Top 15 Playground Safety Questions You Need to Ask

Woman Sitting on a Spring Rider Smiling on a Playground

1. Is there enough room for the playground structures that you want to build?

The first thing that you need to consider is whether the area that you want to build your playground is large enough for everything that you want to put into it. All playground structures, including slides, climbers, and especially swing sets, must follow certain guidelines that specify how much space must be left between different play structures. Taller items of playground equipment need more space surrounding them to eliminate the risk of children coming into contact with adjacent structures if they fall. These spaces are called safe use zones.

Taller items of playground equipment need more space surrounding them to eliminate the risk of children coming into contact with adjacent structures if they fall. These spaces are called safe use zones. To learn more about use zones, check out Everything You Wanted to Know About Playground Use Zones

2. Will kids have free space to run and play?

Even if your playground follows all of the proper guidelines for safe use zones, you still must consider the amount of space that kids will have for free play. No matter how many exciting activities a play system has, kids will always enjoy just running around the playground and playing games like tag. In order to accommodate this, you should make sure that the play area has plenty of empty space between structures for kids to play actively.

It is also important to make sure that there are no pieces that jut out, or which could potentially act as tripping hazards. Balance beams and large stepping stones are fun ways to accent your playground, but
they are easily tripped over, so be careful with their placement and orientation.

3. What age groups will be using the playground?

Another important thing to think about is the ages of the children who will be playing on your playground. Certain structures are designed for older kids, these are typically called 5-12 years old play structures . Consequently, they might not be safe for preschool-aged children. For preschool aged children, we typically recommend a 2-5 years old play structure.

At the same time some smaller structures are likely too undersized or tame for the older kids, who might hurt themselves or the equipment by using it recklessly or improperly. To accommodate both 2-5 and 5-12 Playground Outfitters offers a multitude of playgrounds for 2-12 year olds. Lots of our customers like this, as they can cover a whole range of ages of children with one single play structure.

A new and growing age group for play is 6-23 month old children. In the past, this age group wasn’t really considered when designing play equipment. Manufacturers have listened to parents and they crave play structures for 6-23 month little ones. So, if this is an age group that you are considering, please check out some of the new and innovative options being offered by manufacturers.

Whatever decision that you make, try to make sure that there are structures on your playground suited to many different age groups. This ensures that every child within the intended age range has something to safely enjoy.

4. Do you have enough safety surfacing?

One of the most important elements of playground safety is the protective playground surfacing which covers the ground around your play area. The surfacing is extremely important, as it cushions children from potential harm that could result from trips and falls. And when children are running and playing actively, accidents are bound to happen. That is why your surfacing must cover a substantial area around your play equipment. The surfacing must also be fairly thick in order to absorb enough impact. There are many factors and considerations that surround safety surfacing, so please reach out to us for advice on your next project.

5. What type of safety surfacing should you use?

There are many different surfacing options available to choose from. Wood mulch was once the most common type used, but they have fallen out of favor due to the lack of durability and lesser cushioning when they trip or fall. Additionally, it becomes compacted fairly quickly and needs to be replenished every year or every other year.

Now, most new playgrounds are built with rubber surfacing, since it is much softer and safer. Additionally, it can be ordered in a wide range of different colors to fit the theme of any playground. The two most commonly used types of rubber surfacing are loose fill and poured-in-place. Each of them comes with their own advantages and disadvantages, but both are approved safety surfaces for children to play on.

6. Are there any sharp edges that could be hazardous?

With kids actively running and tumbling around, it is important to ensure that there is no risk of them getting hurt by playground equipment that has hard corners or edges. Colliding with any corner can be potentially dangerous. It is best to avoid corners that have 90 degree angles or sharper, and instead look for more rounded shapes. If corners are necessary, it is much better to have ones that are slightly tapered. It is also better if these corners are coated with rubber or plastic, especially if they are made from a harder material like metal.

7. Is there a risk of moving parts harming children?

Care must be taken with items of playground equipment that contain moving parts, as these can carry a potential risk for kids getting hurt. This often occurs in the form of fingers getting pinched between two hinged pieces. Inspect your playground equipment carefully to make sure that there are no spaces between moving pieces of playground equipment where even the smallest fingers could fit. There are plenty of moving parts on playgrounds which can hurt children unless they are properly padded. For example, the areas where the seats of teeter-totters come in contact with the ground can crush legs that get caught under it. A tire or other form of cushioning can greatly reduce the potential for harm.

8. Are your Merry-Go-Rounds safe?

Merry-go-rounds are another playground structure that can be hazardous if it is not properly built or used. Kids will generally want to spin around as quickly as they can.

However, too much rotational speed can be dangerous, especially if kids fall or jump off while it is still in motion. For this reason, many newer models of merry-go-rounds come equipped with a speed governor hidden underneath them, which limits the maximum speed which they can spin.

Another concern is that hair, feet, or pieces of clothing might get caught on something while the merry-go-round spins. It is a good idea to keep the area around the structure completely clear, and make sure that your merry-go-round doesn’t have pieces that look like they could potentially cause snags.

9. Are your slides safe?

The surface of a slide should always be as smooth as possible. There should never be any cracks or seams anywhere along its track. These could potentially catch the rider’s hair or clothing as they slide, causing harm. The walls of the slide should also be sufficiently high so that the rider doesn’t fall out of it on the way down. This is especially true of curved and spiral slides, since the angular momentum of these shapes pushes kids towards the outer side of the turn.

Lastly, it is important that the slide levels out at the end of its slope. This slows kids down so that they are able to come to a complete stop before they disembark, even if they picked up a lot of speed. All of Playground Outfitters’ slides have been carefully designed and tested to meet these criteria.

10. Are your swing sets safe?

Swing sets are some of the most ubiquitous structures found on playgrounds. However, they can also be some of the most dangerous if they are not installed and used properly.

The rules regarding safe use zones are even more important when it comes to swings. Since children love to swing as high as they can and then jump out of the seat, the ‘fall area’ for swings is effectively very large. Swing sets with taller top rails allow children to swing higher and farther, which means that they require more room.

A wide area must be kept completely clear of obstructions on both sides of the swing set. It is also critical to have the proper types of swing seats for the age groups of children using the swing.

Children under three will need a bucket seat to ensure that they are properly contained and supported while they swing. Also, there is a small risk of fingers being pinched between the chain links of the swings. This can be eliminated by using chains that are encased in plastic or rubber.

11. Do all elevated deck platforms have guard rails?

Any exposed ledge on a deck that is more than a few feet above the ground can be a potential hazard, as kids might jump or fall off of them while playing. For this reason it is essential that every ledge be protected. This can be done with guard rails, which are relatively inexpensive.

The best guard rails are ones that are difficult or impossible for kids to climb. Alternatively, activity panels and other fun elements can be used instead of guard rails to create barriers that are also fun for kids to play with.

It is also important to be careful of the entrances to climbers, since they usually have open spaces for children to move from the climber onto the deck. These can be dangerous for kids who aren’t looking and accidentally wander over the edge. For this reason, it is a good idea to look for climbers that have fences along the sides of their entrances, or even arches that go over them to make the opening smaller.

12. Does the play area have an enclosure of walls or fences?

No matter how much fun your playground is, there’s still a risk of kids wandering off if they aren’t contained in an enclosed area. It is a good idea to surround your area by a perimeter of fencing that can’t be climbed.

The fence doesn’t need to be extremely secure; just strong enough to keep all of the children inside. A protective fence can also protect your playground from outsiders or vandals who might pose a threat to the children or equipment. And of course, the fence should be located well outside of the use zones of each of your playground structures. Otherwise kids might try to use the structures to jump over it.

13. Do you have enough sun protection?

Ultraviolet radiation from the sun is one of the biggest unseen dangers to children on playgrounds. This is especially true of playgrounds located in an area with a hot climate. If children stay out in the sun for too long, they will likely get a painful sunburn. Repeated sun damage can cause very serious health problems later in life, including skin disease. The best way to protect children from excess sun exposure is to use sunscreen.

It is also a good idea to limit the amount of time that they spend outdoors during hot days. However, you can also proactively build some sun protection right into your play structures.

In particularly sunny areas it might be a good idea to invest in some large shade structures. These can cover a fairly large area. Many play systems do come equipped with their own roofs, so look for that as well. Unfortunately, many of these can be small and may not provide very much protection for children.

More recently, Playground Outfitters has introduced playgrounds with integrated shade structures. These are a great option for those on a budget and those who hail from those extra sunny areas of the south where they know they will need extra sun protection year round.

In these sunny locations, it is also probably wise to avoid play equipment, particularly slides, with exposed metal components. Instead, opt for plastic or plastic coated materials, as they will stay cooler through those hot summer months.

14. Will your playground have proper supervision?

Even if you think there is no way that kids could possibly get hurt on your playground, children, with their infinite creativity, always manage to find a way. That is why there must always be adult guardians nearby. There should always be someone to keep an eye on them while they play, and discourage reckless behavior. The number of adults present should be somewhat proportional to the number of kids on the playground at the time.

Remember, to think about outdoor park furniture to give parents a good vantage spot to watch their children play and to give them a spot to chaperone and rest.

15. How old is your playground?

After playgrounds reach a certain age, they will need to be inspected to make sure they are still safe and properly maintained. Even the sturdiest structures on the playground will usually need to have some parts repaired or replaced by the time they have been in use for ten yeas. An older piece of playground equipment might appear to be perfectly sound. However, it may have structural flaws that are invisible to the untrained eye. That is why professional playground inspectors should be hired. They can certify that every part of your playground is safe and up to code.

These questions are a good guide to keep in mind when considering the safety of your playground. It is a good idea to work with a specialist when designing your playground to make your playground meets all of your town’s specific local ordinances. Everyone wants their playground to be as fun as possible, but the children’s safety must always come first!