How to Plan for a Playground Restroom


How to Plan for a Playground Restroom

As a restroom company, we noticed that our restroom buildings were often being built next to playgrounds.  We wanted to learn more about the complimentary relationship between playgrounds and restrooms, so we reached out to several playground companies for their input.  Ultimately, we had the good fortune of speaking with Cody Goldberg of Harper’s Playground who provided many insights.


Restroom by Playground at Berlin, MD
A Green Flush Durango model restroom by a playground at Berlin, MD


Our conversation with him took an unexpected, though certainly welcome turn, as he expressed a major interest in the topic of inclusivity.  Cody was happy to speak with us too, as he viewed an “inclusive” restroom an essential component towards creating a desirable place for people of all abilities.  Cody, who has a disabled child of his own, informed us that users with disabled children risk having a challenging bathroom “emergency” that could discourage them from going to a playground or park entirely.  As such, he viewed proper restroom support as being vital.

“It’s terribly sad to know that people will show up to a park, start playing, try to go to the bathroom, and then they won’t necessarily be able to do it properly,” Cody said.  “Inclusiveness shouldn’t be something that is sometimes the case, it should be always and everywhere.”


What are some ways to be inclusive?


  1. Be spacious and accessible by having wider doors and larger stalls.
  2. Consider adding adult changing tables. According to Goldberg: “I think one of the most important ways for a restroom facility to go beyond ADA is to have an adult changing table.  That’s one of the more critical components.  Once a child- who requires diapering- reaches a certain age, an ordinary changing table doesn’t really work anymore.”
  3. Utilize hands free technology. “Hands free soap- that’s critical- it’s important for people without much upper body strength so that they can waive their hands under it,” said Goldberg. Additionally, door push plates can be a must for wheelchair users who don’t have a helper with them.


Owen’s Playground Bainbridge Island, WA
Owen’s Playground at Bainbridge Island, WA  (Harper’s Playground)

Properly sizing the restroom

How big should your restroom be? As with anything, this will depend mostly on your budget. If you can’t allocate for the costs, you might have to compromise.

With that said, an optimal restroom will be sized for maximum usage.  If maximum usage days are rare, you can compromise by sizing for medium usage knowing that some days and times there will be lines (which create a bad experience for visitors).

As Cody told us, making a restroom to be inclusive means going far beyond ADA, which he reminded us was “only the legal minimum.” In order to make a restroom that will best serve everyone, it’s best to be as roomy as possible.  A bathroom stall needs to be large enough not just for a wheelchair, but also for the adult who is helping the person in the wheelchair in that same space.

“[The restroom] needs to be spacious.  It needs handrails for stabilization. Sometimes there’s a step in the entry- that’s a non-starter for us,” said Goldberg. “It’s important that spaces are large enough so that both a caregiver and the person who needs support can both comfortably fit in the space.  If it’s too small, then it doesn’t really work for being an inclusive space.”

For these reasons, we believe it is best to err on the side of having more space in your restroom.


Gendered or non-gendered restrooms?

This can be a tough decision.  A parent with an opposite sex child of special needs may not feel comfortable- or may make others uncomfortable- in a gendered restroom situation as it would assure that no matter which restroom was chosen, there would be an element of invasiveness.  Parents in these situations are always going to prefer a private non-gendered restroom (sometimes referred to as a Family restroom).

With that said, family restrooms are less space efficient and less cost efficient per stall or per user than gendered restrooms with multiple stalls.  If you can manage it, an ideal solution would be to have both gendered restrooms and at least one Family Restroom.


Tokyo Sport Playground Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo Sport Playground at Tokyo, Japan  (Harper’s Playground)


Where to locate the restroom

If your park or public place has a playground, we recommend placing the restroom nearby it. Kids don’t plan ahead and often need to use the restroom suddenly or unexpectedly, and parents with multiple children might be uncomfortable moving far away from a child as they go to help another child in the restroom.

The parent themselves might need to use the restroom as playgrounds will often be places that people stay at for a while. And since playgrounds will often involve playing in the dirt, it’s nice to have a wash station nearby.

We recommend prioritizing a playground location over other prime locations such as ball fields or parking lots.  If it’s a big park, then ideally there should be multiple restroom locations.



A restroom that is easy to spot will be appreciated by your visitors, particularly those experiencing restroom urgency.  It’s a good idea to have your restroom in an open area, not blocked by other buildings or other visual barriers. A more attractive building will naturally attract more attention; all the more reason to build a good-looking restroom building that complements its surroundings. Using large signage or symbols can also help new visitors identify the building from far away.

A restroom needs to be attractive on the inside too.  Families will spend more time in restrooms- kids tend to take longer than adults and parents may be changing diapers. That time spent inside will foment an impression, one way or the other.  There aren’t many things that can swing a perception positive or negative faster than a restroom experience.


Dawson Park Portland, OR
Dawson Park at Portland, OR  (Harper’s Playground)


When families go to a playground, they’ll often stay there for more than just a few minutes.  It’s important to have a restroom configured in a way to make those families feel more comfortable with a longer stay, and to make the restroom as inclusive as possible particularly for families who have the biggest needs.
The more families that feel comfortable using a playground area, the livelier it feels.  There is a tremendous difference in atmosphere between a park with nobody in it and a park that has the sounds of families meeting and children playing.  And the more we can encourage families to participate, and the more inclusive we make a park, playground, and restroom, the better it is for everyone.