The best thing you can do for your children after purchasing playground equipment, such as a play set or a swing set, is to make it safe.
Your backyard playground equipment should be a fun, yet safe, place for your children to play. And the good news is that it’s fairly simple to bring your playground equipment up to standards. There are several things to consider:
Swings – Use safety harnesses for younger children and keep the swings low to the ground in case of falls.
Slides – Make sure the sides of the slide are high enough so that the children can’t fall or slide over the edge. If the slide has a platform at the top, make sure there are safety rails to prevent falls, and make sure those rails are at least shoulder-high.
If you have more than one play structure, keep them at least nine feet apart.
Most playground equipment is designed for two different age groups: 2-5 years old and 5-12 years old. Make sure the equipment is age-appropriate for your children.
Examine the entire play structure and check for any spaces in which a child could trap his or her head, arms or body.
If you have any playground equipment with moving parts, such as seesaws and merry-go-rounds, check for “pinch points.” These are areas in which a child may pinch or crush his or her finger or hand.
Sandboxes – Check the sandbox periodically for sharp objects, such as sticks or rocks, and always cover it overnight to prevent contamination from cats and rodents.
Examine the play structure for protruding bolts or unfinished edges that a child’s clothing could become entangled on.
Check the area surrounding the play set for any free-standing water, debris, rocks, tree stumps and tree roots, all of which a child could trip over.
Never use concrete and asphalt underneath a play set.
Never use grass, soil and packed earth, all of which can become hard or eroded.
Use at least 12 inches of loose fill underneath the playground equipment to soften falls.
Extend the loose fill at least six feet around the perimeter of the play set.
Use the specially designed stakes to anchor wood play sets, use concrete to anchor metal play sets and fill the legs of plastic play sets with sand to anchor them.
The Importance of Fill
Choosing a soft ground cover for your play set can mean the difference between simply a hard fall and a broken bone. Some common types of ground cover include cedar mulch, pea gravel, shredded tires, thick, rubber mats and rubber mulch.
Cedar mulch is a popular, inexpensive choice, although some children may experience allergic reactions from it. Pea gravel is another inexpensive ground cover, although this can be inconvenient if it falls into children’s shoes, and dangerous if small children put it in their mouths.
Shredded tires are an environmentally friendly ground cover, although it can often stain clothes, so test it out before purchasing it. Thick, rubber mats are a great choice, although they can be very expensive. Finally, rubber mulch is a popular choice, as it does not fade, stain or disintegrate. It is also available in a wide variety of colors, which is often appealing to small children.