Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.1 Play Area/Playground Size and Location

6.1.0 Size and Location of Outdoor Play Area

The facility or home should be equipped with an outdoor play area that directly adjoins the indoor facilities or that can be reached by a route that is free of hazards and is no farther than one-eighth mile from the facility. The playground should comprise a minimum of seventy-five square feet for each child using the playground at any one time.

The following exceptions to the space requirements should apply:

  1. A minimum of thirty-three square feet of accessible outdoor play space is required for each infant;
  2. A minimum of fifty square feet of accessible outdoor play space is required for each child from eighteen to twenty-four months of age.

There should be separated areas for play for the following ages of children:

  1. Ages six through twenty-three months
  2. Ages two to five years*
  3. Ages five to twelve years**

*These areas may be further sub-divided into ages two to three years and four to five years.

** These areas may be further sub-divided into grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-6.

The outdoor playground should include an open space for running that is free of other equipment (4).

Play areas must be sufficient to allow freedom of movement without collisions among active children.

Providing more square feet per child may correspond to a decrease in the number of injuries associated with gross motor play equipment (1). An aggregate size of greater than 4,200 square feet that includes all of a facility’s playgrounds has been associated with significantly greater levels of children’s physical activity (5).

In addition, meeting proposed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) outdoor play area requirements for accessible routes, and developing natural, outdoor play yards with variety and shade can only be achieved if sufficient outdoor play space is provided.

The space exceptions are based on early childhood and playground professionals’ experience (2). This follows the developmental ages used for the development of the Standards for play equipment for children.

Children benefit from being outside as much as possible and it is important to provide sufficient outdoor space to accommodate the full enrollment of children (2). If a facility has less than seventy-five square feet of outdoor space per child, then the facility should augment the outdoor space by providing a large indoor play area (see Standard

Additional space beyond the standard of seventy-five square feet per child may be required to meet ADA outdoor play area requirements, depending on the layout and terrain (3). A Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) can be utilized for guidance in assisting with outdoor play areas. To locate a CPSI, check the National Park and Recreation Association (NPRA) registry at

Children may play in older children’s areas if the equipment is appropriate for the youngest child present.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Active Opportunities for Physical Activity Playing Outdoors Caregivers’/Teachers’ Encouragement of Physical Activity Assessment of the Environment at the Site Location Size and Requirements of Indoor Play Area
  1. Ruth, L. C. 2008. Playground design and equipment. Whole Building Design Guide.
  2. Olds, A. R. 2001. Child care design guide. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  3. Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (U.S. Access Board). 2005. Accessible play areas: A summary of accessibility guidelines for play areas.
  4. Brown, W. H., K. A. Pfeiffer, K. L. Mclver, M. Dowda, C. L. Addy, R. R. Pate. 2009. Social and environmental factors associated with preschoolers’ nonsedentary physical activity. Child Devel 80:45-58.
  5. Dowda, M., W. H. Brown, C. Addy, K. A. Pfeiffer, K. L. McIver, R. R. Pate. 2009. Policies and characteristics of the preschool environment and physical activity of young children. Pediatrics 123: e261-66.