You simply can’t compare a childhood lived with a swing set with one spent without. The constant outlets for gross motor skill building are surpassed only by the opportunities for mental and creative exercises. Yes, having a swing set is one of the greatest gifts parents can give to their child.
To maximize these exciting opportunities, parents need to understand proper playground equipment safety. You can read an in-depth discussion about buying and keeping your backyard playsets safer here, but below are some of the fundamental safety tips that you need to know before you let your kids out to swing and slide for the day.
4 THINGS TO DO FOR ULTIMATE PLAYSET SAFETY
What to Do #1: Lay Down Protective Surface Material
Falls happen; it’s part of life. How much damage those spills cause though, can vary depending on your level of involvement. The first safety precaution you need to take when erecting or installing a jungle gym or swing set is to lay down protective material beneath the system. There are several options and you can choose the one you like best, but we recommend rubber mulch, sand, or wood chips. Place a 3” layer down on the ground under and surrounding your swings.
What to Do #2: Apply a Wood Sealer Annually
Not only will a clear wood sealer keep your wood looking nice, it will ensure that kids don’t get splinters and that the wood doesn’t decay, causing the reliability of the structure to remain safe and sound. You can also use a colored wood stain to give the whole piece a nice finish. Let the stain sit for at least 24 hours before the kids touch the playset.
What to Do #3: Run an Annual Maintenance Check
Every year (usually at the beginning of every play season), do a thorough sweep of your playset. Check for any loose hardware, broken pieces, or parts or areas that are showing wear and tear. Replace anything that’s broken or fading, and touch up areas that need to be sanded down (corners and edges especially). Also replace netting or canopies that are ripped. Don’t forget the surface material we mentioned above. Check that the depth is sufficient and fill in where necessary. Rake the looser materials so they are “fluffier” as well.
Obviously, you want to check for structural stability as well. Make sure the swing set hasn’t shifted during the winter, that it isn’t tilting to one side, and that all the pieces are still securely fastened to one another. Also look around to make sure no obstructions have grown in the way over the past few months, and remove any branches, bushes, or rocks that might impede the playground equipment.
What to Do #4: Talk to Your Kids about Playground Equipment Safety
Even if they’ve heard it a million times before, at the beginning of the spring, it’s best to just run through the rules once more. Remind them of the hazards that are involved, and stress the importance of keeping playtime safe.
3 THINGSNOT TO DO FOR ULTIMATE PLAYSET SAFETY
What Not to Do #1: DON'T Skip the Handles
Grab handles give your kids that added level of security when climbing. Make sure to install grab handles, particularly at the tops of slides and climbing features.
What Not to Do #2: DON'T Configure Your Own Monkey Bar Combos
No matter how tempted you may be, do not attach swings to your monkey bars. The pressure and movement are a recipe for disaster in this structural format. Place swings on a separate and secure beam of their own.
What Not to Do #3: DON'T Leave Your Children Unattended
Don’t ever leave your children to play on outdoor playsets unattended. It only takes one moment for a child to lose his balance and fall from the deck, causing serious injuries that no child should ever have to endure.
Whether it’s to answer a phone call, check on a baby, or take something out of the oven, the answer is always the same: take your child off of the playground equipment before you leave the area, and make sure they know that under no circumstances are they to climb until you've returned.
Now that you know the basics, you’re ready for the fun begin! Before you release the hounds though, it’s a good idea to read up on the more involved discussion of swing set safety so you know you’ve got all your safety bases covered. Skim through the ebook, and then rest easy knowing you’ve done everything within your power to keep your children safe and happy this swing set season.