This is a sponsored guest blog from our friends at Kompan Schools, sharing their top tips when planning a new or updated outside play area for your setting.
Creating an outdoor play area is a considerable investment, so careful consideration needs to be taken before you embark on such a project.
Choose your provider carefully. Are they members of the API (Association of Play Industries)? Please click on the link to find out why this is so important.
Does the equipment your provider is offering have a Certificate of Compliance? It is very important to know that the products supplied are independently verified to comply with BSEN1176 or TUV safety standards. This ensures that those in your care are using equipment that meets all the necessary safety criteria, and if in the event of an unfortunate accident and/or insurance claim, this documentation will support you in showing that due diligence has been carried out.
Ask your provider for references of other projects they have worked on (example projects page). A credible company with a history of creating high quality play areas would be delighted to show off their portfolio of projects. Ask for information to visit a site that is a few years old - not one that is relatively new. This way, you will get a better understanding of the quality of the equipment and installation to assess how it will age over time.
A new outside space is an investment that should pay dividends for years and therefore you need to ask what level of after sales support you can expect to receive. Does your provider offer a maintenance schedule, maintenance contract or a spare parts service? Is there a customer service department with its own contact details?
Ensure that a pre-start meeting is scheduled to take place prior to commencement of works. Ask for Risk Assessments and Method Statements to be reviewed and discussed at this meeting. Have all considerations of the site been considered and built into the schedule of works (access arrangements, access times, security & welfare)? Have delivery times been factored into the working day? Have all potential Health and Safety issues been addressed? Every location is unique.
6) Attention to detail
Has your provider understood your requirements from the outset of your journey? They need to have a process to follow as unexpected costs can be avoided if the provider has clearly demonstrated an understanding of the site in question and has identified any possible issues on site. This is a major consideration at the pre-sales stage, through the initial site survey, through delivery of the solution and upon completion. It is important for you, the customer, to gauge the level of attention to detail at the outset. If corners have been cut when gathering knowledge of your needs at the outset, it spells potential issues further along the way.
Make sure the provider is aware of the conditions of your site, they should be asking lots of questions to understand the area and ensure they give you the best solution possible for your circumstances. Some key questions include:
- Does your proposed location hold water or drain poorly during the year? What solutions does your provider have for this?
- Does your provider have an option for steel feet on timber posts to prevent rotting?
- Are there alternative/more appropriate materials such as steel or hard wood (Robinia) products?
- Have ground works options for surfacing been fully explained and discussed?
Certain solutions are more suitable, for example, for boggy areas. If this isn’t done properly at the outset it will soon need replacing.
8) Understanding your users’ needs
Are the needs of your users being met? What do you want the outcomes to be? Has the provider deviated from the original reason you wanted to invest your finances into the play space? The project will have been born from a need to satisfy a requirement for your setting.
The provider needs to demonstrate they have listened to your brief and presented a high quality, long lasting, fun, challenging and inclusive space in keeping with the environment that meets your expectations. Needs that should be considered:
- Users: the age and ability of the intended users.
- Curriculum/competencies: the skills and experience you want to the new play area to promote
- Space: how the area should be split into zones to support different types of play
- Surroundings: how the addition fits in with the immediate surroundings
- Activities: what equipment or activities should be incorporated into each space to stimulate the children’s experience and competencies?
- Take the time to review the design that is presented to you - are all stakeholders happy with the proposal?
9) Your rights
Has your provider fully explained the guarantees and warranties to you? Look beyond the headline statement - what does it really cover? What kind of costs can you expect to incur throughout the life of your equipment? Ask the provider’s representative to explain fully what is covered.
Creativity is where your provider can express their uniqueness of what they can offer, they are the experts and this is their opportunity to shine.
At this point you need to ask the provider about the composition of the design and the rationale to meet your individual needs.
- What considerations has the provider made when designing the equipment and play area?
- Have they explored all avenues to ensure the products are appropriate for your users?
- Have they taken into account the development of cognitive, social/emotional, creative and physical skills of the students?
- What materials have they used and why? Consider the benefits and how it helps support your needs.
If you are able to take into account as much of the above as possible when planning your outdoor play area, you'll find the process much easier, stress-free, and the end result should be something you, your staff and the children you support will enjoy far into the future!