These long winter nights and short crisp days provide the perfect time to zero in on playground planning. It is definitely our busiest time of year assisting schools, parks, and other groups in the planning process to ensure success.

Here are a few playground planning questions you will need to answer prior to liftoff. Of course, we could help you with it, but you are a smart consumer so why not share it around? After all, you don’t buy playgrounds every day.

Who are the decision-makers? You may have a small fundraising group or a large board. You still need to identify the movers and shakers. Don’t forget the other parties who may not make the decisions but could still influence the playground planning project such as neighbors, the city clerk, or a school secretary. Keep everyone informed because this encourages buy-in later.

Do you know your playground planning budget? This goes without saying and should be established early on. Of course, that’s not saying it doesn’t change as your project moves ahead. It acts as a compass for your decision-making. Most playground reps won’t be interested in your project unless you have identified your budget, proving your project is for real.
Who is going to install it? You get around 25% more if you install the playground equipment yourself (with the help of a factory overseer, of course). Is your group capable of this?

Have you identified what you really want and don’t want? These blunt truths guide your plan around the pitfalls of indecision.

What is your time frame? Make sure you get a worst-case scenario from your playground rep regarding manufacturing lead time and installation.

What would you like to achieve with this project? Keep it simple. What will the legacy be? The answer to this question will determine how much buy-in you get from your community. A strong legacy will compel more buy-in.

What are your criteria for a choosing a vendor? List out two to four things you would like to see such as good references, a solid install plan, a straightforward proposal, or a cool hairdo! (Hey, it’s your choice!)

What type of surfacing will you use? Keep in mind your playground planning budget, ADA accessibility, and install capabilities when choosing this necessary evil. Artificial turf or poured-in-place will eat your budget fast, leaving your playground looking comparatively small. Loose-fill surfacing will require more maintenance. Answer the other playground planning questions first and then weigh the pros and cons of the various surface types.

Having these questions answered before your first playground planning meeting will certainly speed up the conversation. You will be more prepared to ask the right questions and your playground project will start off right.

Sterling West is a park, playground, safety surfacing, and outdoor fitness representative company based in Gothenburg, Nebraska. Our mission is to experience the joy seeing people of all ages have fun and stay fit, knowing we have enriched the lives of others. For more information or for a free consultation, call Sterling West at 877-537-3470 or check us out at