Sometimes Less is More: Things to Consider When Planning a Playground

By Dora Esparza, Business Leadership Specialist

Dora Esparza

There are some very important aspects of safety to consider when planning a playground area. One of the things to think about is supervision. I have seen a few playgrounds that have play houses or structures that hide various corners of the playground. These structures often block the ability for teachers to supervise the playground and ensure safety.

If you are interested in putting in a playground play house or play area with walls, consider a large window or a way of building the structure that still allows for supervision. Another thing to consider when planning a playground area is circulation. It’s important that the children can run safely around the area without colliding into each other or tripping over a structure. For example, if there is a tire near the bottom of the slide, consider moving the tire to another part of the playground or possibly removing the tire all together. Sometimes, in planning playgrounds, people over estimate how many play items they are going to need. Don’t forget that children need lots of space to run free!

When purchasing large gross motor equipment, review the measurements for a head entrapment so that you are in compliance with licensing. Also, consider pinched fingers or pinched toes. Always review the ages that the gross motor equipment is appropriate for and ensure that the equipment you want to purchase is appropriate for the ages served. Also, take time to consider which skills the equipment can support for the children in the classroom. Sometimes it is better to have less equipment, and more balls or balance beams to really facilitate free choice gross motor play. Sometimes less is more.

The Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines offer examples of what gross motor activities kids at each developmental stage may be engaging in, and provide suggested supports for adults to help facilitate safe and fun exercise spaces.

I am a Certified Playground Safety Inspector. If you are interested in a playground inspection, please contact me at

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