Steady Structures: Backyard Playground Safety
But as much as they might love hanging around the monkey bars, sliding down the slide or swinging in the swing set, not everyone has a fully functional playground just around the corner.
That’s why backyard playsets are so popular with families from coast to coast. But setting up your new personal playground isn’t as simple as “set it and forget it” – there are a few important things to keep in mind before, during, and after you set up your new playground. Keep your little ones safe with these important backyard playground safety tips:
Survey the area
Before you begin installing your new playset, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough room in your backyard. Even if you technically have enough space to hold your playset, you’ll want to leave extra room on all sides. Child Safety Link Canada recommends leaving at least six feet of open space on all sides to allow room for jumps and falls. Even after installing your playground, you’ll want to periodically check this area for rocks, sticks, sharp objects or tripping hazards.
Use rubber surfacing
Even if you’ve made sure the equipment is safe and secure, you can never fully ensure your little ones won’t endure any trips and falls when they’re playing on their playset. The best you can do is make sure that, when they trip or fall, they have a soft landing – that’s why it’s important to choose a soft surface onto which to place your playset, such as sand, pea gravel, rubber mats, mulch, or rubber (either shredded rubber or poured-in-place rubber.) Make sure your rubber surfacing covers at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) in all directions from the actual playset.
Set it up safely
When it comes time to set up your playset, it’s best to leave installation to the professionals. Most companies that sell backyard playgrounds also offer installation services. By opting for professional installation, you can have peace of mind knowing that your children will be safe playing on professionally-installed equipment that follow Canada’s safety standards.
With that said, if you have prior experience, and are very confident in your abilities to correctly install your backyard playset, you may choose to do so yourself. Either way, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions, along with these safety guidelines:
- Secure all structures by bolting them down or sinking them into concrete
- Make sure swings are a safe distance from each other – Kids Health recommends that you leave at least 24 inches of space between two swings, and 30 inches of space between swings and support beams
- Ensure that only two swings are installed per section
- To prevent falls and choking hazards, ensure that monkey bars, guardrails, and ladders are either less than three and a half inches apart or greater than nine inches apart
After setting up your playground, you’ll want to ensure that there are no protruding bolts, and that all bolts and connections are tight. What’s more, you’ll want to make sure that each bolt has a bolt cap – a plastic cap that covers the little section of bolt that protrudes through the nut.
After examining your playground equipment for the first time, it’s important to make it a habit for the future – be sure to regularly examine your equipment for protrusions and for wear and tear such as rust, cracking, and splintering.
Make sure it’s age-appropriate
You wouldn’t let your toddler roam free in a playground made for teens – in the same way, it’s important to make sure your new background playset is age appropriate for your child or children. Allowing a young child to play on a playset that they’re not old enough to use is dangerous, and can lead to an injury. Make sure the equipment you’re installing is age appropriate for your little ones – for example, you may need to replace a bench swing with a bucket swing, or install a gate on your playset.
Be mindful of safety
Did you know that a backyard playground is considered an “attractive nuisance?” This refers to a fun yet potentially dangerous recreational or architectural item, such as a swimming pool, a pond or fountain, a trampoline, or a tree house.
Since owning an “attractive nuisance” increases the risk of someone being injured on your property, it’s important to keep safety top of mind at all times. Always make sure your children are supervised when playing on their playset, including when they have children of friends or relatives visiting. If your backyard is not fenced off yet, it’s a good idea to set up a fence before setting up any equipment to keep curious neighbouring children from wandering onto your unsupervised playset.