the child accident prevention foundation of australia

The Importance of Playgrounds

Playing outside is not just about letting off steam. It is a vital part of childhood that helps children develop physical strength, coordination and balance. It can also provide opportunities for children to learn and develop:

  • Social Skills - when they play with other children they learn to communicate, share, collaborate and empathise with others.
  • Imagination and creativity - outside play is often open-ended and children need to be creative about what and how games are played.
  • Thinking and problem solving skills - as children assess risks and tackle new challenges they learn about having a go, persistence and perseverance and the success those attributes can bring.
  • Sense of self - as they master new skills and play with other children they improve their competence and confidence in their own physical and social abilities.
  • Sense of connection - to place, to peers and to their local community and environment.
  • Self care skills - managing physical and social challenges helps children to learn about keeping themselves safe.
To support these broad learning outcomes, play spaces should include areas for active, free, quiet, social, imaginative, creative, exploratory and natural play. By inviting children to use their own initiative, explore possibilities and take chances we can provide them with opportunities to learn. Remember your own childhood - where was your favourite place to play? 


Active & Free Play Areas

Fixed equipment offering swinging, sliding, climbing, hanging, balancing and jumping options fits in the active area. Boulders, rocks and logs can also be used for climbing, balancing and jumping. Free play areas include open grassed spaces and slopes for running, informal ball games, cartwheels, somersaults and rolling. Do you remember how much fun it was to run down a grassy slope with your arms outstretched feeling the wind in your face?


Quiet Areas


Quiet areas allow an individual child or small group of children to read; talk; play a special game; interact with nature; or quietly observe a play group before attempting to join in. Use landscaped plantings to create semi-enclosed spaces and remember to incorporate shelter and seating. Many children are hesitant to join large groups of busy, active children or enter large open play areas and including quiet areas in the playground gives these children a safe space while they build up confidence.

Social Play Areas 
Include space or structures that support social play. These encourage language and cooperation skills as children role-play and learn to take turns and share. Including suggestive structures, rather than obvious shops, cubbies, etc encourages creativity and imagination to use them in a variety of ways.

Imaginative, Creative, Exploratory & Natural Play Areas 
These are often the most neglected areas in children's play spaces. They can be inexpensive and offer a wide variety of play options. Trees, shrubs and ground covers can provide different scents, textures, shapes, colours and sound and help stimulate imaginative and creative play. They can also encourage bugs, birds and other wildlife into the environment and add to the diversity and learning opportunities. Boulders, rocks and logs can be used as play settings and for seating. Wind chimes/socks or other musical elements add further diversity.




Visit the Nature-based Playgrounds page for more information about the benefits of incorporating nature into playground designs.

The Playground Advisory Service can help organisations to create nature-based playgrounds that balance safety and risk to support children's health, development, learning and wellbeing.

For more information contact us on (08) 9340 8509 or email