6 Key Elements of the Modern School Playground

Playgrounds have moved on a lot over the last few years. Like blackboards in classrooms, old fashioned asphalt schoolyards have been consigned to the annals of history. Today’s playgrounds use modern surfacing materials, have places for outdoor seating and eating, provide areas for shelter and are equipped for fun, sport and relaxation. To give a more detailed overview, here are the six key elements of a modern playground.

1. Modern surfacing materials

The surface of your playground is one of its most important elements. Get it right and you have a space that can be used all year round and for a wide variety of purposes. A good surface needs to be safe, easy to look after, durable and something that is good for children to play on. At the same time, it needs to be matched to any other equipment you want to install.

For most of the 20th Century, asphalt has been the standard material used for playground surfacing, however, this is now being replaced by more modern and superior materials. Two of the main reasons are that, like tarmac, it is expensive to maintain and its hard surface is a frequent cause of injuries, such as nasty scrapes or broken bones. Its hardness makes it particularly unsuitable for using underneath the climbing equipment that many schools are now installing.

Today, you are more likely to see schools using a wider variety of playground surfaces, each one fulfilling a different purpose. For example, wetpour surfacing, with its cushioned protection, is ideal for younger children and for placing under raised equipment from which children may fall. Softer surfacing also comes in the form of rubber mulch and there’s also artificial grass, which is great for sports. If you have real grass, you can protect it from erosion and stop it from becoming a quagmire by installing grass matting over the top. If you still need hard surfaces in places, resin bound gravel is a more durable and better alternative to asphalt.

2. Places for sitting and eating

All children will want to spend some time sitting down chatting to friends during break times and, at lunchtimes, there are those with packed lunches who’d prefer a spot in the open air to a cramped and busy canteen.

These simple pleasures are easy and inexpensive to cater for and you’ll find that in a modern playground, a sitting and eating zone is usually provided. There is a range of playground seating you can install, including wooden benches and picnic tables, as well as individual seats and even mini amphitheatres where larger groups of friends can chat together.

3. Providing shelter

Bad weather playtimes, when the kids are kept indoors, aren’t much fun for staff or pupils. While outdoor shelters won’t be usable in the worst of the weather, they can help reduce the number of indoor breaks you need. More importantly, playground shelters help those children who feel the cold to have somewhere dry and which offers some protection from those chilly winds. Equipment includes everything from large, octagonal shelters with decked floors and built-in seating, to pergolas and sail shades. For younger children, there are also play huts and dens.

4. Invest in a nature area

All of us benefit from the calming influence of nature and providing a little bit of greenery to your playground can make a big difference to the children’s moods. If you haven’t got the luxury of your own green area, there are ways to introduce a bit of park life into an industrial looking playground. With planters, trellises and artificial grass, you can grow shrubs and flowers to create your own nature and garden zone. You can even add bug houses and bird boxes. It’s the ideal solution for kids who need some relaxation after challenging lessons in a busy classroom.

5. Fun and games

It’s hard to have fun when you’re shoved out into a blank quadrangle of grey asphalt. However, by installing the right equipment, you can create a vibrant outdoor space that provides lots of fun opportunities for children of all interests.

One of the most affordable options is to install playground markings. There are specific fun and games markings that enable children to play both traditional and modern playground games. There are even designs to encourage role play, such as our roadway markings which comes complete with a roundabout, parking spaces and a zebra crossing.

You may be more familiar with sports markings which can be used both at playtimes and for PE lessons. These create the pitches pupils need to play football, netball and basketball, plus a range of other popular sports.

6. Equipment children love

What gets the biggest thumbs up from pupils is when you install the types of equipment found in public playgrounds. Today’s children want exciting things to play on, like climbing equipment and its now possible to install these in schools. And with items such as Trim Trails obstacle courses, Free Flow climbing frames, traversing walls, play towers and even parkour equipment, you’re bound to give your pupils the ultimate, playtime fun.

Not only are these pieces of equipment designed for safety; they also get the children to become more active during their free time and help develop a wide range of social and learning skills.

There is also a lot of fun equipment designed especially for younger children, such as outdoor musical instruments, mud kitchens and splashy water and sand equipment.


If you are looking to bring your playground into the 21st Century, hopefully, the points we have discussed here will help you see what the main features of a modern school playground are. With modern surfacing, places for sitting and eating, shelter from the rain and wind, natural areas for those who need to relax and exciting areas for those who need to burn off steam, today’s school playground genuinely caters for the needs of children when they are outdoors.

If you are looking to modernise your school playground, check out our range of products or look at our free playground design service.

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