Age Appropriate

two children playing on an age appropriate playground

Is your playground equipment age appropriate?

Age appropriate design of playground equipment and layout is recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The rationale for this recommendation is that playgrounds should offer a series of “graduated challenges… appropriate for age-related abilities …that children can perceive and choose to undertake.”1

Three age categories

The three age categories of children for the purpose of playground design are “toddlers” ages 6 months through 2, “pre-school age” ages 2 through 5, and “school age” for children ages 5 through 12. By designing play equipment that is age appropriate, manufacturers and playground operators can take each different age group’s physical, intellectual, and social skills into account.2

Playgrounds intended for use by a certain age group, such as child care centers (toddler and pre-school) or elementary schools (school age), can be specifically designed using age guidelines. For public parks, playground owners recognize that often children of varying ages will play on the playground, and opportunities for more than one age group may need to be included in their playground designs.3

To reduce the risk of children using play equipment that is not appropriate for their age or developmental stage, signs are recommended that identify the age of intended users. This is meant to give guidance to caregivers or supervisors. Not all play equipment is age appropriate for all children who use a playground.4

Examples of age appropriate equipment

Examples of age appropriate equipment are as follows:

Toddlers — Ages 6-23 months

  • Climbing equipment under 32” high
  • Ramps
  • Single file step ladders
  • Slides
  • Spiral slides less than 360°
  • Spring rockers
  • Stairways
  • Swings with full bucket seats

Pre-school — Ages 2-5 years

  • Certain climbers
  • Horizontal ladders less than or equal to 60” high for ages 4 and 5
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Ramps
  • Rung ladders
  • Single file step ladders
  • Slides
  • Spiral slides up to 360°
  • Spring rockers
  • Stairways
  • Swings – belt, full bucket seats (2-4 years) & rotating tire

School-age — Ages 5-12 years

  • Arch climbers
  • Chain or cable walks
  • Free standing climbing events with flexible parts
  • Fulcrum seesaws
  • Ladders – Horizontal, Rung, and Step
  • Overhead rings
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Ramps
  • Ring treks
  • Slides
  • Spiral slides more than one 360° turn
  • Stairways
  • Swings – belt and rotating tire
  • Track rides
  • Vertical sliding poles5

Examples of play equipment that are not appropriate for a particular age group can be found in CPSC Section 5.3, Major Types of Playground Equipment.

  • 1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) publication #325-10, “Pubic Playground Safety Handbook,” Section 1.6-Background, p. 3.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid, CPSC, Section 2.3.3-Age group, p. 6.
  • 4. Ibid, CPSC, Section 2.2.7-Supervision, p. 7.
  • 5. Ibid., CPSC, Table 1. Examples of Age Appropriate Equipment, p. 7.