The Best Playground Equipment for Schools (and Where To Buy It)
It’s hard to imagine an elementary school without a playground! Swings, slides, monkey bars … playground equipment for schools pretty much looked the same for a long time. These days, though, there are so many fun options. We’ve rounded up our favorite playground must-haves, along with advice on where to buy them—and how to afford them.
Playground Equipment Suppliers
Wondering where to buy outdoor playground equipment for schools? Here are some of the top suppliers, known for their quality and commitment to safety. Some offer complete playground design and installation, while others simply supply the equipment you need. Choose the one that’s right for your school.
Grants for Playground Equipment
There’s no doubt about it: Playground equipment is pricey. Whether you want to add a piece of equipment or build a whole new play space, you’re looking at thousands of dollars, minimum. If your school doesn’t have those kinds of funds available, no worries! There are a lot of playground equipment grants out there.
Many playground equipment suppliers are happy to help you find the grant funding you need. They often have experts to help you, so be sure to ask up front. You can also check out lists of playground grants, like the one found here from Peaceful Playgrounds. (Need to raise the money yourself? Take a look at 40+ Unique and Effective Fundraising Ideas for Schools.)
Finding Affordable Playground Equipment
Once you’ve got your funding secured, you’re going to want to make the most of it by finding affordable playground equipment. You might consider used playground equipment, but remember that anything more than a few years old can have some real health and safety risks. Research the potential purchase heavily, and ask playground professionals for advice before buying.
Ultimately, you might find it makes more sense to purchase new and affordable playground equipment that fits your budget. The best way to do that is to truly understand your needs. Consider these questions:
- How many children can safely play on/with the equipment at once? Weigh that against the overall cost.
- Do your choices meet the needs of all students? Be sure to consider inclusive and accessible options.
- What age groups will the equipment appeal to? If your school has limited ages, like a preschool or upper elementary, your playground equipment can be narrower in scope. But a K-5 school will need items that little ones and older students will enjoy.
- How can you make the best use of your space? Do you have room for spaced-out individual elements like swing sets, slides, and basketball hoops? Or do you need an all-in-one unit that offers lots of choice in a smaller space?
- Will the changing seasons affect potential play? Kids bundled up in heavy coats and mittens will interact differently with some play equipment, especially climbing items. Avoid items that might sit idle (or even be unsafe) during certain times of year.
- Consider maintenance needs. Some equipment should be regularly checked for loose bolts, weak chains, etc. How will you handle that? Be sure to figure that into your cost analysis.
Best Playground Equipment for Schools
Let’s get to the good stuff—the actual playground equipment you need! These are some of our favorite choices, in a variety of price ranges. We’ve also included inclusive playground equipment that every kid can use. It’s time to make your recess dreams a reality!
Gaga Ball Pit
Source: The Newport Daily News
Gaga ball has been sweeping the nation, providing a fun and active game that most kids can play and enjoy. Learn everything you need to know about gaga ball pits here, including how to build or buy one.
Climbing walls have been incredibly popular on playgrounds. This one is big enough for lots of kids to play on at once, with a variety of climbing elements.
Buy it: Craggy Horn
Panel systems allow you to customize the play experience and make it fully inclusive. This bell panel adds a sensory musical element to your playground.
Buy it: Bell Panel
Regular swing sets are always a hit, but the disc swing lets up to four kids get in on the fun together. This is the kind of swing students will line up to take turns on!
Buy it: Disc Swing
Super Geo Dome Climber
This one’s a classic for a reason. Lots of kids can play on it at once, swinging, climbing, hiding out, and more.
Buy it: Super Geo Dome Climber
Merry-go-rounds have been popular spinning playground equipment choices for decades, but not all kids have been able to use them. An option like this can be enjoyed by those in wheelchairs too, extending the fun to everyone.
Buy it: Wheelchair-Accessible Merry-Go-Round
Bumbling Betsy Fun Bounce
Spring toys are terrific for imagination-fueled adventures, as well as burning off some excess energy. This cute caterpillar-themed model holds two riders at once, giving you more bang for your buck.
Buy it: Bumbling Betsy Fun Bounce
Rockwell Teeter Quad
Teeter-totters are another one of those classic playground items and an eternal favorite. This one seats four kids at once for double the fun.
Buy it: Rockwell Teeter Quad
When you want your playground to feel more like climbing in the wild, consider Timber Stacks. Their natural playground equipment is made of logs, rope, and other simple elements. Combine the different modules to create a structure that suits your space.
Buy it: Timber Stacks
Blast off! The spring shuttle accommodates multiple climbers at once, and the spring mount adds to the fun.
Buy it: Multi-Spring Shuttle
Musical playground equipment is another non-traditional option that provides an experience all kids can enjoy. The Concerto Vibes xylophone is part of a full suite of musical inclusive playground equipment available from Playworld, which also includes chimes, drums, and more.
Buy it: Concerto Vibes
Air Above Play System
Monkey bars are another longtime favorite. This set includes four different styles, so kids can compete or challenge themselves as they play.
Buy it: Air Above Play System
Can’t you just see the pre-K crowd having a blast in and around this structure? It’s full of nooks for climbing and crawling, and the imagination possibilities are endless.
Buy it: Happy Hollow
Pup Tent Climber
Hide inside or climb on top! This is the kind of versatile playground equipment that sparks imagination while providing exercise.
Buy it: Pup Tent Climber
Tripleshoot Ball Game
Here’s another classic you’ll probably remember from your own playground days. Kids toss in a ball, and it leaves the funnel from one of three exits. There are no set rules, so it encourages kids to make up their own games instead.
Buy it: Tripleshoot Ball Game
We love this “spin” on the merry-go-round. Kids pedal to make it go, adding an interactive element to this piece of spinning playground equipment.
Buy it: Merry-Go-Cycle
Curved Balance Beam
Kids can’t resist the lure of a balance beam (or anything resembling a balance beam). Keep them off the walls or flower bed borders with a curved model like this one (which is also one of the more affordable pieces on this list). These are fun as part of a bigger obstacle course system too.
Buy it: Curved Balance Beam
Today’s non-metal slides eliminate all the dangers of burning bare legs on hot summer days. Plus, they come in such fun shapes! We like that this one has a staircase entry, which is easier and safer than a ladder for many kids.
Buy it: Spiral Slide
Playground equipment at schools isn’t the only way to make recess special. These 18 Awesome School Playgrounds Make Recess More Fun Than Ever!
Plus, get all the latest teaching tips and ideas straight to your inbox when you sign up for our free newsletters.