When it comes to incorporating children’s needs into your church design, it’s important to remember that younger children need a place to play. Whether it’s an indoor space or an outdoor area, including attractive children’s play areas in your church building can actually be an effective outreach tool, in addition to improving your ministry.
Basic Play Area Considerations for Your Church Design
Naturally, there are a number of decisions you’ll have to make when you’re evaluating your church design. First of all, you’ll have to decide whether you want indoor or outdoor play areas, or both.
We’ll start with indoors. You’ll need to choose whether you want the type of high-end fixed-equipment play area that you might see at McDonald’s, or something more free-form where children can run around, kick balls, and create their own games. You will also want to include nearby restrooms in your church building to make it easy for children to take care of their needs without leaving the immediate area.
In addition, you’ll have to plan on a bit more maintenance—someone will need to check the space and equipment regularly to make sure no one snuck a packet of crumbly cookies into the play area, or to clean up if a child gets sick from boisterous play.
Segregating Age Groups
In this first example, you can see a play area designed just for toddlers. With smaller children, you don’t have to worry about the larger, fixed equipment, but you do have to think about restrooms being easily accessible.
We actually recommend different types of play areas for different ages. The larger, fixed-play area that you see in the background of this second picture is going to attract—and be appropriate for—children in the 5- to 10-year-old range.
However, younger children often want to be around older ones, so you can see we’ve created a half-walled area in front where the preschool children can safely play without being trampled by the older kids.
Building Outreach into Your Church Design
Many churches these days are turning larger play areas into magnets for the community. If you plan ahead with your church design and build a classroom or two right next to your play area, you can lease out the two spaces together for birthday parties. The kids can have fun in the play area while also enjoying the birthday party itself in a nearby classroom. It’s a self-contained and safe environment, plus families get used to the idea of visiting your church.
Getting Children Outdoors
Another option is to add an outdoor play area to your church building. Here, you have to think about safety: Make sure the children don’t have to cross any streets—or even the parking lot, if possible—on their way to the playground.
Again, you can choose fixed equipment or an open space. With any equipment you do install, you have to think about cost and maintenance. Powder-coated metal or plastic is safer, but it’s also more expensive; wood is generally less expensive, but requires more maintenance and can be more dangerous.
Fall surfaces are also important in play areas. As you can see in this picture, the church design here uses two different types of materials. Near the equipment, a more expensive, but safer, in-place rubber system has been installed, while near the fences less expensive mulch has been laid down. You’ll also notice that the fence serves to keep the children in and away from nearby streets or parking lots, but also prevents outside adults from walking through the children’s play area.
In each design, you can see, we’ve given a lot of thought to something as basic as a children’s play area. To learn more about how we carefully design every aspect of a church building, visit our website today where you can easily sign up for our free, informative i3 webinars.