When it comes to purchasing kids' playground equipment, it's more than fun and games. There are safety considerations to keep in mind, as well as liability concerns for when neighbors and friends come by to play.
Select Age-Appropriate Equipment
Many injuries occur because children are allowed to play on equipment that's too advanced for their age group. The three main categories for equipment are ages 2 and under, ages 2 to 5 and ages 5 to 12. Choose the right one for your children to prevent unnecessary injuries. It may cost you more if your kids range in ages, but resulting medical treatments from serious injuries will cost you even more money and emotional pain.
Pay Attention to the Surfaces Underneath
Some playground equipment is sold with surfaces that need to be installed underneath the equipment. Surfaces need to be thick and soft in order to provide a suitable padding when, not if, your kids fall. Don't just put equipment on soil, grass or concrete and expect your kids to be safe. Soil erosion can cause instability of the surrounding play area and the equipment itself. Rubber mats work well, as do sand and wood chips.
Be Wary of Wood Construction
No one knows for certain, but there are concerns about the use of pressure treated wood in many structures, including playground equipment. The chemicals used to preserve the wood may be toxic to you, and especially to your kids. You should be aware of those concerns, and avoid playground equipment constructed from wood until the medical community knows for sure what the long-term health effects are.
Any elevated portion of the playground equipment should have barriers to prevent kids from falling off. The risk of serious injury is so high, no matter what the age, that having barriers and guard rails is really not an option. The rails of the barriers should be less than 3 1/2 inches apart so that young children don’t get their heads stuck between them.
Space Swings Apart
When swings are too close together, your children may collide into one another and injuries may occur. Safe spacing is at least 24 inches apart. Measure the distance from the outside of one swing to the outside of another. Facing the swing, you would be measuring the 2 inner chains. You should also measure the distance between the swing and frame. That space should be at least 30 inches apart.
Manufacturers should include detailed information about sizes, materials and spacing of new playground equipment. If you're buying used equipment, you’ll have to do a bit of detective work.