By Michele Breakfield
Installing a new playground is an exciting endeavor for a church! However, it can be difficult to know how to choose safe playground equipment that is right for you.
If you’ve started shopping for a playground, you know by now that there are thousands of options. So, how do you know what type of playground is best for your church?
Choosing safe playground equipment starts with considering who will be using your playground. Four factors to think about are:
Age: How old will the children using your playground be? How much variation in age will there be?
Frequency of Use: How often will children be using your playground?
Number of Children: How many children will be using your playground?
Accessibility: How much do accessibility and inclusivity matter to you in your playground design?
Now that you’ve given some thought to who will be using your playground, it’s time to consider your expectations for your playground equipment. Here are five factors to consider when shopping.
Materials are one of the major factors that affect the lifespan of your equipment and the amount of maintenance your playground will require. They also can have a huge impact on the safety of your space. Paying close attention to the materials used on your playground will help you prevent injuries down the line, like burns from metal slides or ropes.
Durability is key to avoiding constant maintenance and repairs and ensuring a long lifespan for your safe playground equipment. And, if you’ve chosen sturdy materials, you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. But what else can you do to ensure the durability of your playground equipment? If you can, check out your chosen playground (or a similar model) in action. Ask the company about the experience requirements for their installers.
- Ease of Installation and Repair
If you’ll be installing the playground yourself or with the help of volunteers, take a look at the hardware used to install the play structure. Direct bolt systems are much easier to install, as there is no field drilling required. The uprights come pre-drilled from the manufacturer. Clamp systems require drilling in the field, allowing for mistakes and installing a playground that is not compliant and unsafe. Direct bolt systems are compliant right out of the box.
If you have the playground professionally installed, will you be performing repairs yourself? Again, take a look at the construction and hardware used on your playground model. Most playground manufacturers use standard bolts and hardware, but some may use proprietary pieces that are difficult to repair or replace.
You should also ask the dealer about costs for replacement pieces like slides, swings, and other elements. Inevitably, your playground’s frame will outlast high-traffic features like swings and slides, so it’s good to know the cost of replacement to help you budget.
So many people forget to ask about warranty coverage when purchasing a commercial playground. While you may never need to use it, it’s always good to see companies that stand by their work. Most playground manufacturers offer warranties that go into effect automatically. However, you should also check with your installer to see if they provide an additional extended warranty, either included in the cost of the playground or for an additional fee.
Finally, one of the most important factors in buying safe playground equipment is choosing the right features. There are a few features you should never use on your playground, like ropes, metal slides, and multiple-occupancy equipment. However, there are lots of features that exist in a gray area and can either be appropriate or inappropriate depending on the children who will be using your playground.
Here are a few features to consider based on your community or school demographic:
- Lower platforms and handrails for younger children
- Baby and toddler swing seats
- Challenging features like climbing walls and monkey bars for older children
- Open and enclosed slides to build confidence
- Interactive elements and games
- Musical elements for sensory feedback
- Mirrors and textures
Choosing age and skill appropriate features for your community will help prevent injuries and offer the maximum value for the children who use your playground.
Michele Breakfield is the director of marketing for Playground Guardian, a provider of park and playground inspection services and playground inspection software, www.playgroundguardian.com.