Indoor playgrounds offer fun, contained play areas for kids who visit your facility and draw their families to your business, church or restaurant. These playgrounds give kids a place to release their energy and adults a chance to talk or attend to other needs. It’s essential to maintain your playground’s condition to give kids who visit your organization an enjoyable place to play.
Indoor playgrounds can wear over time, although there are several steps you can take to prolong their life span. In this helpful guide, find out how to know when to upgrade your indoor playground equipment and learn tips for keeping your playground in top shape.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- How Long Does Playground Equipment Last?
- Factors That Affect How Long Playground Equipment Lasts
- How to Maintain Indoor Playground Equipment
- Should You Repair or Replace Indoor Playground Equipment?
- Planning for Playground Equipment Upgrades
- Upgrade Your Indoor Playground Equipment With Soft Play
How Long Does Playground Equipment Last?
Wear and tear on indoor playgrounds is normal. After years of kids climbing and stepping on structures, even the highest quality Indoor playground equipment is bound to see some deterioration.
Indoor playgrounds generally last between eight and 15 years, with the potential to last even longer with the proper care. Be sure you repair and replace indoor playground equipment whenever it becomes damaged, whatever the extent of the harm.
Ensuring your playground equipment is in top condition provides kids with a fun and inclusive place to play that they can enjoy for years to come. Several factors influence a playground’s condition, many of which you can control to optimize your playground’s life span.
Factors That Affect How Long Playground Equipment Lasts
Playground equipment can fall apart quickly or seem to last for a lifetime, depending on a few factors. All of the conditions outlined below impact how long your playground equipment will last:
1. Quality of Equipment
As with many other products, playground equipment’s quality significantly impacts how long it lasts and how much use it can withstand. The higher the quality of an indoor playground, the longer it will last.
When purchasing indoor playground equipment that will tolerate years of use, keep quality at the forefront. Investing in components and structures designed with an emphasis on quality can prevent costly replacements and stretch your playground budget as far as possible.
Remember these factors when determining the quality of playground equipment:
- Warranty: Many indoor playground equipment manufacturers offer warranties on their components and installation. For instance, Soft Play® has a limited one-year warranty on the materials and craftsmanship of our indoor playgrounds. Keep a copy of your playground equipment’s warranty and mark when it ends on a calendar. If you experience defects with your playground before that deadline, you may be able to save money on repairs by contacting the manufacturer.
- Manufacturing quality: The processes used during manufacturing can also impact the quality of your indoor playground equipment. Look for a playground equipment manufacturer committed to high-quality manufacturing that tests its equipment to make sure it can withstand everything it may encounter.
- Design quality: Design matters, whether you are considering a custom-designed indoor playground or want to purchase a preconfigured installation. Thoughtful and experienced playground designers will emphasize quality and longevity in their designs, creating playground structures that can withstand years of play.
2. Level of Upkeep
The phrase “you get out what you put in” certainly applies to indoor playground maintenance. Your level of dedication to keeping your playground in top condition can either lead to premature wear or extend your equipment’s life.
A playground that receives monthly, weekly and even daily maintenance checkups will stay in better condition for longer. This will reduce your organization’s risk and ensure that kids always have a clean, maintained and fun space for play. Regular upkeep on your indoor playground has several benefits, including:
- Keeping equipment clean: Regular cleaning can do wonders for the quality of indoor playground equipment. Even though indoor equipment is protected from the sun, rain, mud and animals, it still needs to be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected. You might provide hand sanitizer in the play area and require that kids remove their shoes on your playground, but microbes, viruses, bacteria and dirt still accumulate over time. Regularly cleaning your playground surfaces reduces these contaminants and promotes a more healthful environment.
- Catching damage early: Regular inspections can catch damage before it becomes a significant risk. A routine inspection detects potential hazards like cracks, exposed bolts or metals, damaged nets and unclean surfaces.
- Preventing costly replacements: Consistent upkeep saves money in the long run. By taking time to invest in maintaining your indoor playground equipment, you can repair more minor issues before they become larger problems. For example, if you catch a loose bolt in an inspection, you can tighten it before it gets lost and damages the entire structure.
3. Materials Used
If your playground is made from materials suitable for its environment, it has a better chance of lasting for years to come. While an indoor playground won’t experience the effects of weather, you can still maximize its lifetime by choosing components and structures made from heavy-duty materials.
Here are some of the top indoor playground materials that can prolong equipment’s life:
- Plastic: This smooth material is ideal for components that kids crawl over or slide down. Plastic equipment needs additional support from other materials and might require additional upkeep to prevent mold from growing in the cracks between pieces.
- Wood: Wood can withstand greater weights than plastic and is usually more resistant to damage. Wood is most often chosen for outdoor equipment, but it can be used in indoor equipment as well.
- Metal: Metal has a long life span and can withstand decades of use. Using metal as structural support in an indoor playground provides the benefits of long-lasting durability.
- Soft foam: Soft foam is a popular material for indoor play sculptures, as it provides versatile sculpting and design options. Manufacturers use soft foam for all kinds of elements. Soft foam sculptures feature a durable rubber-like coating for easy maintenance.
4. Playground Surfacing
A durable playground surface is just as crucial as durable equipment. The playground surfacing you use for an indoor playground will affect its life span. Surfacing should be high-quality and impact-absorbing to withstand everything kids dream up.
Indoor playgrounds use two main types of durable playground surfacing:
- Pour-in-place: This type of rubber playground flooring can be easily molded to fit the exact specifications of your space. The rubber for this surfacing is mixed on-site to fit whatever custom color or pattern you choose. Pour-in-place surfacing is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and makes spaces more accessible to kids using wheelchairs or other mobility aids.
- Modular tiles: Modular tiles are 2-foot-square rubber tiles. This type of surfacing is simple to install with adhesive glue that ensures they remain in place. Modular tiles require little upkeep and can be maintained with regular sweeping, vacuuming or spraying with a water hose.
5. Frequency of Use
The activity of potentially hundreds of kids a day can batter indoor playground equipment over time. If kids use your playground every day, you may need to replace it earlier than if it was only used infrequently. Constant use leads to components wearing out and structures weakening more quickly, which can reduce your equipment’s overall life span.
Regular use can be rough on a playground, especially from older kids. However, if your playground is only going to be used by younger children, it may last for a prolonged time.
How to Maintain Indoor Playground Equipment
Regular maintenance is vital for keeping your indoor playground in good condition. With consistent inspections and cleaning, you can catch damage before it worsens and prevent some repairs altogether. Follow these steps for maintaining your indoor playground properly:
1. Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions
Your indoor playground equipment comes with an owner’s manual, an essential guide for understanding the proper care of your new playground. The manufacturer’s instructions explain how to clean your equipment and which cleaning products to use. Checking these instructions is vital to ensure you clean your playground as intended.
Equipment made from different materials requires different cleaning methods. For instance, the recommended methods for cleaning classic plastic playground equipment may differ from cleaning soft foam. The manufacturer describes your equipment’s particular requirements in the instructions. Be especially aware of instructions about handling fragile components and using abrasive cleaners — these instructions can help you avoid damaging your equipment.
The owner’s manual also offers suggested routine checks on your equipment to maintain its condition. Because the manufacturer has tested the equipment, they know the best time for inspections and which components are most susceptible to wear. You can avoid early deterioration of your playground equipment by following these instructions.
2. Wash With Soap and Water
Regular washing is vital to keeping indoor playground equipment in top shape. With everyday use, your playground equipment can harbor germs. You can clean most indoor playground components with a mild soap detergent and warm water, which is ideal for light cleaning, removing stains and scrubbing away stickiness and spills.
For plastic, plastic-like and coated metal playground equipment, use a damp cloth and a bucket of soapy water. Durable surfaces can also withstand brushes and scrubbing tools, which you can use to scrub in crevices, remove dirt and sticky substances and clean ropes. Some sensitive playground elements might require a gentler cloth. For example, abrasive tools like paper towels could damage windows and domes, leaving scratches behind on the surface. Check your owner’s manual for washing instructions to ensure you use the right kind of soap.
3. Sanitize or Disinfect Equipment
Disinfecting and sanitizing are two more processes that are important for maintaining a healthful play environment. While cleaning removes dirt, chemicals, spills and microbes from your playground’s surface, sanitizing and disinfecting remove even more viruses, bacteria and germs. These processes help clean what regular soap leaves behind.
Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, sanitizing and disinfecting are different procedures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains the difference between sanitizing and disinfecting surfaces:
- Disinfecting: Disinfecting a surface kills all the germs that the disinfectant can kill.
- Sanitizing: Sanitizing reduces the number of germs on a surface to an acceptable level, as determined by public health officials.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and any regulating standards to determine whether you should sanitize or disinfect your playground equipment. It’s also crucial to use non-toxic cleaners on playground equipment. For example, petroleum-based cleaners damage our playground equipment. Follow the bottle’s label instructions to use disinfectants and sanitizers correctly.
4. Spot Clean as Needed
Messes aren’t usually planned. Being prepared when they happen can help you keep your playground in excellent condition all day long. Spot cleaning keeps messes from growing and maintains an enjoyable environment for kids. Have some light soap, disposable towels and water nearby to clean up those spur-of-the-moment messes fast.
You may also need to clean up bodily fluids from time to time, which requires different cleaning methods than regular dirt. Follow these steps for cleaning up bodily fluids on your playground equipment:
- Close the playground until an employee can clean the mess.
- Wipe up the liquids with disposable towels and throw them away.
- Carefully wash the messy area with soap and water.
- Spray disinfectant on the surface.
- Wait until the disinfectant has completely dried before reopening the playground.
Wiping up these signs of heavy use keeps your playground in excellent condition all day long and looking its best for your visitors.
5. Create a Maintenance Schedule
Performing inspections regularly keeps additional problems from arising. Outline a regular maintenance schedule and post it where employees can see it to ensure that nothing slips between the cracks. Use this schedule for regular maintenance:
- Daily: Train your staff to inspect the equipment at the beginning and end of each shift. Create a list based on the manufacturer’s instructions of damages that your employees should check for, including exposed hooks, spills and damaged nets.
- Monthly: Inspect your playground’s structural connections like bolts and nuts. All slides, nets and other structures should be tightly secured. Be as thorough as possible to ensure structures are sound.
- Annually: Use a professional service provider in your area to perform annual playground equipment inspections. Experts in playground equipment are trained to catch potential problems and ensure the integrity of your playground systems.
Maintain thorough records of daily, monthly and yearly inspections and repairs. Each time you complete a scheduled repair, check it off a list to track when you need to perform it again.
6. Prevent Playground Messes
Preventing some messes from happening in the first place protects your equipment from excessive wear and keeps it in good shape longer. To avoid messes on your playground, take these preventative steps:
- Keep snacks and shoes in a separate area: When you ask visitors to keep their food and shoes away from playground equipment, you ensure a lot fewer messes. Have a separate area where visitors can enjoy their snacks and keep their shoes while playing.
- Provide litter receptacles: Giving kids and families a place to put their litter encourages them to help keep your playground clean and enjoyable for others.
- Post helpful signage: Putting up signage can alert visitors when you need to clean the playground and encourage visitors to follow cleanliness rules, like not entering the playground if they’re sick and keeping their drinks out of the play area.
Should You Repair or Replace Indoor Playground Equipment?
When is it time to replace your indoor playground? The answer depends on how frequently kids use your playground, how often you have repaired it before and several other factors. General wear and tear eventually leads to loose hardware, damaged fixtures and further deterioration. You can solve some issues with a replacement part, while others require a large-scale playground renovation.
You may need to replace indoor playground equipment if your equipment meets any of these conditions:
1. Aged Past Peak Condition
Older equipment doesn’t necessarily need to be replaced just because it has aged. Playgrounds can last for several years before wearing down past the point of repair. However, older equipment is certainly more prone to damage than new equipment. After a playground undergoes years of play, it starts to wear past its peak condition.
You should always replace or repair elements that no longer function as intended, whatever their age. These components lower your playground’s value and make the play experience less enjoyable for visitors.
An old playground might have several more years of life and just require some minor repairs. For example, you may be able to replace missing parts, broken nets and other tattered components. Don’t replace an entire playground just because it has reached a certain age. Base your decision on an examination of your equipment.
2. Broken Down in Any Way
Maintaining your playground reduces your organization’s liability, demonstrates to visitors that you care about health and cleanliness and boosts your playground’s value. Restoring run-down equipment is essential in maintaining an engaging and appealing playground.
Broken equipment requires immediate restoration to provide kids with an enjoyable play area. Watch out for these signs that your indoor playground equipment needs replacement or repair:
- Cracked plastic.
- Torn nets.
- Ripped soft foam.
- Broken stairs.
- Damaged safety rails.
- Missing parts or bolts.
- Vandalized elements.
If your playground has any of these characteristics, shut it down until you can order replacement parts to update your equipment or have a professional repair company visit your location.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regularly issues recalls for all kinds of products, including playground equipment components, structures and parts. Recalls alert customers to products that might pose a hazard to the user or otherwise work incorrectly. Manufacturers pull recalled products from the market to protect consumers from potential harm and reduce their liability.
Thousands of kids’ products were recalled in the past 20 years, yet manufacturers don’t always make a considerable effort to remove them from the places kids use them. Sometimes manufacturers alert known buyers of a product’s recall. Other times, buyers must find out for themselves.
If any part of your playground is recalled, shut down the play area and research whether you need to repair the equipment or replace it entirely. Contact the manufacturer for additional instructions. The manufacturer may send repair kits or put you in contact with a professional who can repair the equipment for you.
Planning for Playground Equipment Upgrades
How often should indoor playgrounds be replaced? Many factors go into the decision to replace and upgrade your entire indoor playground. A complete playground upgrade requires planning and forethought. Here are a few significant considerations to keep in mind when planning an upgrade for your playground equipment:
1. Determine What You Need
Playground repairs are likely to be more affordable than playground replacements and more extensive upgrades. Here’s what you can expect from repairs and replacements:
- Replacement: If you have replacements that fall within the period covered under the equipment’s warranty, you could get replacement parts for a reduced cost. Depending on the extent of the issue, you may be able to get replacement equipment for free. Otherwise, replacing a component or system could cost you the same amount of money as when you first bought it.
- Repairs: Repairing parts is generally less expensive than fully replacing them. The cost depends on the extent of the repairs needed. You can find qualified playground repair contractors to ensure your repairs are safe.
2. Create a Budget
When you have a repair or replacement coming up and want to upgrade your playground on a budget, consider whether you can build from any existing structures or surfacing. You might be able to save some money by utilizing components already in your playground. Other factors that can influence your budget include:
- Size: The size of your indoor playground upgrade plays a significant role in your budget. If you are just repairing certain elements, the size of your playground might not affect your budget. However, when replacing larger elements, it’s essential to ensure the parts you buy can fit in your space.
- Customization: Customized playground equipment can improve your organization’s image and create stronger connections with customers, yet it also usually costs more than generic designs. If your budget is tight, you could also choose semi-customized pieces for your upgrade.
3. Invest in Long-Lasting Equipment
Quality is a critical factor that influences your indoor playground upgrade. A better quality playground increases the value for your visitors and can engage kids for years to come. When thinking about replacing your playground equipment, consider these factors:
- Higher quality equipment can serve your customers better: High-quality playground equipment often comes with more customization options and unique configurations that can delight and surprise kids.
- Higher quality equipment can reduce your costs long-term: Poorly made equipment that wears down in a year or two will cost you more money in replacement. Better quality equipment might cost more upfront, but it can save you a considerable amount later on.
- Higher quality equipment can lower your organization’s liability: When you invest in long-lasting playground equipment, you invest in a commitment to lowering the risk for your visitors and your organization.
4. Decide on Funding
Once you have a plan for your playground upgrades, get a quote and discuss your options with a playground equipment provider. A playground company with excellent customer service will be willing to work with you toward a playground solution.
You can pay for your playground upgrade with savings, fundraisers, advertising or financing offered through the playground equipment company. At Soft Play, we’ll work with you to find the equipment you want at the price you can afford. We can also help you design a phased building timeline that works with your schedule.
Upgrade Your Indoor Playground Equipment With Soft Play
When you need high-quality indoor playground equipment for your playground upgrade, Soft Play has solutions. From full equipment replacements to exciting additions, we can help you create a playground for any space and budget. We provide playground equipment for all ages and abilities, and our designers are ready to work with you on a customized, themed project to fit your organization’s unique branding.