Active play area

What do we mean by an active play area?

An active play area provides opportunities for developing gross motor skills such as running, jumping and climbing.

Active play equipment and trim trails are popular in many playgrounds across the city, but often it’s the only type of play provided. Having some play equipment in your playground is a great idea to support active play but our advice is to make sure you’re not focussing solely on active play and ensure the playground offers children a variety of different play types.

There are also strict maintenance and health and safety regulations that must be complied with if you have any play equipment in your playground. For more information check out the guidelines Playground Development Guidance and for any questions get in touch with

Things in your playground that encourage active play can guided by prescriptive equipment but can also be natural elements or multipurpose features that afford creative use.

Hills, Mounds and Dips

If you already have mounds or slopes in your playground you’re in luck! make the most of them and make them a feature for play. Children love climbing up and down, rolling, jumping and gazing out over the area.

There are some points to consider with slopes and mounds. Playgrounds that have them see how much children love them and they are often so loved they wear out quickly. But this doesn’t mean we should avoid having them.

  • Make sure they’re not the only fun thing in the playground
  • having a large area of slope or multiple slopes will spread the footfall

If you have a natural mound or slope either accept it as a muddy mound or consider regularly rotating use of areas in the playground to allow grass to recover. Having a variety of different spaces and choices will mean the children won’t be missing out.

If you want to install an artificial mound we have some good examples get in touch with to find out more. Creating an artificial mound in your playground is costly and as with the natural mounds, if you only provide this as a small fun area in your playground it will be over used and wear faster than expected.

Mounds are great paired up with loose parts play and you’ll find that if you’re offering loose parts in addition to active play items that the concentration of footfall on the mound should lessen as there’s so many other play opportunities happening.

Exercise equipment and opportunities

Introducing exercising equipment can be a fun way to encourage young adults to keep active in their outdoor space. Having a fitness area could work well near to sports facilities and could be an enjoyable space for the community to use also when they use the sports facilities.

But being active in the outdoors doesn’t need prescriptive equipment, there will be spaces around your school grounds that can be used for many different purposes.

In this image some of the young people are using the stone steps as seats where as others are playing on them, practising balancing and jumping.

Introducing active trails around the site is also a great way for children and young people to play and explore.

Climbing and traversing 

Adding climbing handholds to a designated climbing or traversing wall is something that we’ve seen in a number of primary schools. Make sure if you’re adding this type of space that the activity doesn’t infringe on any other areas of play that could be unsafe. Also appropriate safety surfacing should be used and obstacles should be removed from the fall zone. Contact for more information on health and safety requirements.

Details of how to create an active play area and more examples to come.

The City of Edinburgh Council logo