7 Tips for Designing the Ultimate Dental Office Playground

I’m sure that over the years, many bosses have found ample reason to shout, “This is a business, not a playground!!!”

But in the world of pediatric dentistry, turning your business into a dental playground is precisely what your customers are demanding!

It not only creates a unique and memorable experience that can set your practice apart from your competitors. Creating a fun, playful pre-appointment environment can go a long way to reducing a child’s fear of visiting the dentist.

Reduce anxiety to help fill pediatric dental chairs

A recent research paper (How Can We Reduce Dental Fear in Children? The Importance of the First Dental Visit.) cited that 9% of children and adolescents in Canada, the US, and Europe suffer from dental anxiety

The researchers found that early exposure to the dentist (before age two when the first tooth erupts) and frequent visits after that are shown to reduce dental fear.

Our results reveal that the age at which children first go to the dentist and the frequency of visits are key factors in preventing dental fear because they predict 44.4% of dental fear.” 

The researchers identified three important consequences of dental anxiety in children that impact both your patient and your practice:

  1. Pediatric patients will go to the dentist less often than necessary.
  2. They may not be able to receive the necessary treatments due to fear.
  3. They may be uncooperative with dental treatment staff.

Investing in a dental playground in your lobby can go a long way to alleviating anxiety in young children. By making a trip to the dentist something a child looks forward to, you will encourage more frequent visits and a higher quality of care.

So, what do you need to consider when building a play area in your lobby?

Tip 1: Create elements for active play in your dental practice.

Just like a traditional playground, your dental practice playspace should encourage kids to be active so that they can burn off energy and anxiety. This helps the worry disappear.

When we talk about active play, we’re describing lobby features like small slides, forts, climbing & balance structures… even places to jump and dance. Like a park playground, but at a much smaller scale.

Child-sized forts are a place where imagination can take control.

Yellow and grey camper themed kids play house.

Slides will have kids up and down and burning off energy. A slide can be a part of a bigger activity fort as well, with video games and play panels.

Pirate ship themed play slide.

Or they can be small stand-alone structures.

Yellow slide on a pirate ship themed play structure

Active play can help children release energy and reduce stress which is good for priming children for their appointments, but it can improve their overall well-being as well. You’re in the business of kids’ wellness, so helping kids benefit from visiting your office in numerous ways is just good practice.

Tip 2: Cater your dental play area to different ages.

Your practice caters to children of different ages. Your play area should too. One recommendation is to have a separate play area for toddlers, where the bigger kids won’t bump into them. It may simply be a padded play area with a smaller slide, safe soft foam play structures, and easy hands-on games.

Soft play foam sculpture slide with a goat sitting on a mountain side.
Soft play foam sculpture slide with a goat sitting on a mountainside.
Woodland rock game wall with Keebee play boards and video games.
Woodland rock game wall with Keebee play boards and video games.

Structures should be a little more advanced for children aged 5-10. For older kids, video games and electronic devices are more age-appropriate. You may want to section off your game area so pre-teen patients have some privacy.

Kids playing on wall mounted gaming tablets.

Tip 3: Think safety when building your dental playground.

Just like kids have dental anxiety, parents have safety worries!

It’s always a smart idea to install a cushioned floor if you want to go the extra mile to avoid a child flopping on the floor too hard. There are a variety of options from mall play area grade flooring…

to the snap-together flooring that you have probably seen parents can add to their at-home playrooms.

But don’t worry too much when it comes to professionally made play options for kids. Most manufacturers put incredible thought and care into the design of their play elements – avoiding sharp corners and tripping hazards. Many structures and climbable components are built with highly durable materials to keep up with active kids.

Tip 4: Pick a theme that carries through your office environment.

Coming up with a great theme for your dental playground makes it more memorable and provides a creative thread to tie everything together. Jungle theme. Dinosaur theme. Underwater theme. The sky’s the limit. (Yes, flying themes are a thing too).

By extending your theme from the front lobby to the clinical area and treatment rooms, you maintain the magic from one space to the next. This helps put young minds at ease throughout their visit.

A sunk ship play fort is a great distraction in the reception area.
Contemporary silhouette underwater themed wall mural in a dental treatment bay.
Murals in the open bay treatment area tie it together with the play area.

Just about any space in your office can be tailored to your theme – the front desk, front door, walls, ceilings, and floors. Durable 3D characters are not only decorative; they can be used as a fun way to provide task-oriented signage. Plus, they make for a good photo opportunity (which increases your chances of getting shared on social media for free advertising).

Tip 5: Consider opportunities for quiet play elements.

We talked about active play earlier. Well, every playground needs a quiet area too. It’s a good idea to designate space for patients who would rather sit with a book or play quietly.

Interactive play elements provide a chance for kids to use their growing minds. Examples of interactive play elements include an activity wall designed to test budding motor skills, foam building blocks, legos… the list goes on.

Tip 6: Keep it bright, colorful, and inviting!

Enough said! Let kids know an area is for them with bright primary colors to liven your children’s play area.

Candyland themed kid's play area with colorful wall murals and sculpted gingerbread house play structure with slide.
Candyland themed kid’s play area with colorful wall murals and sculpted gingerbread house play structure with slide.

Tip 7: Make it comfortable for parents.

Like any lobby, seating should be comfy for parents and guardians. It should also be situated so that it’s easy for them to keep an eye on their littles.

Speaking of comfort, indoor dental playgrounds can get noisy with squeals of joy. Investing in sound baffling solutions can reduce the decibel levels for parents and staff alike to provide a more enjoyable experience. A private room with walls, acoustic felt wall panels, plush beanbag chairs, or carpeted floors can all help absorb sound.

And one final tip… have fun designing your playground!

Working with an established creative design and fabrication partner that really loves what they do will make your renovation process a treat every step of the way!

Don’t know where to start with creating your dental playground? One of our Creative Consultants would love to help. Contact Imagination Design Studios (IDS) to get started transforming your office from a mundane to a magical patient experience.

Check out these related resources for making your waiting room a fun place to spend some time:

Top 7 Interactive Waiting Room Ideas

Tips to Make Your Dental Practice More Inviting for Pediatric Patients




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