How to Select a Play Garden Designer

Designing outdoor play space is a complex process and care should be taken to find the right person to assist you with the design. Designers of play gardens need a broad knowledge base and experience in several disciplines. These include: child growth and development, construction and materials, zoning and licensing, universal design (making areas accessible to those with different abilities), budget management, landscaping for children, play facilitation, and safety. A good designer will be able to really understand how children perceive and use the environment. A good play garden designer will also understand how children use plant materials and know which plants are suitable for interaction with children on a play yard.

The people involved in designing traditional playgrounds may not be the best for designing play gardens. Most playground designs are done by playground manufactures that make a profit from the equipment they sell you. The less money that goes into equipment means the less money they will make from the sale. Regardless of the title given to them by the playground equipment company, they are sales staff and they probably know very little about plant material and are not going to suggest that you put your money into plants versus equipment. General architects lack the specialized expertise needed, especially the knowledge of child development and how children use plants.

Select a designer who has experience in creating outdoor children's environments. Ask to see a list of their previous clients and photos of other play gardens that were completed. Good design, however, is vital. It will make the environment comfortable and friendly to children and will encourage complex play. Good design will support the teacher's, parent's and children's needs so well that they will feel entirely at home, ready to learn, and best of all, ready to play.

If you can't find a designer and want to learn more about how to design play gardens, come to our Early Childhood Facilities Design Institute. We spend one entire day learning how to use nature as part of the outdoor play element. Other topics of discussion include why children need nature, how to do master planning, budgeting issues and how to meet the necessary safety, licensing and American's with Disabilities Act. The day is filled with visual images of nature ideas and our landscape architect joins us for a talk on plant toxicity. You can find out more about our next class at