Outdoor playspaces are limited only by your budget and
imagination. The goal for outdoor play is to encourage physical and
social skills in a safe environment. Here are ideas to
consider. A small budget may mean you have limited funds –
but it should also mean you place no limits on creativity. Try
these shoestring ideas.
• Natural Landscapes-Sometimes the simplest
things are the most effective play features. Natural elements such
as hills, trees, dirt, grass, and sand can provide hours of organic
entertainment. One year for my son’s birthday we hosted a Field Day
themed party where we did potato sack races, Tug-of-War, egg toss,
and more as our play activities. It’s still one of his favorite
birthday party memories.
Get a talented gardener or landscaper from your church to assess
your play area and offer suggestions to create a varied,
child-friendly outdoor space. Contact your local county extension
office ahead of time for a list of poisonous plants to avoid.
• Wooden Play Sets-Cedar and redwood play sets
provide an affordable option that kids love. Companies such as
Woodplay of the Carolinas (woodplaync.com) offer play
sets starting in the $3,000 range. Ensure that the unit you’re
considering is ASTM and ADA compliant, as standards for commercial
play use differ greatly from residential use. They can also be
self-installed by your volunteers. You can do a lot out-doors
on a medium budget. Check out these innovative ways to grab kids’
attention and keep them coming back for the challenges.
Kids LOVE these Sunday School resources!
• Skate Parks-An outdoor skate park can open a
door to kids you might not have otherwise reached. Sunramp’s (sunramp.com) Skatepark To Go is
portable and sets up in your parking lot. These portable skate
ramps start around $5,000. (Check with your insurer for special
• Climbing Equipment-Kids have a natural urge to
climb. Cre8Play’s (cre8play.com) StratoRock
climbing boulder gives older kids who are bored with the standard
play equipment a more challenging activity they’ll try over and
over again. There are several models and sizes to select from
ranging from $7,000 to $15,000. “This unsurpassed, realistic
looking design features various degrees of challenge for users of
all abilities and includes ADA ground level events and an optional
slide attachment,” says Todd Lehman from Cre8Play. If the
sky’s the limit, you may as well do something that will truly
distinguish your playspace as a destination for kids and
• Play Equipment-Traditional outdoor play
equipment can provide years of playability for your church and
kids. But the key is to differentiate your church from the city
park down the street. To do that, consider these attention-grabbing
Creativity-Playspace components can include musical
instruments and ways for kids to express themselves. For instance,
recently introduced GT Jams, which are interactive music-making
elements such as drums, horns, whistles, and more spread throughout
the play structure.
Interactivity-Interactive options are a growing trend
that kids can’t seem to get enough of. Play and Park Structures’
panels, which offer activities from lacing and painting to acting
and magnets, foster imaginative play and can be reconfigured so
kids don’t tire of them.
Rather than offering a children-only destination, these upgrades
to a typical outdoor playspace create a multigenerational
destination for play, fun, and fitness for all ages and abilities.
Enhancing your playspace will invite connection and activity,
ultimately encouraging families to gather.
Typical investment for outdoor play systems including equipment
and installation starts around $15,000. The key is determining your
parameters and what’ll best meet your needs.
• Spray Parks-In the amusement industry, spray
parks have become immensely popular over the past few years as a
replacement for in-ground pools. These shallow or zero-depth wet
playgrounds are colorful, interactive, and safe. Splashmakers, LLC
designs all types of splash pad layouts for a variety of budgets.
Typical initial investment starts around $50,000.
• • •
“Decades of research in child development and recent research in
brain development have substantiated the crucial role that play has
in children’s optimal cognitive, physical, emotional and social
development,” says Randy White from White Hutchinson Leisure and
We should never minimize the value of play. As children’s
ministers and the church, we can be the innovators when it comes to
creative facilities and destinations for kids. Don’t settle for
emulating what others have done to reach kids; continually raise
the bar higher. After all, we have the ultimate Source of
creativity and originality backing us.
Reagan Hillier creates destinations for kids at church with
his company, Worlds of Wow (worldsofwow.com).
Use these pointers to maximize your investment.
• Build relationships. Create intentional play
opportunities where kids get to know each other and your volunteer
leaders by interacting and playing together.
• Use your playspace for outreach. Host birthday
parties and other special events at your church. This could be your
#1 outreach opportunity.
• Add on as you can. You don’t have to wait until
you have financing for your dream playground. Instead, develop a
master plan and add play features in phases as your budget