In the Playground, On the Playground, or At The Playground?

All three phrases “in the playground”, “on the playground” and “at the playground” are correct and are used frequently. However, how do we know when to use each phrase and when would one be selected rather than another?

In the Playground, On the Playground, or At The Playground?

Although the phrases are often interchangeable, each expresses a perspective. If the playground is a safe place, bounded by a fence, then you say “in the playground”. When referring to the actual surface, you use “on the playground”. “At the playground” refers to the location, from a place outside.

in the playground on the playground at the playground

“At the playground” would be used when referring to a meeting place or where something happened. If you choose “in the playground” you might be referring to the people within the boundary. If the surface of the ground is relevant, then “on the playground” would be used.

In the Playground

The expression “in the playground” refers to the boundaries of the space and anything that happens there. In this sense, it implies a place of safety for children and may include rules and regulations regarding security. When associated with a school, it means the enclosed space surrounding the building.

Here are some examples of how to use “in the playground” in a sentence:

  1. No dogs are allowed in the playground, unless muzzled and kept on a lead.
  2. The local council has installed a new climbing frame and a soft-surface play area in the playground.
  3. On weekdays, after school, they are allowed to run to meet their friends in the local playground.
  4. For safety reasons, no glass bottles or any other breakable objects are permitted in the playground.
  5. The parents usually sit together to chat or appoint one parent to supervise while their children play on the swings in the playground.
  6. There was a fire safety drill at the school and the children had to gather in the appointed area in the playground.
  7. Following several broken windows and several serious injuries, the pupils are no longer permitted to play football in the playground behind the school.

On the Playground

When referring to the type or size of the playing surface, the phrase “on the playground” is used, it may describe the playing area or describe how the area is populated. The expression “on the playground” can be placed in front of a feature in the playground, as an adjective.

Here are some examples of to use “on the playground” in a sentence:

  1. A new cushioned surface was rolled out on the playground to reduce the number of injuries from accidents and falls.
  2. Children under the age of five are not allowed on the playground equipment unless supervised by an adult.
  3. There always seemed to be more dogs than children on the playground at the weekend.
  4. After a long day at school, the children were allowed to run off their excess energy on the playground.
  5. She was disappointed to see the amount of litter and empty cans on the playground equipment and on the playground floor.
  6. While they waited for their mother to collect them, they played cards on the playground wall.
  7. My favourite memories were of playing on the playground rocking horse with my best friend.

At the Playground

The phrase “at the playground” refers to the location. It may be used to describe where something happened, where someone is (or was) or a meeting place. For instance, “the boy and his father met his cousin at the playground”.

Here are some examples of how to use “at the playground” in a sentence:

  1. Where are the kids this afternoon? They are at the playground with their aunt.
  2. I must have lost my new gloves at the playground or on the way home.
  3. If I don’t see you at the concert this evening, I will see you at the playground on Saturday afternoon.
  4. My husband is not at home at the moment; he’s at the playground with the children.
  5. My daughter is always falling off the climbing frame at the playground; I have to watch her like a hawk!
  6.  I met Alison’s Mum and her sister, for the first time, at the playground last week.
  7. There was a lot of noisy activity and a lot of excitement when the new kids arrived at the playground this morning.

Which Is Used The Most?

According to the Google Ngram Viewer, the phrases “in the playground” and “on the playground” are used equally often and are used much more frequently than “at the playground”.

in the playground on the playground at the playground usage

This may be due to the fact that “on the playground” can also be used as an adjective before an object belonging to the playground.