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Define: Play Value


Define: Play Value

I started this “Define” series of posts to help educate and inform myself and our audience. I don’t know about you but having never been in the playground industry I had no idea about so many of these ideas that are so interesting to me now. Today’s subject, “Play Value” is one that I loved learning about. We have some amazingly talented Project Designers here at Struthers Recreation. These designers go to great lengths to make sure each playstructure is the best it can be when it comes to design and that they follow all the industry standards and best practices to ensure a truly meaningful play experience for all.


So, what is play value?

In short, play value refers as you might expect to the value of each piece of play equipment. While not in a monetary value necessarily, although it might correlate for good reason, play value refers to the value each piece of equipment brings to the experience of the playground and those using it. The quality of play and the usability of each piece is considered greatly before placing in the playground design. To have a high play value the piece much meet certain criteria, such as:

  • Most frequently used by children on the playground
  • Encourages repetitive and consistent participation by kids
  • Inspires accessible and inclusive play naturally
  • Kids of all ages are attracted to the equipment

When designing and installing a playground our project designers are careful to choose pieces that will be of high play value in each playground design.

When considering the playground design, some may tend to be drawn to designs that are more economical or aesthetic, when in reality the play value of that design might be quite low. It’s a great practice to ask questions and consider what might be of better value for children to keep them coming back again and again.

Other good questions to ask are,

  • Do you have a clear intention for the playground?
  • What is the limit of the number of children that can play at once?
  • Is there space considered for both inclusive and continuous play?
  • Will you incorporate multi-sensory experiences?

With the answers to these questions and the next few steps below you can now commit to high play value on your playground.


  1. Social Play: Ensure social play by installing equipment that multiple children with different abilities, interests, and age groups can enjoy and access simultaneously. Talking tubes, game panels, mud kitchens, etc. are great examples of social play.
  2. Physical Play: When designing the playground make sure that it encourages both inclusive and continuous play. This is implemented by linking or connecting each piece together to ensure that all children may play despite any ability limitations.
  3. Sensory Play: Dynamic sensory experiences inspire sensory play and increase play value immensely. Think about texture, sounds, music, color schemes, surface complexity, all things that can be adjusted to improve the sensory experience on a playground. Our favorites are nature themed rock climbers, musical play activities, and sensory panels.


With playground design the goal is to advance balance and gross motor skills and to improve muscle control. When you begin with the goal of high play value in your playground and follow through with that goal throughout the design process you can’t help but have a hit when it’s time for opening day!