September 03, 2019

Inclusive Playgrounds 101: Be Safe

Physically and Emotionally Secure

This is the fifth post in a seven-part series on inclusive playground design. (View all posts in this series) Can’t wait for all seven parts? Request a copy of Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design® and put research into action.

When it comes to designing inclusive play environments safety and compliance are essential. A compliant and thoughtfully designed play space helps children and families feel emotionally, socially, and physically secure. It also encourages children to explore, engage in developmentally appropriate risks, and gain skills and confidence through play. That’s why this week we are talking about the fifth of the 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design - “Be Safe.”


To create such a play area, select age appropriate play equipment and amenities that support personal growth and development. Reducing potential hazards should be a priority in the overall design of the play environment. Clearly denote each area within the playground with signs or labels that designate areas for preschool age children and school age children, and provide comfortable seating and supervision areas with clear visibility. Some parents have concerns about children running away, sometimes called “elopement,” or leaving the play areas without supervision. Consider installing your playground away from roads and parking areas and find ways to create natural or manufactured boundaries to discourage children from leaving the playground unattended.

Clearly marking play areas for different age groups is essential to a playground where children can "Be Safe"


Reducing physical hazards is important, but equally important is finding ways to provide elements to support emotional well-being. Children who feel emotionally secure on the playground can process the environment and engage in more meaningful experiences. Provide seating or natural observation points next to dramatic play, music or other active areas to intentionally draw children into play.  These “jump-in” points allow children to watch, learn and gain understanding until they are emotionally ready to engage. Cozy areas integrated within the play space off areas for children to retreat, seek sensory relief, and re-engage when they are ready.

GameTime publishes Playground Maintenance and Supervision Guides and makes them available free of charge. Request yours today!


Proper and regular maintenance of the playground is also important. Develop a maintenance plan to help ensure the playground equipment is in working order at all times. Supervision during play is also essential to create a safer play experience. Provide comfortable seating and supervision areas with clear visibility, so caregivers and family member can remain confident and secure while children independently engage in in free play. GameTime publishes comprehensive maintenance and supervision guides and provides them free of charge. 

Conclusion: Being safe involves well-maintained and compliant play equipment, but it also includes designing a play space based on best practices for creating a socially and emotionally secure environment. By planning your inclusive playground thoughtfully, you can provide children and families of all abilities a fun place where they can feel and “be safe.”

To learn more about the seven principles of inclusive playground design request a copy of the complete Me2 guidebook or contact a GameTime representative in your neighborhood to explore inclusive play options for your community.