Every year, more than 200,000 children younger than 14 are treated for playground-related injuries nationwide. Here are tips for creating a safe play space from Dr. Jim Schmidt, co-founder of the Virginia Beach, Va.-based childproofing company Child Safety House Calls:
Cushion it. Use at least 9 inches of a soft material – such as mulch or shredded rubber – to create a shock-absorbing surface for equipment up to 7 feet tall. If equipment is less than 5 feet tall, you also can choose to spread sand or gravel underneath (again, make it at least 9 inches deep).
Create a fall zone. Cushioned surfacing should extend at least 6 feet in all directions from equipment.
Anchor it. Make sure playground equipment is level and securely anchored into the ground.
Eliminate spaces that could trap children. All openings on equipment should be less than 3 1/2 or inches or greater than 9 inches.
Inspect hardware regularly. Remove sharp points by capping any exposed screws and bolts. Replace open “s” hooks with new safety hardware.
Remove tripping hazards. The area around a playground should be free of trees stumps, rocks, concrete footings and anything else a child could fall over. You also should do regular sweeps for glass, old nails and other sharp objects.
Maintain the space. Check the depth of your cushioned surfacing regularly, as materials will compact, decompose, or wash away over time. Tighten bolts and screws annually.
Reconsider sliding with your toddler. A recent study showed many young children can break their shinbone when riding down a sliding board on an adult’s lap. Stand off to the side and spot them as they go down instead.
– Alison Johnson, Daily Press
(Newport News, Va.)