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Adding a Backyard Playground: Finding a Safe Space

By Margaret Mierke

Photo courtesy of Northland Recreation Supply

The ideal site for a play set installation will be firm, level and on even ground with good drainage. Each play set will come with a recommended play area; your backyard should allow for this, plus an added 1.8-m (6-ft) safety perimeter around the entire specified play space. This will ensure your children have plenty of room to enjoy all of the play set features without interference from any surrounding landscape or hardscape features (e.g. trees, fences and driveways). Also be mindful of any features that may interfere with another.

You should also place the play set in an area that has good visibility, allowing you to keep  an eye on the kids from a kitchen window or deck. In addition, the play set should be placed in the backyard so that a slide or climbing platform will not face south or southwest and heat up during the summer months.

The construction of the set also plays a part in safety. Gaps between wood rails or ladder steps should be less than 89 mm (3.5 in.) or wider than 228 mm (9 in.). This will prevent children from falling through railings and getting their head or limbs caught in between the steps. Swings should also be placed a safe distance apart; closely placed swings constitute a safety hazard.

Since most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground, be sure to install a resilient shock-absorbing surface, such as wood chips, mulch, shredded rubber,
‘pea’ gravel, surfacing mats or sand, around the set. This surface should have a depth of 152 to 304 mm (6 to 12 in.), depending on the overall height of the play structure, and should extend at least 1.8 m (6 ft) in all directions. For swings, extend the surfacing so it is twice the height of the suspending bar, both in front and back. There are many border options that can help contain the desired resilient surface and create a clean professional look for your play area.


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