Park & Playground Trends To Watch Throughout 2021

miracle playground equipment with slide
2020 was an unusual and challenging year in many ways, but it also included a variety of interesting innovations and improvement in the world of park and playground products that laid the groundwork for some of 2021’s most significant trends:

Inclusion and Social Equity

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is a federal law whose ultimate purpose is to ensure equal access and benefit to all people and eliminate exclusion and discrimination on the basis of disability. Stemming from the ADA, the 2010 ADA Standards for Accessible Design stipulates that playground equipment and facilities constructed or altered on or before March 15, 2012 must offer a range of play experiences to children of varying abilities.

In 2020, playground architects and designers began to take this concept of inclusive design beyond the basics of mere ADA compliance. Play equipment and playground design professionals began to consider the role of accessible playground equipment and multi-generational play in the pursuit of social equity, leading to the most significant trend in playground design for 2021: the growth and improvement of inclusive playgrounds.

While the availability of universally-designed, accessible playgrounds has been on the rise over the past decade, 2021 will see this concept expanded even further. Industry experts expect to see playground designers expand the concept of inclusive play to bring people together and overcome social barriers. In 2021 and beyond, design and equipment that encourages inclusive, comprehensive play will cement its position at the forefront of playground design efforts.

Community Health and Wellness

The most recent reminder of how important outdoor fitness areas are came with the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused many fitness centers and gyms to shut their doors. With so many indoor facilities locked down, people were forced to find alternative ways to exercise and get physical activity. This prompted communities across the country to install additional outdoor play areas, like obstacle courses and climbing courses. For the first time ever, outdoor hand sanitizing stations became an essential amenity at parks and playgrounds. These 2020 innovations are expected to continue in 2021.

Using Outdoor Spaces for Learning

The pandemic also brought about the need for outdoor learning spaces to replace or supplement traditional indoor classrooms. Outdoor classrooms encourage children to play and be physically active, offsetting the sedentary nature of remote learning and hybrid class schedules. Research and development of new amenities and equipment for outdoor learning spaces—like seating, tables, shelters, hand sanitizer stations, and other outdoor products—accelerated in 2020 and will continue in 2021 as more schools either shift classes to an outdoor setting or seek to create outdoor options if and when needed.

Embracing the Natural Landscape

Instead of clearing an area in which to create a playground, 2021 will see designers taking full advantage of unique topography, including rocks, stones, and other natural elements. Playground designers will continue to find ways to connect traditional play equipment with the natural environment to create unique, one-of-a-kind play spaces.

Although the pandemic is unfortunately far from over, one of its silver linings is already evident: the need for physical distancing has caused people to value social interaction more than ever. Playgrounds will always be at the epicenter of human connection, giving children and families a time and place to gather and enjoy activities and conversation. The trends we see playing out in 2021 are all related to encouraging those things as we get back to interacting with one another more in some form or fashion this year.