Natural Playgrounds. What does it cost?

Throughout the years, we’ve designed and built numerous natural and commercial playgrounds for schools, community centers, daycares, and more, and as with most purchases, one of the first questions we’re asked is:

How much does a natural playground cost?

While the question is straightforward the answer is not always so easy.  Cost depends on a variety of factors including, but not limited to, the readiness of the proposed area, accessibility of the proposed area for crews and equipment, desired functionality of the new play area and so on.  Costs can vary greatly based on these and other factors but the good news is a natural playground can be created without breaking the bank.

Below is an outline of budget amounts for natural playground costs.  We have categorized this as small, medium and large and assigned a dollar value range to give examples of what can be achieved with these budgets.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that these budgets are just examples and real life situations can – and do – vary based on the above mentioned factors.


Small Budgets ($10,000 to $15,000):

The smallest budget to build a natural playground falls between $10,000 and $15,000. At this cost, your playground can include sand play features, a free-standing climber for sensory development, site furnishings to encourage social interaction, specialized components to stimulate dramatic play, and a small custom hill slide to advance motor skills.

The free-standing climber can be purchased directly from a catalog and will run around $1,000. The area underneath and around the climber will have to be covered with playground safety surfacing, so if you’re interested in eventually expanding your play area, make sure this area is spacious enough to support a larger climber in the future. The playground safety surfacing area should be laid in-ground at grade.  The fill that you remove from this area will provide the dirt needed for the hill slide. Sand play can also be in-ground; deep, with a water source. Its fill should also be used for the hill slide to keep your material costs down.  As with the climber area, this space could start off small and grow in the future. The initial sand investment will run around $500.

A table and chairs can be incorporated to encourage social interaction. It is ideal to include site furnishings that the children can move around. These pieces can be purchased directly from a catalog and will run around $500. Art or mirror panels can be added to prompt dramatic play, and will run around $1,000.

The largest expense for a small budget natural playground cost is the hill slide which will run around $7,000. Assuming you collected dirt from the climber and sand installation, the hill slide can easily be formed by compacting the material. Only a simple hill slide can be incorporated at this price point; one with a deck, roof, ball play feature, or water misting feature would increase the budget dramatically. It would also be helpful to have volunteers to keep your labor costs down.  Depending on their ability to grade, move top soil, pour concrete, install irrigation, and install the climber, you could create a small natural playground for under $15,000.


Medium Budgets ($15,000 to $25,000):

To build a natural playground between $15,000 to $25,000, you can incorporate all of the elements from the Small Budget breakdown and implement them on a larger scale. The free-standing climber can be upgraded to a ring maze or large overhead ladder, and will run around $2,000. The sand play feature can be integrated with a small water feature, and the two can work hand in hand to give kids feedback as they manipulate the material.

Additional tables, chairs, and benches can be added to the social interaction area and will inflate the price depending on quantity. Dramatic play value can be increased with the addition of a stage and curtain, and will run around $2,000. Finally, the hill slide can be upgraded to include a platform and ball play feature which will add to its activity options and increase play value.

Murphy Canyon

Large Budgets ($25,000 to $100,000+):

Building a natural playground with an unlimited budget would include all the bells and whistles; however, in all our years of doing this, we have never been told “the sky’s the limit”!

With a larger budget, there are a number of additional elements that can be included in your custom natural playground. Sand play features can be upgraded with loose part storage, dog lick water activators, building benches, and more. Interactive play creeks can accompany existing water features, and planting areas with root view growers can allow kids to see what is happening below the ground.

The playground can get in-laid trike trails with rumble strips and bridges, and large, custom boulders can be placed throughout for upper motor skill development. Art and music areas can accompany a larger-scale dramatic play area, complete with a raised deck, backdrop, and theater-style seating.

The hill slide can be enhanced with a misting system and upper platform with viewing panel to stimulate kids capacity for creativity and improve observation skills. Additionally, potential add-on features can include net climbers, composite climbers, lunch areas, and more.

There are countless additions you can incorporate into a natural playground, but these elements are the best way to ensure that kids are getting the full intellectual, emotional, social, and physical benefits of play.

If you have any questions on how much a natural playground can cost you, please contact us for a custom quote.

Playground Safety Surfacing