26 Jan
How to Build Children’s Playgrounds From Used Tires
Posted by Elizabeth Moreno

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What’s the best material to build children’s playgrounds from? The short answer is…it depends. It depends on what you can find locally, the prices of local materials, environmental factors (Is there flooding in your area? Termites? Strong wind?), and above all on the advice from local builders. The best materials for a playground in your community should be determined by what can be easily sourced, built, and maintained locally, which will enable your playground to be enjoyed for years to come.

Over the years, we’ve supported over 1,400 communities around the world to build playgrounds and many of them have utilized used tires as their primary building material. While tires may not work in every context, they are commonly used on playgrounds around the world because of their versatility. In this article, we’ll be exploring the benefits of building children’s playgrounds from used car tires as well as a few tips & tricks on tire playground building. Let’s get started!

So why are used car tires a great material for building children’s playgrounds around the world?

1. Availability – Tires are found in nearly every community in the world. They’re easier to find in some places than others, but we’ve been hard pressed to find a location that isn’t able to scrounge up at least a couple dozen used tires. (And we’ve been to some really, really remote places.)

2. Easy to build with – Building with car tires doesn’t take any special skills. If you’ve got a few tires, an electric drill, a knife, a handful of bolts, and a shovel, there are a nearly unlimited number possibilities of designs you can build.

3. Safety – The majority of children’s playgrounds around the world are built from steel, which can pose safety hazards. In hot climates, steel elements in direct sunlight can get extremely hot and even burn children. Steel is also very hard and can hurt kids if they slip and fall or accidentally run in front of a kid swinging on a metal swing seat (a common problem.) Tires, on the other hand, do not get nearly as hot in sunlight (especially when painted) and are forgiving if you fall down and bonk your head on them.

5. Durability – Tires are made to hurl thousands of pounds of machinery down bumpy roads. They’re made to last. And they do. They’re also not susceptible to common environmental risks – like termites eating wood or weather rusting metal. Truck tires are especially durable and are preferable in many of our designs although then can be much heavier.

6. Affordability – Most communities can source tires for free or very cheap. We’ve built children’s playgrounds in some places where used tires are such a waste problem that they are often burned to dispose of them, releasing toxic fumes. In these areas, people are happy for you to take their used tires off their hands! In other areas of the world, old tires are used to make sandals, or other products, so they have a “value” in the local economy. In areas like this, we’ve sometimes had to pay a small price for tires and have factored this into the budget.



Playground Ideas has over a hundred children’s playground equipment designs that can be built from used car tires. Each design comes with free step-by-step DIY instructions and most require nothing more than a few bolts and an electric drill. Access all our used car tire designs in our Design Library.

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Tire quality

Prior to using any tires, carefully examine the entire surface of the tire to ensure there are no steel wires sticking out. If there is a small patch of exposed wires, you can still use this tire if it is half buried in the ground with the exposed section in the ground. However, if the rubber has worn thin and there are exposed wires on half or more of the tire you cannot use it. Do not try to clip down or grind down these exposed wires – it just won’t work and can pose a serious hazard to children. 



One of the potential safety hazards in building tire playground is that if you do not take precautions, tires can collect water which can be a breeding ground for mosquitos. In areas of malaria prevalence, this can be a be a dangerous problem.

Luckily, it’s also an easy problem to avoid! Here’s how: on each element, cut or drill a hole at the lowest point of each tire. This will allow any rainwater to freely drain. After you complete the playground, double check each element to ensure that there is a drainage hole for every tire that could collect water.


To ensure that paint sticks to tires well, use high quality oil based paint. Used tires generally have a lot of oil and dirt on them which can prevent paint from sticking. You also don’t want kids getting leftover motor oil on their hands, so scrub down any tires you’ll use on the playground with soap and water and allow them to dry before painting and before children play on them. Generally it is easiest to do this all at once at the beginning of the build instead of trying to wash elements that have already been built. Prior to painting, you may need to do another quick wipe down to remove any dirt from constructed elements.


Further resources

For more info on building children’s playgrounds from used tires, be sure to check out our Playground Builder’s Handbook. It’s packed with more details and advice on building with tires, including ideas for sourcing tires, how to read sidewall numbers to differentiate different sizes of tires, and tips on how to easily and efficiently cut a tire. In addition, you’ll find guidance on planning, designing, building, and maintaining locally built playgrounds, regardless of what materials you choose to build from.


How to Build Children’s Playgrounds From Used Tires