A home playground can be a great way for your child to get fresh air and exercise. Before sending kids outside to swing and slide, it is important to make sure equipment is safe.

More than 200,000 children under age 14 are treated annually for playground-related injuries, including dislocations, internal injuries and amputations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of fatal playground injuries, 70% occurred on home equipment.

Following are tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics and other sources to help prevent injuries from home playground equipment:

  • Make sure your home playground is level and is strongly anchored to the ground.

  • Install and maintain an energy-absorbant surface under the equipment, such as rubber, sand, wood chips, bark or safety-tested mats.

  • Use at least 9 inches of soft material like mulch or shredded rubber for equipment up to 7 feet high, or use safety-tested mats made of rubber or rubberlike material. If using sand or gravel, install at least a 9-inch layer for equipment that is up to 5 feet high.

  • Install protective surfacing at least 6 feet in all directions from the play equipment. If your playground has swings, make sure the surfacing extends twice the height of the suspending bar in all directions.

  • Never attach ropes, clotheslines or pet leashes to playground equipment since these can strangle a child.

  • Eliminate sharp points from equipment by capping all screws and bolts.

  • Remove possible tripping hazards such as concrete footings, tree stumps and rocks.

Remember to check the equipment periodically for rust or broken or sharp parts. To prevent burns, do not install parts that can become extremely hot in sunlight, such as a metal slides and bars. And finally, always supervise children when they play on the equipment.

©2008 American Academy of Pediatrics. This information may be freely copied and distributed with proper attribution.