Where child development is concerned, being able to play is as important as education. Children need to spend some time each day having the freedom to run around, climb and get messy. Outdoor physical play is an excellent form of exercise and one of the best places for it is in a safe playground environment.
Creating a safe playground involves considering a variety of factors, including the age of the children that will be playing in it and abiding by the Health and Safety at Work Act and European safety standards. There are two main areas to be addressed: the play equipment itself and the ground surface.
The type of equipment installed in a playground will largely depend on the ages of the children that will be using it and should only be purchased from a recognised manufacturer who is compliant with the necessary safety standards.
Playground equipment should be chosen for its potential to provide children with both exercise and entertainment. The correct equipment will assist in the development of motor skills and enable interaction with other children.
Equipment for nursery-age children needs to be quite basic as they may still be unsteady on their feet, but it should include plenty of interactivity, colours and a variety of textures. Children of this age should be encouraged to learn skills such as walking on a slope, crawling through a tunnel and swinging.
Older children will benefit from equipment that is more physically challenging. Items such as climbing frames, monkey bars, rope swings and ladders will encourage them to become physically active and indulge in creative role-play games.
The issue of playground surfacing is something of a touchy subject because there have been numerous accidents, some fatal, as the result of inappropriate or inadequate absorbency of the surface below the play equipment. Generally speaking, the higher the equipment, the more depth the soft surface below it will need to have.
Wood chippings are often used as a surface for adventure-type playgrounds suitable for older children. They are inexpensive and easy to obtain but will need regular topping up as they are an organic substance and they do decompose and become compacted over time.
Where wood chippings are used, the ground underneath will need to have good drainage and it will also need regular maintenance in terms of levelling, raking and some form of sifting to eliminate foreign bodies such as broken glass or animal faeces.
Rubber matting or tiles provide an ideal surface and require very little maintenance. They have a fairly high initial cost and will require professional installation but are considered the best option.
It is important to ensure that the area the rubber matting covers is big enough to take in what is known as the ‘fall zone’, which can extend to as much as six feet around the play equipment.
Any organisation that is considering building a playground should ensure that they are fully familiar with the legal requirements for doing so. The safety of children must not be compromised and the penalties for doing so are heavy.
This post was composed by Denver Burke on behalf of Playrite.
Picture Credit: Steve P2008