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Early Childhood Playground Safety

Creating Safe Exploratory Play

Early Childhood Playground Safety

Nothing is more important than keeping the children in your care safe. As kids play on or around playgrounds, bumps, bruises and scraped shins will happen but there are steps you can take to eliminate the risk of more serious injuries.

Through our industry-leading design, engineering and quality materials, we create innovative environments that are not only fun but safe and durable. We will work with you to select age-appropriate products, safety surfacing and shade systems that will help you meet playground safety guidelines and keep kids safe.

Early Childhood Playground Safety Checklist

Important safety factors to consider when designing an early childhood playground:

  • Age-appropriateness. Separate play areas should be designed to accommodate the different skills and play styles of the age groups using the play environment. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends separate play areas for kids ages 6 to 23 months and 2- to 5-year-olds.
  • Environmental conditions. The play area should be adequately shaded to protect against sun exposure and well drained.
  • Equipment design. Safe playground equipment for toddlers and preschoolers should be structurally sound, durable and engineered with safety in mind.
  • Layout of play area. Children’s play patterns can affect playground use. Your Landscape Structures playground consultant can help design an optimal layout to minimize congested play.
  • Protective surfacing. This can be an adequate depth of a loose-fill material, factory-made resilient tiles, a poured-in-place safety surface or a combination. One effective approach is to provide a loose-fill material for most of the use zones, with paths of poured-in-place or rubber tiles. This solution has the added benefit of making your playground equipment accessible to children in all mobility devices. 

Safety Guidelines for Early Childhood Playgrounds

Since our beginning, we’ve worked hard to establish and exceed the safety standards of the industry and offer several innovative safe playground equipment to keep kids safe. These include playground elements like our exclusive compression clamps to protect fingers and clothing and a unique tunnel slide design that eliminates pinched fingers. And because we use only the best materials, our products will last for many years to come.

When deciding on your playground equipment, insist your equipment conforms to or exceeds the following regulations:

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission's Handbook for Public Playground Safety.
  • The ASTM F1487 Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use. All equipment should be certified to conform to this standard according to the procedures established by the International Playground Manufacturer's Association (IPEMA).
  • Accessibility requirements of ADA.
  • Make sure the protective surfacing around the equipment has been tested by a third party according to the ASTM F1292 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment.

Individual states or municipalities may have additional requirements so it’s important to check with the playground consultant in your region. Contact your Landscape Structures playground consultant to learn more about specific requirements for playground inspections in your area.

See all of our innovative features that help to keep kids safe.

Balance Safety and Challenge in Early Childhood Playground Design

Playgrounds are a place where children can learn and grow through exploration, trial and error, and social interaction. Age- and developmentally appropriate challenges are key to engaging and beneficial early childhood playgrounds. Playgrounds should ideally offer age-appropriate challenges and a safe environment all in one. 

Recently, this balance has become more difficult to achieve than in the past. Parental concern along with standards that have decreased design freedom are contributing to the lack of challenging opportunities in today’s play equipment. Well-designed playgrounds keep kids away from hazards while encouraging them to test their limits and learn to overcome challenges.

To learn more about how to create a playground environment that is both challenging and safe, download our whitepaper, “Balancing Safety and Challenge in Playground Design.”

Early Childhood Playground Installation & Safety

There are two options when it comes to installation – 1) site preparation and playground equipment installation can be handled by certified professionals, or 2) you can recruit volunteers. A community build project has been a great option for some early childhood programs because it can save costs and create a sense of pride and ownership in the new play space. With a community build, you also have the option of hiring a certified installer to complete the site prep and supervise volunteers.

Learn more about community build projects and how to ensure proper and safe installation.

Inspections and Maintenance for Safe Playgrounds

Safety audits and regularly scheduled preventative maintenance playground inspections are a necessary part of every playground’s safety program. These preventative safety steps help identify hazards if equipment is incorrectly installed, broken, physically worn, damaged by vandals or weakened by the ravages of time.

Playground Safety Audits

A playground safety audit focuses on compliance with the current standard of care. Whenever possible, such audits should be performed by a staff member or outside consultant who has completed the National Playground Safety Institute’s Certified Playground Safety Inspector (NPSCI) training. Our local consultants are NPSCI certified and can complete a safety audit.

Maintenance Playground Inspections

Maintenance inspections are conducted at regular intervals and focus on immediate hazards caused by aging or damaged equipment—e.g., worn swing hangers or missing fasteners. A maintenance check list shouldn’t merely say “check swing hanger for excessive wear.” Instead, it should say: “Replace swing hanger when worn to 50 percent of original diameter.”

Playground Surfacing Inspections

Playground surfacing levels should be checked frequently, especially if loose-fill materials like woodchips or sand are being used. Adequate servicing levels vary based on the height of your play elements and the type of surfacing material.

Rest easy. We will help you develop a maintenance program for your specific playground components to keep kids safe. Every Weevos®, PlayShaper® and Smart Play® system is delivered with a customized maintenance guide and illustrated sheets provide step-by-step instructions on how to inspect each component. And an accompanying “Guide to the Frequency of Inspections” helps you weigh the various factors involved in devising a maintenance schedule.

Playground Safety Experts from the Beginning

We have a long history of involvement in playground safety. For 20 years, Steve King, our co-founder, was chairman of a task group of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) that worked with the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to update the safety and accessibility standards for public playgrounds. Steve was also a founding member and past President of International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) that works to educate the industry on playground safety. In addition, Randy Watermiller, our vice president of product development, is now heavily involved in both organizations.

For help in safer early childhood playground designs, or for free resource materials that can help in your planning, contact your local Landscape Structures consultant.