The first playground in the United States was built in Boston. That was 130 years ago, and since then playgrounds have been popular not only for municipal communities and for schools, but also as custom playgrounds and church playgrounds. Since only 43% of American children ages 6 to 11 years get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise every day, playgrounds are even more essential these days than they used to be. They are great places for children to explore their physicality and develop their social skills. Your church, in particular, is a wonderful place to put in a playground. Church playgrounds provide a way for children to be occupied safely while their parents fellowship together. In fact, church playgrounds provide a way for children to fellowship as well as get exercise. Here are a few tips for making your church playground a safe place.
Use the Right Equipment and Take Care of It
Check that any commercial playground equipment that you buy meets ASTM international standards. Always source your equipment from a reputable dealer. Once you have installed it, consider replacing heavy swing seats with lighter weight seats so there is less risk of injury should a swing hit a child in the head. Also be careful to inspect the equipment regularly, looking for any fraying, any loose bolts, any missing parts, or any damaged components that could injure the children.
Install You Equipment Correctly
It’s not enough to just buy the equipment. You need to put in properly. The entire area under your playground equipment should be covered with 9 to 12 inches of a soft surface material that will absorb shock, such as sand or mulch. This material should extend 6 feet in every direction around the equipment, and even farther for swings. It’s also important to anchor all the equipment carefully and properly into the ground. Installation guidelines should come with your outdoor playground equipment. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully and check the anchoring a few weeks after installation. Be careful to install equipment in a way that will minimize the possibility of playground collisions. You always need extra space at the end of slides and around the swings in particular. Finally, if you’re going to have anything elevated off the ground, be sure to put in guardrails. For preschoolers, a continuous guardrail should usually be 20 inches high. For school-age children, 30 inches is the usual standard. Check with your local regulations to make sure.
Protect the Children While They Play
You need to do more than just buy the right playground equipment. It can be easy to think of church playgrounds as essentially safe places where nothing bad can happen. It is essential that there be responsible adults monitoring the children on the playground at all times. Every child under the age of five should be accompanied by their own adult. For older children, state and local regulations will often mandate an appropriate ratio. If not, there should always be two adults at the minimum. Be sure to make a plan for how you will respond if a child is injured, and be sure to teach all the children how to use playground equipment properly.
Playgrounds are wonderful places, and playing regularly develops at least 400 of the genes in a child’s cerebral cortex as well as protects children from becoming overweight. Church playgrounds are a place for fellowship, friendship, and joy. Make sure that your playground provides all of these things by getting the right equipment, installing and maintaining it, and protecting the children while they use it.