What Every Parent Needs To Know…
Playground safety is just as important as selecting the right playground equipment for you and your family.
Nearly 50,000 home playground accidents occur in the United States alone, every year and children under age five are especially at risk for serious injury.
This doesn’t mean your kids can’t enjoy their backyard play equipment, it simply means that you need to take some simple precautions to protect them.
Top Tips For Playground Safety
The first basic safety measure is to install a shock-absorbing surface as most injuries occur when a child falls from play equipment onto the ground. Use at least 9 inches of wood chips, mulch, shredded rubber, “pea” gravel, sand or surfacing mats made of safety-tested materials. The protective surfacing should extend for at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. Around swings, the surfacing should be twice the height of the suspending bar both in front and back.
Wherever there are swings be sure to avoid lightweight under sized swing supports for the safety of your children, 4″ x 6″ construction is more than adequate for timber. Firmly anchor swing sets to avoid tipping, some larger sets may even require concrete for the anchors to bolt on to.
You should also check that swings are adequately spaced from each other and supports- there are safety regulations regarding this that should be met.
The swing itself will need to be selected with age in mind. Infants between 9 months and 2 years and up to 40 pounds need high-back support, a safety belt, and a front bumper. Children between 3 and 5 years and up to 50 pounds need a lower-back support and a safety belt. A rubber U-shaped seat is suitable for older children.
Check for dangerous hardware, like open “S” hooks or protruding bolt ends. All fixtures should finish flush with the structure to avoid accidents while brushing against it.
High platforms, forts and tree-houses require railings to prevent falls. They need to be of adequate height and spaced wide enough so as not to trap little hands or feet, while wider openings can trap heads. The spaces should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches. The same distances apply to the rungs between ladders.
Look for a minimum of 1/4″ thick plastic with high sides to reduce the number of spills over the side of the slide. Lightweight thin slides will have weight restrictions and thus be flimsy and pose a potential hazard with a number of children using the slide at one time. Avoid metal slides, they retain heat and can burn bare skin.
Purchase swings with safety chain rather than ropes as it is much more hard-wearing. Check the thickness and average lifespan of ropes for climbing. Thin ropes can fray and rot making them unsafe. Look for rope that is 1″ thick for good durability.
Never allow children to attach their own ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, or pet leashes to play equipment. They can cause accidental strangulation if caught on play equipment. Children should also avoid playing while wearing clothes with loose ties that can hook onto the equipment.
Climbing features and ladders are best at an angle for the safest climbing experience for younger children. There is much less likelihood of them falling. More upright ladders are okay for older children.
Look for breathable fabrics, rather than vinyl, which retains heat. And though all tent materials will eventually weather, specially designed outdoor fabrics, will retain their original appearance for much longer.
Check your play equipment and surfacing regularly to make sure both are in good condition. Always supervise children on your play equipment and teach your kids some basic playground rules. They should be taught not to climb on the very top of the play set, not to climb with objects in their mouth, and to respect other childrens’ wishes when they indicate they feel unsafe in any way.
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