What is Play Value?

Equipment with play value contribute for children learning.

Play Value is a transformative idea in the world of playground design. It’s not merely about the quantity of equipment but the quality of play experiences. But what exactly is Play Value, and why is it critical in playground design? In this article, we will explore this concept and how we apply it in your playground design.

Understanding Play Value

Why is Play Value Essential in Playground Design? Play Value is the beating heart of an extraordinary playground. It’s the underlying philosophy that defines the quality of a child’s play experience. Here’s why it’s indispensable:

  • Engagement: Play Value engages children not just physically but also mentally and emotionally. A playground abundant in Play Value captivates children, keeping them interested and challenged. It transforms ordinary play into an immersive experience, as substantiated by studies showing that diverse play opportunities enhance prolonged engagement.
  • Skill Development: Play is not merely for entertainment; it’s an educational journey. Play Value fosters a playground environment where learning is integrated with fun. Whether it’s a game that develops strategic thinking or equipment that builds physical agility, Play Value transcends fun, shaping a child’s social, cognitive, and emotional growth.
  • Inclusivity: A playground should be a haven for every child, regardless of age, ability, or background. High Play Value ensures that no child is left out, offering something for everyone. It considers various needs, from the toddler who is taking their first adventurous steps to the teenager seeking a thrill. It’s about creating spaces that are accessible and enjoyable for children with disabilities. It’s not just about having equipment; it’s about having the right equipment that resonates with all.

Key Elements of Play Value in Playground Design

These elements make a playground rich in Play Value:


A playground must offer pure joy and excitement. Varied equipment like slides, swings, and climbing frames, all tailored to different tastes, ensures children are always entertained.


Incorporating challenges encourages children to explore and push their boundaries. From climbing walls to obstacle courses, challenges can be physical or mental. Equipment made from different materials can also add challenges do children. Designing it with height variation and the options and ways to make it harder as they grow.


Creative play nurtures the imagination. A sandbox might become a construction site. A slide might be a waterfall. Versatile equipment encourages children to invent stories and games. Unprescribed play equipment is the key to creativity. Children will invent new games and learn as they play.


Children should want to come back. Diverse equipment and activities ensure every visit to the playground offers something new to explore. Designing play spaces that have features such as surface games, and towers with different ways to climb, or play under them. It all adds replayability to the area.

Simple equipment can have great play value, kids can climb, and invent other games with it.

Incorporating Play Value in Playground Design

Considering Age and Abilities

Different ages have different needs. Toddlers need safe and gentle exploration, while older children crave adventure. Accessibility for children with disabilities must also be a priority.

Encouraging Social Play

Equipment that supports cooperative play, like seesaws or team-based games, fosters friendship and teamwork.

Building Versatile Spaces

Playgrounds are not just physical play spaces. They are venues for art, storytelling, or even science experiments. Versatile spaces encourage these varied activities.


Play Value Beyond Equipment

Play Value extends far beyond conventional playground equipment like swings and slides. It encompasses an approach that considers every element within a play area, weaving together both artificial and natural components to create a diverse and stimulating environment. Here’s a deeper look into the broader aspects that contribute to Play Value:

Natural Elements: Integrating the Beauty of Nature

The incorporation of natural elements such as trees, gardens, rocks, and water features not only enhances the aesthetic appeal of a playground but also elevates its Play Value:

  • Versatility: Natural elements offer myriad ways to play. A simple garden can become a jungle to explore, or a water feature can transform into a fishing pond.
  • Sensory Engagement: Nature stimulates all senses, from the smell of flowers to the sound of rustling leaves. Research by Dr Robin Moore shows that such multisensory experiences promote cognitive and emotional development.
  • Connection to Nature: Playing amidst natural elements fosters a connection to nature, an important aspect in an increasingly urbanised world.

Art Installations: Where Creativity Meets Play

Interactive art installations are not mere adornments; they add layers of Play Value:

  • Imagination Spark: Art pieces can be invitations to creative play, where children interpret and interact with the art uniquely.
  • Aesthetic Beauty: Carefully curated art adds visual richness to the play environment, appealing to children’s and adults’ aesthetic senses alike.
  • Cultural Education: Art can reflect local culture and heritage, adding an educational dimension to play.

Sensory Experiences: A Symphony of Sensations

Playgrounds are not only visual spaces; they are multisensory landscapes. By consciously designing for various sensory experiences, designers can greatly enhance Play Value:

  • Textures: Different materials and surfaces provide a tactile exploration, from water’s smoothness to sand’s roughness.
  • Colours: They can evoke different emotions and stimulate creativity. A well-balanced colour scheme contributes to a visually inviting environment.
  • Sounds: Incorporating musical elements or sound-producing features adds an auditory dimension. Dr Diane Bales highlights the importance of sound in stimulating language development and listening skills.

Real-World Examples

The power of Play Value is best demonstrated through real-world examples:

  • Inclusive Playgrounds: Designs that ensure children with disabilities have equal access and enjoyment. Take a look at Lorna Irene Reserve Playground, designed by Creo.
  • Educational Playgrounds: Playgrounds integrated into schools or museums that blend learning with play. Early Childhood Centres benefit from these types of playgrounds, where unprescribed play is important for children development. 
  • Adventure Playgrounds: Play spaces that provide both physical and mental challenges. They can be in schools, councils and parks. Originally known as “Junk Playgrounds”, the aim for adventure playgrounds is to provide children with options and manageable risks so they can grow. 
Obstacles offer play value, challenge and learning.

The Heart of Playground Design

Play Value is not a buzzword but the heart of thoughtful and practical playground design. It’s about making playgrounds more than just a collection of equipment. It’s about creating spaces where every child can explore, learn, grow, and, most importantly, have fun.

Playground designers can create spaces that resonate with all children by focusing on diversity, creativity, inclusivity, and safety. Playgrounds infused with Play Value become magical places where every swing, slide, and sandbox holds endless possibilities. And in that magic lies the future of playground design, a future that is as inspiring as it is enjoyable.