Outdoor fun is an important element in children’s play and development. Being outside means they are getting fresh air and sunshine, even on the many changeable weather days we have in the UK. There is more room to run around outside and get physical in their play which helps to combat the risk of obesity and reduce the stresses of childhood.
Outdoor playtime should be balanced with indoor time spent in front of the TV, on their tablets, or playing games but you also need to consider safety. There is naturally a greater risk of injury in outdoor play with hard ground, obstacles like trees and fences, and opportunities to fall from play equipment such as jungle gyms and slides. It is important to take steps to ensure safety where possible, especially if you’re creating a play space in your own garden.
The importance of safety
Safety is a big consideration in playtime but according to the head of the Health and Safety Executive “Children should not be wrapped in cotton wool and must be allowed to play, fall over and hurt themselves”. It’s a fact of life that children will have accidents but if you invest in creating a safe outdoor play area in your garden, you can at least reduce the risk of serious injury. Bumps, scrapes, and grazes are better than broken bones and sprains.
How to create a safe outdoor play area
One of the first considerationsis the flooring. The ground – whether it’s concrete or grass- is hard so it is best to use a protective covering that would soften any blow of a fall.
Once you have decided on the flooring you can work on the other main areas of safety concern.
- Ensure the play area is secure with a lockable gate and fencing or some kind of perimeter
boundary to ensure youngsters can’t run into the road or wander off on their own.
- Make sure any ponds, pools, or water features are fenced off
- Keep trees trimmed to avoid risk of falling branches
- Do not place play equipment too close to trees, bushes, or shrubs
- Allow enough space between each item of play equipment so kids can run around them safely
- The ground should be as level as possible, especially if you are erecting things like swings and slides.
A safe play area will not prevent accidents but will mitigate the risk of serious injury.
How to choose safe equipment for an outdoor play area
Reliable manufacturers have safety as a top consideration in their play products, so it always pays to purchase from a reliable provider with an excellent track record. It is easy to check products and their manufacturers with lots of customer review sites available online. It may cost a little more but consider this an investment in the well-being of your little one(s). Here are some tips to keep in mind when buying play equipment:
- Choose age-appropriate items or items that they can grow into without compromising their safety
- Look for items that have good handles and grips to avoid hands slipping during use
- Ensure that wooden play items have been treated against rot and pests
- Ensure any play item has not been treated with toxic chemicals or lead paint
- Metal joints should be galvanised to prevent erosion
- Look out for potential snag features i.e. bolts protruding from the surface that clothing can get caught on or might be a trip hazard. Also, look out for potential “pinch” hazards when fingers might be trapped or skin get pinched.
No matter how careful you are in building your outdoor play area or how good the play equipment you have bought it, remember that young children should be supervised at all times. As well as keep an eye on them for safety purposes, you can teach them how to use the equipment properly and responsibly.
You cannot guarantee that your kids will never have an accident while playing outside, just like there’s no guarantee of no accidents indoors, but if you provide them with a safe space to play with good, safe equipment, accidents should be minimal and without major injury.