12 May
Community Based Alternatives to Commercial Playground Equipment
Posted by Elizabeth Moreno

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Play is so important that it is considered a “right” by the United Nations. And yet, in today’s world play is often seen as a luxury, not a need. Consequently, millions of children around the world do not have adequate access to play and are not developing to their full potential. For many schools and community organizations around the world, a lack of adequate funding prevents them from creating safe, stimulating spaces for their children to play.

Commercial playground equipment can cost tens, sometimes even hundreds of thousands of dollars. When a school is struggling to pay teachers and buy textbooks, the high cost of commercial playground equipment can keep them from even considering the idea of building a play space.


Beyond the high cost, commercial playground equipment is a specialized product only available in some areas of the world. In many low-income countries, playground equipment suppliers are few and far between or simply may not exist at all. Importing commercial playground equipment is also not a sustainable solution as the taxes on imports can sometimes end up costing almost as much as the equipment itself! In addition, any playground equipment, no matter how robustly built, will require maintenance over time. Commercial playground equipment often requires special skills and tools to repair and without regular maintenance the equipment can fall into disrepair and become dangerous to play on.


Playground Ideas is a nonprofit organization founded with a mission to help fill this gap by ensuring that anyone, anywhere can build a play space using only local tools, skills and low-cost and recycled materials. With a suite of playground building handbooks, over 150 DIY designs, a crowdfunding platform, and a 3D playground designer tool, all the resources for a community build playground are in one place. Over 1400 communities in 85 countries have used our resources to build playgrounds. If you’re interested in building a playground yourself as an alternative to commercial playground equipment, check out our “Playground Starter Kit,” a design scheme that puts together some of our favorite, time-tested, low-cost elements into a beautiful space that inspires active, imaginative, social, creative, and open-ended play.


Another great alternative to commercial playground equipment is to provide “loose parts” play materials in your space. “Loose parts” play materials are cheap or free ordinary household, homemade, and natural objects like cloth, sticks, leaves, beads, clay, plastic bottles, and wires that children can use for play activities. A loose parts play area is a great option if you don’t yet have the space or funds for a built playground. Even if you already have a playground, adding loose parts to the environment will make for a richer, more creative play experience. Playground Ideas has an easy Loose Parts Manual that will introduce you to the benefits of loose parts play and guide you through creating and maintaining a low cost box of play materials for the children in your care.

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Don’t let the high cost of commercial playground equipment stand in the way of creating safe, fun spaces for children to play. Join the Playground Ideas community today to access all our resources in one space and get started on the journey of play space building!