Assess the playground location

A residential playground in the backyard offers parents a chance to watch their children in a safe environment. It also protects children from stranger dangers that are present in public parks and recreational facilities. However, there are many things that must be taken into consideration to ensure that the playground is constructed and maintained with the safety of the child in mind.

Before purchasing a play set or equipment to use in the backyard, it is important to conduct an assessment of the area. Space is one of the biggest concerns when designing a residential playground.

Trees, shrubbery and other fixtures around the home should not be a deterrent for the playground structures. Play sets should never be installed within close proximity to utility guide wires, overhead electrical lines or other utility fixtures as they can create serious hazards for a curious child.

It is recommended that there be 6 feet of space between a play set and any other feature around it.

Preparing a playground area

There are many different types of surfacing materials that can be used to provide a softer surface than concrete or even hard-packed soil.

Some of the surfacing products readily available include mulch, mats and grating made from materials such as rubber and cork. Not only are these products safer for children should they trip and fall, they are easy to clean and prevent mold, mildew and other harmful micro-organism that can make a child ill.

When small children will be utilizing the playground, it is important to install a barrier that prevents children wandering off, strangers from having easy access to the area and deters vandalism or theft.

Stockade fencing is the most preferred option for creating this barrier, but there are many other types of fencing available. Large shrubbery is not a good option as these trees and plants allow intruders easy access to the area.

Avoid lower lying area of the yard because they could cause water pooling and flooding to occur and create damage to the play sets and equipment. Water can rot most materials used for playground structures, including metals and wood selections. Homeowners can either choose to build up the area prior to installing the playground or install a drainage system.

Backyard playground equipment

There are many different options for play sets and playground equipment that can be used in the backyard. Homeowners can choose to purchase a pre-assembled play structure, play set kit or create an original structure.

Metal pre-assembled or kit play sets: Metal play sets are among the oldest type of playground equipment and have been available for many years. These structures are affordably priced and easily fit into small areas when space is limited.

Homeowners who choose this type of play set should remember metal can get hot when placed in direct sunlight, causing children to get burned while utilizing the play spaces. Anchoring these play sets is important, because they tip over rather easily. When used in areas that have high levels of humidity, metal used to create these structures can rust or become unstable.

Prefabricated wooden play sets: Individuals can purchase prefabricated wooden play sets from most home improvement stores. These sets are sold in kits and ready to assemble upon delivery.

Homeowners who have basic construction skills such as drilling, hammering, sawing and sanding can use instructions available for these kits to assemble them on their own with minimal help. Those who lack these skills should know that most store locations have individuals available to complete the installation of these structures for  a minimal fee. Once the construction is completed, homeowners can finish these play sets in their desired paint or stain colors.

Custom-made play structures: Custom-made play structures are designed to specific specifications that a homeowner makes. These structures are ideal for homeowners with minimal space or want to go above and beyone the a traditional play structure.

Playground maintenance and safety tips

Preventive maintenance is important to ensuring a long life for playground equipment. The type and amount of maintenance needed varies depending on the type of material the play set is made of, the construction of the structure and the climate conditions in the geographical location where the structure is used.

Here are some maintenance and safety tips that will help homeowners get the most from their backyard play sets.

• Wooden play structures should be treated with a weatherproofing sealer to prevent rotting in areas where high levels of humidity, rain or snow may be present. Metal structures should be treated with a rust proofing spray.

• Before children are allowed to play on a play set, the structure should always be tested by an adult. Regular testing should be conducted once a month to ensure that bolts, screws and other hardware are not loose or faulty.

• Playground equipment should always be anchored to prevent tipping or instability while children are at play. Even heavier structures have the capability of falling over and trapping children.

• Children should never be left unattended when playing on playground equipment.

• Parents should establish and set rules for their children that outline proper use to prevent injuries.

• Hat strings or loose clothing should not be used while playing on a play set or playground equipment, as they can get caught and pose strangling hazards for children.

• Faulty play sets or equipment should be disassembled and removed immediately to prevent injuries.

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