Planning the layout for a playground site can be complicated; there are a plethora of issues to consider and plan for in order to make sure that it is safe, fun, and appropriate for the children who are expected to use it. It is important to incorporate equipment that meets the ASTM requirements for accessibility so that children with disabilities are not excluded from the playground, and have the same opportunity as everyone else to play, learn, and have fun. Equipment selection, location, and surfacing are all elements that need to be considered carefully in order to make the playground as accessible as possible.
Age group considerations are another key part of creating a safe play environment. Younger children do not have the same strength and abilities as older children, and so there are certain kinds of equipment that poses more of a safety hazard to them than others. A lot of playgrounds cater to more than one age group. Public playgrounds or playgrounds that just have signage displaying the intended user age will end up being used by children outside of that age group. It might be the best option to have two separate playground sites to encourage supervisors to bring children to the right areas.
Playgrounds that incorporate structures for different age groups should separate those structures and leave a buffer zone. This will help encourage kids to use the appropriate equipment and prevent conflict as the children are playing. All playgrounds, especially ones with separated areas, need to have good sightlines so that supervisors can see all of the children under their care from several places around the site.
Even though the intended age of users can be easily guessed based on the design of a playground, it is still important that signs are used to make safety concerns and age considerations clear to all parents, teachers, and other supervisors. The safety of a playground should not be compromised by allowing users to assume that younger children or children with accessibility concerns will be able to safely use a play structure. Giving guidance to supervisors is an easy way to avoid liability in the case of injury, and to avoid injuries in the first place.
Sun exposure, according to the American Cancer Society, can increase the risk of developing skin cancer. One in five Americans will have skin cancer at some point, and so the risk it poses to your kids is considerable. When building a playground site, it is important that there are plenty of shaded areas incorporated. Using existing shade provided by trees or by incorporating roofs and other shade structures when designing a playground will help keep children safe from harmful sun exposure.
Age and accessibility are the most important things to consider when selecting equipment for a playground. Some equipment is inappropriate for younger children to use and there is some equipment that is easier for children with disabilities. By selecting age-appropriate equipment and incorporating equipment that is accessible, your playground will be both safer and more fun.
There are several kinds of equipment that ASTM regulations do not recommend for any kind of playground:
- Rope Swings or climbing ropes that are not secured at both ends
- Swinging gates
- Giant strides
- Heavy metal swings
- Multiple occupancy swings except for tire swings