ones you hadn’t yet thought of!

You may have already cottoned on, but actually everything on our website – yes EVERYTHING – can be accessed by anyone, for free. Zip, zilch, nada. We are proud of this open source website and believe in the power of sharing, and we’d love to hear from you about how you use these resources to create your own unique play space for kids. Just create an account on our website and begin your playground building journey!

1. Playground Starter Kit

All the basics and eight of our most popular and easy low-cost designs to get you started.

2. The Playground Builder’s Handbook

Everything you need to build a playground wherever you are, using local tools, materials and skills.

3. Playground Safety Handbook

A pictorial guide to the basics of International safety standards.

4. Loose Parts Manual

The DIY guide to creating a playground in a box.

5. Inclusive Design Manual

A guide to creating play spaces which welcome children of all abilities.

6. Cut and Paste Playground Designer

Create your playground site plan, with paper, scissors and glue.

7. Play-Based Teacher Training Manual

Equipping educators to support play in and out of the classroom.

8. The Case for Play

A compilation of the best research on play and why our children need it!

9. Design Library

Over 150 playground elements, each with full building instructions.

10. 3D online Design Tool

Our amazing 3D online planning tool that allows you to drag and drop design elements into your playground plan, move them around and walk around inside your design!

Please help us to continue creating and sharing free resources, so that you and others all over the world can keep creating awesome play spaces for kids!


3 Aug
1 Million
Posted by playgroundideasadmin
On November 7th 2017, Playground Ideas’ impact reached


And 2018 also marks Playground Ideas’ ten year anniversary! In that time, over
communities have built play spaces to improve their children’s education, health and long term life outcomes.
Communities everywhere, in 143 countries have used our support and resources.
In 2005 Marcus, Founder and CEO built 1 playground in Cambodia.

Playground 11, 4th feb 2009
In 2008,
with a small team of
amazing volunteers, we built
20 playgrounds.
In 2017 alone,
communities built
692 playgrounds.

Our first and probably still coolest cubby from 25th October 2007

Playground 11, 4th Feb 2009

Guatemala, 15th May 2015

And we are not slowing down, with 50 Playgrounds currently being built in india
Playground Ideas is nothing without the incredible community that takes our resources and brings them to life: for example

Think Playgrounds

Grass Malaysia

Joyce Vernon

For every dollar we receive to fund Playground Ideas work, another
$2.50is raised by a community member somewhere around the world.

The entire cost of running Playground Ideas breaks down to
$0.86cper child impacted.
Donate and help us reach another million children.


Create an account, access our free resources and build your own playground.


1 Million