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Home Playgrounds
by Mark A. Brandenburg, MD
You will find a thorugh chapter on playground safety and public playgrounds in CHILD SAFE: A Practical Guide for Preventing Childhood Injuries, from which this article is an excerpt. In that chapter, I discuss the critical issues of ground surface material, height restrictions, strangulation prevention, swing sets and proper attire, among many other safety issues about which every parent, grandparent and child care provider should know.

Although public playgrounds offer children a variety of play activities, you may choose to build a backyard playground for your child. A properly built home playground can be a wonderful place in which she can play, with some unique advantages. Not only can you closely supervise her, you can also control the safety of your playground equipment. In this section, a few basic rules of home playgrounds are discussed. Otherwise, the same principles of public playground safety hold true.

Purchasing Playground Equipment

Home playground equipment is not yet subject to mandatory safety standards. However, the Playground Equipment Manufacturers Associated (PEMA), a consortium of home playground equipment manufacturers, voluntarily conforms to the guidelines set forth by the ASTM.

  • Be sure the ASTM label is on each piece of home playground equipment you purchase.

  • Look for equipment made of wood and/or plastic material rather than metal. This will help prevent burn injuries that can occur with hot metal surfaces.

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Location

The location of your playground is a major safety factor. Follow these rules when choosing the site for your child's home playground.

  • Build the play area so it is visible from your home, especially from rooms where you frequently relax or work, such as the family room and kitchen.

  • Never build your home playground next to a pool, this will only increase the danger of a drowning.

  • To keep children in the play area, construct a fence around your yard. A fence is a major factor in preventing children from darting into the street.

  • Also try to put your playground in a shady part of the yard, this will prevent your child from being over-exposed to the sun and scorched by hot surfaces.

Maintenance

As with public playgrounds, routine inspections and maintenance is mandatory. At least once a month check to be sure there are no rusted or rotted parts and look for loose screws or bolts, unstable parts, splinters or frayed ropes. Immediately fix or replace any defects you come across in your equipment. Rake the ground covering material frequently to keep the surface at an even depth.

Written by Mark A. Brandenburg, MD, author of CHILD SAFE: A Practical Guide for Preventing Childhood Injuries. CHILD SAFE is also a terrific gift for grandparents, nannies, baby sitters and all other child care providers. Dr. Brandenburg is an Emergency Physician at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Board Certified by the American Board of Emergency Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine (AAEM).



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