The Ultimate Guide To Daycare Play Equipment

So you’ve decided it’s time for a new playground. Awesome! There are unlimited possibilities, ideas, configurations, and options to make this happen. It can be easy to become overwhelmed and paralyzed by choice. We recommend you start by defining your playground objectives. Get together with the key stakeholders. Once you have defined your objectives, you can easily go back to them to guide decisions should you reach a crossroads.

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In a hurry? You can download the ultimate guide and take it to go. 

The ultimate guide to daycare play equipment pdf images

Step 1: Planning

Investing the time and energy to get clear on the objectives and goals of your new playground can save you lot’s of time and energy down the line. 

Before we begin discussing the elements of planning your daycare equipment, there a few areas that will impact your budget that you should be aware of.

Don't forget to account for these factors when budgeting your playground:

1. Inspection

2. Excavation

3. Removal of existing equipment

4. Soil removal

5. Drainage

6. Site Restoration

7. Surfacing

Time Frame

A typical playground project can take 1-5 months from conception to completion. Invest the time now to make the right decisions. 

Simplified Tip: Once installed, commercial-grade equipment will last for around 20 years, so it pays to spend extra time in the planning stage.

Choosing The Right Equipment

daycare play equipment solutions

Simplified Tip: Be sure to include inclusive and accessible equipment

Accessibility and inclusivity are two words that are frequently used when discussing new playgrounds - but it’s not always clear what they mean and how they’re different. If you’re curious about the differences and how these terms relate to playground design, keep reading because this guide is for you.

Accessibility provides general usability for people to experience play. An accessible route to and from equipment and a certain number of ground-level play components can be found on all accessible playground designs.

An inclusive playground provides a safe space for children regardless of their abilities to come together and play. All physical and social barriers are removed so any user, with or without a disability, can experience the same type of play.

Accessible Playground Design

Accessibility is ensuring that users of all abilities have a general level of usability at the playground. Providing accessible play spaces removes barriers and increases opportunities for people of all abilities to experience outdoor play. 

In the past, it was common to design an ‘accessible’ playground that catered to users who had limited mobility. However, designing an accessible playground allows people of all abilities, including those with limited mobility, hearing, speech, visual, or dexterity abilities. 

The Canadian Standards Association Children’s Playspaces and Equipment Standard has published an accessibility guideline, Annex H. Annex H identifies the minimum accessibility standards for a new, or retrofit playground in outdoor public areas.

Kids playing underneath a daycare playground structure

A large focus on an accessible playground is the presence of an accessible route throughout the play space, which is a continuous pathway from the border to the equipment free from obstructions. Having an accessible route makes it possible for users in a mobility device to access and play throughout the playground.

Ground-level play components are fully accessible play components as they are both approached and exited at the ground level. Elevated play components are attached to a playset or play structures, and are either approached or exited at the ground level (not both). It is important to note that the ground-level components must be on an accessible route. 

Annex H has requirements for a minimum number of ground-level play components in relation to the number of elevated play components. The below table can be found in Annex H of the CSA Z614-20 standard.

Ground level play component chart

A common piece of equipment found in an accessible playground design is a transfer platform. A transfer platform allows a user with limited mobility to transfer out of a mobility device onto the play structure. Having a transfer platform in your playground creates an accessible route onto the play structure. 

A few tips on designing an accessible playground: 

1. Have a transfer platform onto a play structure so everyone can access elevated play components

2. Ensure there is an accessible route within the playground to access all accessible play components

3. Provide the right number of ground-level play components based on the chart above

Designing an accessible playground is easy with the right guidance. If you already have an existing playground it can easily be modified to increase accessibility. The easiest way to boost the accessibility would be to add freestanding play components at ground level. Freestanding play panels, musical instruments, or sandboxes are all good examples of inexpensive components to add to an existing playground. 

Examples of accessible play equipment can be found on our website

Inclusive Playground Design

It’s not uncommon for companies or organizations to label a playground or design as inclusive, when in fact it is missing key elements to truly be an inclusive playground. An inclusive playground will provide developmentally challenging and age- appropriate playground activities that cater to the diverse needs of all children, regardless of their abilities. 

An inclusive playground will have play components for the whole child. Inclusive equipment removes any barriers from play, allowing all children to play together and play the same, regardless of their abilities. 

Playground inclusion chart

Designing an inclusive playground starts with planning. Knowing what is needed to make a playground inclusive, and what play components make a great inclusive playground is half the battle. It is important to remember that the majority of children with a disability have a cognitive disability.

The common disabilities you need to be aware of when designing an inclusive playground are:

1. Cognitive

2. Sensory

3. Social-Emotional

4. Communication

5. Physical

Incorporating diverse play equipment that caters to all disabilities allows for a play space that any child can enjoy. Let’s go over each disability as it relates to playground design:

1. Cognitive

Providing play components that promote problem-solving, abstract thinking, and learning opportunities are a great way to promote cognitive development on your playground.

Creating opportunities for children to process, think and then act is important. 
Dramatic play panels like steering wheels or storefronts provide opportunities for abstract thinking, while maze panels are great for problem-solving. 

2. Sensory

Sight, hearing, and touch are important sensory stimulations that children can experience on a playground. 

Providing the right variety of play panels will hit all sensory components and provide a well-rounded play experience.

Simplified Tip: Short on space? Link together play panels or purchase pre- attached play panels to save on money and space! 

Musical elements are a great cost-effective way to provide hearing sensory stimulation. 

3. Social-Emotional

Providing multi-user inclusive equipment allows all children to interact and work together as a team to maximize the play experience. Game panels like tic-tac-toe are a great and inexpensive way to add a social-emotional element to your inclusive playground. 

Providing a quiet retreat on the playground allows children to take a break from interactions, regroup and recharge so they can join back in when they are ready. A small seat or under-deck play area is an easy way to provide a reprieve from the chaos that can ensue on a playground. 

4. Communication

Expressive play is a great way to foster communication development. Providing multi- user play panels, or play equipment that can accommodate more than one user are excellent options to allow children to work on their communication abilities, Communication vessels such as talk tubes or megaphones are also great play components to work on improving social skills, self-esteem, and confidence.

Non-verbal expression is just as important as verbal communication in an inclusive playground. Customized non-verbal communication boards that children can use to express their needs and wants are great additions to inclusive playgrounds.

5. Physical

An accessible playground can be designed using only a transfer platform; however, if there is a play structure, a fully inclusive playground design must have at least one ramp. Ramps are preferred over transfer platforms as some users in mobility devices may be unable or unwilling to use transfer platforms. Ramps provide a fully inclusive option for users with mobility impairments to experience elevated play components.

Simplified Tip: A playset or elevated play component are not required to have a fully inclusive playground.

Daycare musical play equipment

Providing physical stimulation for children with limited mobility is important in an inclusive playground. A variety of inclusive play components throughout the playground will promote engaging movement and physical stimulation for all users.

A few additional tips for designing a fully inclusive playground:

- Provide seating for caregivers in strategic locations

- Create parallel play opportunities for users of all abilities to play side by side

- Add shade to protect users that may have sensitivities to the sun or harsh light

- Create looping patterns (slide exits and climbers close to the ramp and/or the transfer platform entrances) to promote repetitive and engaging play

- Provide accessible safety surfacing to create accessible routes of travel to and through the playground

- Add play components and promote cooperative play to encourage children to work together to create a fun experience

- Provide a quiet spot for children who may need a retreat from sensory stimulations 

A great playground allows children to grow and learn together through play - a great inclusive playground allows them to grow and learn together. 

If you have any questions on designing an accessible or inclusive playground please reach out to a Simplified Playground expert. 

Step 2: Determining Your Budget

We've put together three resources to assist you in determining and growing your budget for your upcoming daycare playground project. 

1. Our fundraising guide
2. Our grant application guide
3. Our financing guide

The Ultimate Guide To Fundraising For Your Daycare in 2022

We’re big believers that your budget shouldn’t prevent you from providing the best possible equipment and care for your children, which is why we’ve put together this fundraising guide and a list of grants you may be eligible for.

View the fundraising guide

The 5-Step Plan To Securing Grants For Your Daycare

Grant writing isn't easy. Many other licensed child care centers, daycares, and other eligible organizations will be pursuing the same pot of gold. If you want to make sure you're setting yourself up for success, you'll have to be aware of the common pitfalls and mistakes that can occur when applying for grants. 

View the grant writing guide

Financing Guide

Playgrounds are a vital part of our children’s lives - they provide them with opportunities to play, exercise, socialize, and learn. Financing playground equipment can help provide your facility and community with the opportunity to enhance a child’s playtime without having to worry about the large cost of purchasing new equipment. 

Colorful daycare playground equipment

At Simplified Playgrounds we understand the importance of play, and also understand how expensive it can get! That is why we offer financing as an option to help you provide a great play experience for the children of their community. 

Start Enjoying the Benefits of a New Playground Today

Financing allows you to enjoy your new play space today while paying for it over time. 

Financing is a great option that allows you to stretch your budget further. Purchasing play equipment on a financing plan can make it easier to afford monthly payments instead of the total upfront cost. Financing combined with fundraising (link guide) makes it easier than ever to provide a new play space for your community or facility. 

Playground equipment financing offers several advantages over buying play equipment outright. The main advantage is the ability to spread payments over an agreed-upon term instead of sinking all available capital into the purchase of new equipment. Financing playground equipment has become very common these days. The benefits of financing include lower upfront costs, flexibility, and convenience.

Financing Advantages

- Easy application

- Flexible payments

- Tailored to you

- More playground equipment for less

- Play now, pay later

Financing has helped non-profits, schools, daycares, churches, and community associations purchase and enjoy new play equipment. If financing is something you are interested in, you can fill out the below form and a Simplified Playground financing expert will be in touch.

Financing FAQs

Step 3: Installing Your Equipment

Your new playground is on its way - now it’s time to think about how you will assemble and install the play equipment once it arrives. There are three common installation methods that you can choose from:

$ - DIY Installation

The cheapest installation method is the do-it-yourself method. This may seem daunting, but all equipment comes with installation sheets that have a step-by-step guide on how to assemble the equipment. If you can successfully assemble Ikea furniture you won’t have any trouble installing your new playground. However, if you run into an issue or need clarification during your installation feel free to reach out to your Simplified Playgrounds Expert at or +1 (833) 567-7529 and they will be happy to assist you.

Tools and equipment will be required to complete the installation. If you don’t have access to the required tools the rental costs should be factored into your budget. To figure out what tools you're going to need for the installation, please reach out to the vendor you purchased the equipment from. 

A DIY installation is perfect for teams who have multiple members with construction experience and access to the proper tools and equipment to get the job done!

$$ - Volunteer Installation

A volunteer installation is still completed by you and your team, however, a professional installer is sent to help lead the installation. The professional installer will provide all the tools and equipment to complete the job, and provide both guidance and assistance to ensure the installation is done quickly and correctly. 

A volunteer installation is perfect for teams who want to contribute some sweat equity to their new playground, but lack the resources to get it done efficiently.

$$$ - Professional Installation

A professional installer and crew will be sent to install your playground equipment with a professional installation. All the tools, equipment, and manpower will be provided to assemble and install your equipment in the safest and most efficient way possible. 

While a professional installation is the most costly, it also ensures that you will have a safe, functioning playground once the installation is complete. 

A professional installation is perfect for teams who want to leave the installation to the professionals and focus on enjoying their new playground after a hassle-free installation.

Installation FAQs

Step 4: Maintaining Your Play Equipment

Now that you have installed your new playground it’s important to perform regular maintenance inspections. At Simplified Playgrounds, we provide only the highest quality equipment, but countless hours of play and harsh elements can and will create inevitable wear and tear. Having a maintenance schedule in place can help mitigate any potential hazards that may arise. Performing routine inspections and conducting maintenance as necessary will:

Extend The Life of Your Playground

When equipment is regularly inspected it can help spot a problem that can be easily repaired vs. replaced. If you don’t routinely inspect your equipment, a small repair could turn into a large replacement with continued use. 

Reduce Unexpected Expenses

Regular maintenance inspections can help forecast future repair costs. Having a budget in place for repairs and replacements eliminates the shock of an unexpected, and potentially large, repair bill.

kids playing on daycare equipment

How Often Should you Inspect Your Playground?

It is your responsibility as a playground owner to routinely inspect your playground for potential hazards. We recommend the following schedule to ensure the playground remains a safe and fun space for everyone to enjoy.

Every Day

A visual inspection of the playground, surfacing, and surrounding area should be performed every day or at least every other day. This inspection should verify the playground appears to be in working order. Make sure the area is free of trash, broken glass, or any other debris. 

Every Month

Perform a thorough review of your playground using a maintenance checklist. We have created a sample checklist that you can download below to help you get started. 

Every Year

We recommend hiring a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) to inspect your playground once a year. Having a professional review and assess your playground can help mitigate hazards that you may have not noticed. 

How Do I Inspect My Playground?

Using our checklist below is a great starting point for your playground inspections. Below are key items to check when inspecting your playground:

daycare playground maintenance items
Daycare playground maintenance checklist

What Do I Do After My Playground Inspection?

After you’ve completed your inspection, we recommend following the three R’s: Record, Repair, Replace. 


During your maintenance inspections, it’s important to record all observations. We recommend filing all maintenance records for at least 2 years. Along with the monthly checklist and the yearly CPSI report, these records should also include any corrective actions that were taken to rectify any deficiencies noted in the reports. In the unlikely event of a lawsuit, having consistent records will show that you’ve taken due diligence in maintaining a safe environment. 


If you notice a deficiency during your inspection, it’s important to assess the damage and determine the next steps. If you are unsure, it’s highly recommended to consult a professional. If a repair is required, contact your playground manufacturer. Depending on the age of your playground, the equipment may still be under warranty. Your playground manufacturer will work with you to determine the repair parts required and help answer any questions you may have. 

During the repair process, we recommend blocking off or isolating the damaged equipment to prevent children from injuring themselves or damaging the equipment further. 


If the damaged equipment is beyond repair, it’s time to replace it to maintain a safe and functioning playground. Depending on the age of your playground, replacement parts may no longer be available, causing a full replacement of the damaged equipment. 

Simplified Playgrounds FAQs

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