Dream Play Recreation – When you’re a kid, the best thing about spring is getting the chance to go outside and play, especially if your yard contains a play set that, with a little imagination, can become a pirate ship, or castle, or mighty fortress.
However, before little daredevils hit the high seas, parents are wise to do a little preparation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. Most of those injuries are related to falls, which is why choosing the right ground cover is as important as choosing the right play set.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that play sets up to 8 feet high sit atop at least 9 inches of loose-fill materials such as wood mulch/chips, engineered wood fiber, or shredded/recycled rubber mulch. For smaller play sets, up to 5 feet high, 9 inches of sand or pea gravel for equipment is recommended.
When adding fill, either for the first time or when sprucing up the play set in time for spring, remember that an initial fill level of 12 inches will compress to about a 9-inch depth of fill over time.
Of course, the goal is to limit the chance of falls right from the start. Therefore, guardrails or barriers should be used on any platform that rises over 30 inches above the protective surfacing. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also recommends that stairs should have continuous handrails on both sides from a point where the top surface of the step is higher than 30 inches above the protective surfacing.
Play sets are made to last, so when choosing a play set be sure and think ahead.
A play set that fits a 5-year-old’s size and abilities likely won’t capture the imagination of a 7- or 8-year-old not to mention a 9- or 10-year old. When purchasing a play set consider who will be using it year in and year out. Can you add accessories as your children grow? That question is really two in one. First, it asks whether the play set itself is expandable? And second, it asks whether the yard allows enough space for the play set to grow?
A 6-foot perimeter of high-quality fill should extend beyond the edges of the play set. When considering what new gizmos and gadgets to add, remember that the space to fill must accommodate both the play set’s new dimensions and 6 feet of ground cover in all directions.
If your yard already boasts a play set, now is the time to check for wear.
Are the footings secure? Anchors and footings should be buried below the protective surfacing. Exposed anchors, hooks, bolts and such can create tripping hazards or lead to injury.
If you’re considering purchasing your first play set, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends leaving installation – and anchoring – to the professionals.
When checking for spring readiness, be sure to consider if the wood and/or plastic components of your play set are in good shape.
Any wood that shows signs of decay should be replaced before any child sets foot on the play set. Additionally, since wood expands and contracts with temperature changes, it’s imperative that parents or professionals check the play set’s nuts and bolts, beginning in the spring and routinely through the summer months.
Plastic can crack in winter. So if the play set weathered intact from December through March, paying attention to swing seats, slide joins and awnings is just as important as inspecting wood surfaces.
Likewise, winter’s icy grip can cause paint to peel. Painted surfaces should be sanded and repainted if peeling is a problem, just be sure to use a child-safe paint.
When properly installed, a well-chosen and well-maintained play set can produce growing children with 7-9 years of fantasy and fun.