How To Plan Recess Zones


Planning your outdoor playspace is extremely important! According to an Aug. 2016 study conducted by the University of Missouri, titled In the Zone: An Investigation into Physical Activity during Recess on Traditional versus Zoned Playgrounds, “Researchers found that average physical activity increased by 10 percent and children averaged 175 steps more on a zoned playground compared to a traditional playground.”

In other words, researchers found that children moved more in a zoned playground than in a traditional playground. But what the heck is a zoned playground?

Zoned Recess Areas

recess and playground zoning venn diagram
Zoned recess areas (or "zoned playgrounds" are playgrounds that are divided into specific areas or “zones.” Each “zone” has an assortment of activities associated with the theme of that particular zone, which can include a physical exercise zone, a relaxation zone, a sports zone, and a zone tailored to social/wellness aids. For example, kids can play hopscotch or complete activity circuits in the physical exercise zone. Meanwhile, in the relaxation zone, kids play chess and checkers. Games like kickball, soccer or basketball stay in the sports zone, whereas an activity like Fit and Fun Playscapes’ custom “Buddy Circle”, “Yoga Poses” or “Peace Path by Soul Shoppe” stencils can be placed in the social/wellness aids zone.


Fit and Fun Playscapes recognizes the importance of recess and play in a child’s physical, emotional and social development, and is the only recess stencil company that offers a professional, in-house sketch service to help you with the planning and zoning of your custom playspace. After all, Fit and Fun Playscapes was named as a resource by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) for creating an environment supportive of active play in their Jan. 2017 “Recess Planning Guide.”

children using a zoned playground

But how do you start planning your outdoor playspace? Here are some quick steps to get you moving in the right direction!

  1. Select the location where you’re going to paint the custom stencils. This is the most important part of the project. If possible, you should measure the location so you have an idea of the size and shape of your playspace. This will give you an idea of what stencils you should buy! Or, choose our custom planning service for a small fee. You should then define the target age group, budget and approval process for your playspace. Check out our downloadable catalog for information about pricing, shipping, license and return policies.
  2. Choose stencils and pattern options. Fit and Fun offers a variety of individual stencils and packages, as well as custom design options. Once you have an idea of what you’d like to purchase, request a formal quote for prospective stencils and supplies. This will give you an idea of shipping/handling costs and sales tax (where applicable) as well as the various layout and design services Fit and Fun Playscapes offers! Be aware you may need to consult with local maintenance staff and/or paint supply stores on specific preparation requirements for your stencils. Want to save a trip to the paint store? Fit and Fun Playscapes offers a custom paint supply kit, prepared with high-quality Sherwin-Williams paint and matched in whatever quantity you need, that you can purchase directly from our website. If ordering four or more stencils, Fit and Fun can create a custom package and often apply a discount.
  3. Organize your paint team. Fit and Fun Playscapes will provide you with information about the number of volunteers and time commitment needed. Identify a paint day and alternate paint day in case it rains. Make sure the weather is dry enough for the paint to properly cure! This is incredibly important, as this is the day when you will actually apply the custom stencils to your playspace. Typically, you should allow 24-48 hours in dry weather conditions from start to finish. Plan ahead and don’t forget to check the weather well in advance!
  4. Order and purchase your stencils and/or paint supplies. Fit and Fun Playscapes recommends you order your stencils three to four weeks in advance. This ensures your paint team is familiar with all application instructions prior to paint day.
  5. Paint your stencils. You will first want to prepare your surfaces according to instructions on the paint can and/or facilities maintenance staff. Instructions will depend on the surface material. Don’t forget to be kind to your paint team! Bring some healthy snacks and water. Provide cleanup supplies and instructions to your paint team. Don’t forget to take lots of pictures before, during and after, because the transformation is amazing! 

The steps can seem daunting, but Fit and Fun Playscapes offers a wide variety of options that ease the process of purchasing and applying stencils to your outdoor/indoor playspace. We have a team of designers available to help in whatever capacity necessary to bring your playspace to life! You can also check out our Online Recess Resource Center to find the latest in all things recess!

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