Different Stages of Play – Age Appropriate Playground Equipment

When choosing a playground for your child, you would think that it’s as easy as 1-2-3. However, there are a multitude of factors that go into play. Certain play equipment is geared toward certain ages of children. From children aged 6-23 months to 2-12 years, Pacific Play Systems is here to guide you to playground equipment that’s age appropriate for your child. Take note that these suggestions adhere to the guidelines set forth by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Connors Park age appropriate playground equipment
Connors Park with 2-5 and 5-12 playground equipment

Ages 6-23 months

Toddlers play at small playgrounds isolated from the “big kid” playgrounds. At these toddler playgrounds, there is an emphasis on exploration. Here they can advance their sensory development through touching the equipment and seeing the various colors and shapes throughout the playground. 

The appropriate playground equipment for this age group would be climbing equipment under 32” high, along with ramps, stairways, and single-file step ladders. Slides of this height are also appropriate. Crawl tunnels are also appropriate for toddlers, along with spring rockers and swings with full bucket seats.

Spring rocker at Gabriella Park

Ages 2-5 years

At this age range, children are at the preschool level. It’s the time for them to develop fine motor skills and social skills. While not entirely part of the main play structure for the bigger kids, the 2-5 age range playground includes decks up to 48” and slides of that height, along with ramps, stairways, rung ladders, bridges, and crawl tunnels. Children at this age can also use belt and tire swings and merry-go-rounds.

Davia Park age appropriate playground equipment 2
The Davia Park 2-5 playground

Pacific Play Systems has designed and installed various playgrounds for children aged 2-5 years. The Davia Park playground demonstrates the value of play for children and helps them develop their climbing and gross motor skills with its Roto-Molded Climber and Deluxe Grip Climber from Playcraft Systems. Pacific Play also redesigned formerly 5-12 age playgrounds at Chula Vista to be more inclusive to include 2-5 age play equipment. The train-themed playground equipment at Woodlawn Elementary School is also appropriate for children aged 2-5 years, which is the optimal time to jump-start their imagination and creativity.

Woodlawn 2-5 age appropriate playground equipment
Train-themed playground at Woodlawn Elementary

Ages 5-12 years

Once children reach the 5-12 age range, they are further developing their motor and social skills. So, it’s necessary that children get their more complex demands of play and physical activity satisfied with the play equipment. Playgrounds for this age range can consist of decks of up to 72” with much higher slides, higher swings, arch climbers, chain bridges, overhead rings, track rides, spinners, vertical sliding poles, and horizontal ladders.

Terracina Apartment playground equipment
Terracina Apartment Homes' 5-12 playground

A multitude of playgrounds for the 5-12 age range have been installed by Pacific Play. The Terracina Apartment Homes’ playground features swings, three different slides, climbers, a track ride, and an inclined arch bridge. All of these components contribute to the ideal play environment for children of that age range. Playgrounds can also deviate from the traditional play environment like the rope-based “Shoot the Curl” at the Woodbridge Village Center in Irvine, California. Designed by Dynamo, this rope course is shaped like a twisted curl allowing children aged 5-12 various opportunities of play.

Shoot the Curl is a 5-12 rope playground

With the variety of components available for 5-12 playgrounds, various themes can be applied. The farm-themed playground at “The Groves” for the City of Redlands is shaped like a barn to stimulate the imagination of the 5-12 aged child. Along with being a farmer, children can also imagine being a pirate at Laguna Niguel’s Clipper Cove Park on its adventurous pirate-themed playground equipment.

Clipper Cove Park's pirate ship playground stimulates imagination

Pacific Play also installs playgrounds that are appropriate for children of “all ages” like Saburo Muraoka Elementary School’s 2-12 playground. All of these elements contribute to the ideal playground no matter the age of the child at that school.

Saburo Muraoka age appropriate playground equipment
2-12 playground at Saburo Muraoka Elementary School

No matter the age, children will always have a place to play. Hopefully these guidelines help you choose the best possible one for your child. Does your child have a favorite playground? Let us know in the comments below!


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