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Playset Safety Guide

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1.The Danger is Real
Photo credit: Palmer House Photography / Flickr

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Sharp edges abound and painful bolts cover many homemade playground sets. Creating a happy sanctuary for your kids with a background swing set or play equipment is an excellent way to encourage an active lifestyle, but not at the expense of safety.

If your next stop is the local home improvement store for some playground supplies, make sure you’re aware of how to make your child’s playset fun yet safe.

The Danger is Real

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that an estimated 50,000 kids head to emergency rooms each year because of injuries on playground equipment at home. The majority of these injuries occur when a child falls off a piece of equipment, or when a wayward swing slams into a child who isn’t too steady on her feet.

Frighteningly, many children also die from unsafe equipment when ropes or other loose pieces form a noose around a tiny, vulnerable neck. The death of a child is devastating, and parents must do everything possible to reduce the danger in the backyard.

Shopping List Tips

As you browse lumber choices and other building blocks of your child’s future playset, you’ll want to make sure that you use four-by-four posts to stabilize the structure. Thin pieces of wood will bend and sway with use, which may create an unsteady surface for active kids.

If the playset features swings, you’ll need to make sure the A-frame legs are thick too. The forces at work on the beam that holds the swings are significant, even if the children using the swings have just grown into toddlerhood. Remember to avoid woods with heavy coatings and chemicals.

You’ll also need to take a look at the ground around the playset. Grass might look soft, but it can hide tough ground that doesn’t feel soft at all when a child falls or tumbles down. Simple fillers for the ground like fine sand or tiny wood chips create a safe surface for trips and falls.

Proper Playset Placement

One of the biggest dangers of a poorly designed playset is the existence of small spaces that could trap a child and create injury or a choking hazard. The Home Safety Council recommends that spaces between pieces of a playset are smaller than 3.5 inches or larger than 9 inches. Anything between those measurements may trap a child.

In addition, the play equipment should sit well away from walls, and the free space around the set needs to be clear. Make sure that common backyard features like barbecue stands, tables, and lawn furniture are never placed less than six feet from the perimeter of the playset.

Refurbish, Renew, Recycle

A healthy, active child causes a lot of wear and tear on the average playset. Don’t neglect maintenance and care of the equipment. A ready-made playset that’s made of aluminum might corrode over time, and the planks used on wooden equipment might become rotted after a few years of wear and tear.

Each season you should inspect all faces of the playset, and make sure that connections, bolts, and joints are strong and sturdy. Pull on the swings, ropes, and other movable parts to make sure there’s no fraying. Also, consider whether the kids might want bigger equipment. Replace pieces on the playset as the children grow.

Remember that a playset is only safe when kids know how to act responsibly on the equipment. Take a seat with the kids and go over rules like staying clear of the swings when someone’s using them and keeping the rough-housing to the grass instead of the top of the playset.

Safe construction choices and simple safety rules will keep your kids the safest and happiest they can be, while they grow up using a fun backyard playset


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