How to Make Your Home Playground Safe

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Having a playground in your backyard is an excellent way to encourage an active lifestyle for your kids.

Unfortunately, most parents are not well-versed in playground safety, and serious injuries can occur when children fall off backyard playgrounds or try to jump from their swings.

In fact, the National Program for Playground Safety estimates that of the 218,851 emergency room visits for children injured on playground equipment, 19 percent happened on home playgrounds.

If you are going to install a backyard playground, or if you already have one and want to make sure it is as safe as possible, here are some safety tips to keep in mind.

Ensure Proper Cushioning

Setting up your playground on a patch of dirt or grass is a recipe for head injuries or broken limbs. Instead, have a dedicated space, and make sure to have at least 9 inches of cushioning materials, like mulch or pea gravel, underneath. Nine inches may seem like a lot, but it is the necessary amount needed to prevent serious injury if the playground is 5 feet high or taller. Safety tested rubber mats can also be used. This surface cover should spread 6 feet around the playground.

Remove Sharp Edges

Most commercially produced playground kits will have the sharp edges smoothed and sanded, but always check. Wear and tear can lead to edges you weren’t expecting. If you notice any sharp edges or points, smooth them or cover them to avoid injury.

Similarly, inspect for any protruding bolts or S-hooks. These can cause severe injury quickly, and they can also develop rust that makes the injury even more dangerous. Cover these, or use alternative connectors that are not as sharp.

Look for Strangulation Hazards

Ropes, cords and even spaces between ladder rungs and other openings can represent a strangulation or entrapment hazard. Make sure there are no loose ropes that could wrap around necks on the playground. Then, check the spaces between ladder rungs. They either need to be more than 9 inches or less than 3.5 inches wide to keep kids from getting stuck.

Similarly, kids can get trapped between the ground and the bottom of the swing set, if it is too low to the ground. While not a strangulation hazard, this does provide a risk to the kids. To prevent this, leave at least 8 inches of space between the bottom of the playground and the ground if there are any exposed openings.

Make the Swings Safe

WebMD indicates that most home playground injuries occur on swings, so this is an area to give a little attention. First, make sure the swings are hung from chains, not ropes, which are a strangulation hazard. Second, only hang two swings from any beam of the playground. Make sure swings are spaced at least 8 inches from one another, because after all, children rarely swing in a straight line. Make sure that the seats and chains are securely anchored, and always check for signs of rust or wear and tear. Finally, ensure the swings are high enough off the ground to swing, but low enough for the child’s feet to just touch.

As you plan the playground layout, consider the way most kids will play. Even if you provide ample warnings, some kids will still choose to jump off the swing. Always place enough cushioning material in a large radius around the swings to make sure your kids are protected.

Choose the Right Height

Finally, ensure the playground is the right height for the age of your children. For school-aged children, opt for platforms and slides no more than 6 feet tall, and for preschoolers, choose 4-foot tall structures. Check that all platforms have adequate sides and railings to keep kids protected.

Remember, your home playground should be a haven for your kids to spend hours using their imaginations and getting good, healthy exercise. Make sure it is a safe haven by implementing these useful tips.

David Reeves is the Marketing Director at Superior Grounds For Play, a playground equipment company. He has been a community coach for soccer, cross-country and basketball for over 10 years. Grounds For Play offers play structures and equipment to encourage mental and physical development.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.

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