Making Your Backyard Playground Fun and Safe

If you have children, you may want an area in your backyard for them and their friends to climb and play, to be active and happy, all without leaving home.

It’s never been easier to install a backyard playground. All it takes is some basic construction know-how, the right materials and the time it takes to bring it all together.

What is the hardest part? You know, the part that usually gets skipped or shortchanged. It’s typically the planning phase.

Whether it’s a “do-it-yourself” project or a professional installation, here are some factors to take into account before and during construction.

 

Set Your Budget

Before the installation begins, familiarize yourself with average costs, brands, and options as you price out and plan the project.

The price of playground equipment ranges between $100 and $5,000, according to Home Advisor. The equipment you choose, the type of safety surface you get, and the cost to level your yard are all factors that could bump the price up.

Another factor to consider is whether to contract out the labor and installation. There are local handymen and playground specialists available to help with installation and construction. If your play area is small, you may decide the “do-it-yourself” route suits your project—just make sure you get the help you need when you are assembling the equipment or operating any heavy equipment.

 

Choose Your Play Features

While designing your background playground, safety should be your priority. This means choosing age-appropriate equipment. For example, you might think twice about swing sets or merry-go-rounds if your children are toddlers.

Do you have children of different ages? You should see to it that preschoolers do not wander into areas meant for older children, where they are more likely to be injured.

Children’s minds are developing quickly, so every age group will be stimulated by different activities, challenges, and designs. Keep your project focused on the age of your children and don’t cut corners on safety, and you’ll be off to a fantastic start.

What kind of play features do you envision? You can find options as simple as a single swing or as complex as a tower with multiple slides. Play sets, sandboxes, and water tables round out your options.

We suggest that you keep the design simple. Simple playground features such as swings and slides never go out of fashion. But you can also use natural features such as a large tree and climbing rocks.

Most home-use play sets should give you 8 or 10 years of use. With proper maintenance and mild weather, that can go up to 15 years.

Again, the equipment you install in your play area should coincide with the age of your children. Equipment that is too large and challenging should be avoided, as this may lead to injuries.

You may want to add to your play area as your children grow so that it holds their interest over time. Thanks to the modular design of today’s playground equipment, this is quite easy to do.

 

 

Choose the Site

The success of your playground depends in large part upon the site you choose to install it.

All too often, moms and dads invest in creative backyard playground ideas before they’ve closely surveyed the plane they’ve selected as a construction site. For example, a leveled area is typically what you want. If you have a hilly or uneven yard, you might have to budget for the price to clear and level the land.

Check for site dimensions. Pending the fall height, most play equipment requires a minimum of at least 3 feet of clear space on each side. You will also want to consider clearance for swings.

In addition to the dimensions of the site, you will want to consider water levels, predictable weather patterns, whether debris can fall into the play area, and irregularities in the terrain.

Be sure to measure everything carefully; you don’t want to start digging until you’re sure what you’re doing!

Finally, before you move forward with site prep or buying any playground equipment, make sure you check and comply with all local laws. Some municipalities require homeowners to apply for a permit.

 

Choose Your Surfacing Material Wisely

Remember when we said the planning phase is where mistakes usually happen when moms and dads install backyard playgrounds? These mistakes include failing to install adequate safety surfacing.

Choosing the appropriate residential playground surfacing is essential to making modern playgrounds both safe and attractive. That’s where No Fault can help!

Playground safety surfacing is a must to keep your children safe. This is where many people go for cheaper options (wood chips, gravel, or sand). Overtime, these surfaces can disburse across the ground or begin to decompose – in the case of wood chips- causing the homeowner to have to continuously replenish the materials to meet the minimum safety standards. If you consider the long-term work required to maintain these “less expensive” options, not to mention the increased risk of injury that comes with using them, this quickly becomes a case of “penny wise and pound foolish.”

Instead, consider using surfaces such as No Fault Safety Surface, No Fault Safety Tiles, or No Fault Rubber Mulch, which will absorb impacts when the inevitable falls happen. Our soft rubber tiles, for example, are kid-friendly, relatively easy to install, slip-resistant and ideal for rainy areas where drainage is a concern.

 

 

You’ll probably want a boundary for the play area. Again, there are materials you should and shouldn’t use.

For example, wood timbers or rocks piled around the edges are common choices, but they are trip hazards, and they create hard surfaces. No Fault Timbers are a superior alternative, giving you attractive borders with rounded top for added safety.

 

 

 

Get Help Assembling the Equipment

Now, it’s time to put it all together. The more people involved, the faster the work will go. Decks, platforms, stairways … all of it will need to be assembled using the proper tools, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Attaching the elements to the main play structure brings everything all together and the finished shape of the play structure begins to emerge.

As you’re putting equipment together, use a builder’s level to make sure holes are at the proper depth. This will ensure a smooth process when you’re assembling your playground equipment. Level the decks and check the joints before pouring concrete to anchor your equipment.

A builder’s level will keep everything on an even surface.

 

Think About the Surrounding Landscaping

The surrounding landscape of your backyard playground should be carefully organized. You probably don’t want your beautiful flower garden in this area. Children at play tend to not pay much attention to roses, daffodils and azaleas while they’re swinging, climbing, and tumbling around.

When planning your garden around the play area, make sure you plant durable and low-maintenance plants and shrubs in and around your backyard playground.

 

Consider a Shade or Shelter

Bad weather can often play spoilsport for your children. To address this issue, you can add a shade structure or canopy to protect your children from sunburns, or a shelter to ensure they stay dry. If your play area is available “rain or shine,” your children will be more likely to play outside instead of getting “cabin fever” indoors!

 

 

Don’t Forget the Fence

You probably already have a fence around your property. But if your children are spending lots of time outside, you’ll want to keep unwanted visitors out. Privacy is important, especially in suburban and urban areas. If you live in rural areas, fencing also protects your outdoor structures from being damaged by wandering animals. Placing a fence around the property also protects you as a parent from the liability of other neighborhood children playing on the equipment without your knowledge.

 

Keep an Eye On the Children

Children need close supervision, as they tend to play with anything and everything. During the early days when your children are still learning about the backyard, you should watch them carefully to ensure their safety.

It’s important that you have a good view of the playground from your house. The playground should be in such a spot that it also gives a clear ear shot because then you can clearly hear your children playing.

Before you get started with your backyard playground, consider all the above factors to keep your children safe. Your backyard playground will take time and careful planning, but in the end your children will have a wonderful, safe play area just outside your back door.

 

Contact No Fault to speak with one of our Regional Account Managers.  They can assist you in choosing just the right playground surfacing for your backyard play area to meet your budget and to keep your children safe and happy!

Choosing Age Appropriate Playground Equipment

Children come in all sizes and levels of physical abilities.

Toddlers, pre-school, and school-age children could not be more different. They have vastly different physical needs, intellectual abilities, and social skills. That is why most playground equipment does not come in “one size fits all” options.

The structures and features found on the playground should attract children, engage them, and aid in their growth as young people. The playground should foster physical development and emotional development while creating challenging tasks suited to their level of play. Play opportunities should also be accessible for children of varying abilities.

The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) at the University of Northern Iowa works for all children to have access to safe environments for play.

The organization has worked with child development experts to designate which playground equipment is appropriate for certain ages based on developmental, physical, intellectual, and coordination-related benchmarks.

Their guidelines on Appropriate Playground Equipment by Age Group are described below. According to the experts, here are the playground designs and elements suitable for children in each age group: 

Ages 6 Months to 24 Months

Creativity, social skills, and problem-solving are among the benefits of play. These benefits can be developed within the youngest children on the playground, so creating age-appropriate play areas for infants is crucial.

This age is defined by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as the “toddler” years, and this is an age where falls and tumbles are inevitable. When selecting equipment for this age group, get elements that are low to the ground and that have soft or foam-covered exteriors.

Bonus points for using antibacterial equipment, since babies and toddlers will likely try to bite or chew on it.

You’ll also need significant space for children to crawl, stand, walk, and fall (repeatedly). The best playground elements for ages 6 to 24 months include tunnel mazes, activity panels, learning walls, and toddler slides.

Toddlers still don’t have a lot of reach (thank goodness). Their legs are still growing, and stability and balance are a challenge, so the things they’ll grab, push, and pull themselves up with should be relatively close together and within easy reach.

Avoid playground surfaces that are loose and that shift under unsteady feet. These include mulch, pea gravel, or sand. Besides, toddlers will eat it, throw it, and put it into their noses, ears, or eyes.

A better alternative? No Fault Safety Surface (NFSS) is a seamless, solid rubber surface, so there is no loose-fill surfacing that a toddler can pick up and put in their mouth.  And because it’s a cushiony, slip-resistant surface, it’s a great choice for toddlers since there will be several falls and tumbles that take place at this age!

Little Tikes Commercial (LTC) offers some great playground equipment for toddlers and young children.  See new LTC play equipment including “Tot Trees” for the youngest users complemented with two “tree play houses” to match. We installed our No Fault Safety Surface in 50% tan & 50% black to give the play area an earthy, natural look.

 

 

Ages 2 to 5 Years

This age group can be a tough one for playground designers. Children ages 2-5 years old have very different capabilities. Elements in these playgrounds need to account for children who have shorter legs and are a little “top heavy.” Even though they don’t have great balance yet, most children older than two years want to start mimicking the older children. So, keep an eye on them!

Specific elements that should be included in the 2-5 year age category include low climbing structures, crawl tunnels, low balance beams, activity panels, and small structures, like playhouses, for make believe and role play.

Other play elements to consider include low platforms with multiple access points such as ramps and ladders; ramps with pieces attached for grasping; low tables for sand, water, and manipulation of materials; tricycle paths with various textures; flexible spring rockers-think colorful horses and cars; covered sandboxes, and shorter slides that are usually no taller than 4 feet.

Miracle Recreation has some fantastic choices for playground equipment for this age group.  See new Miracle play equipment in the photo below, and our No Fault Safety Surface in a color blend of 50% tan & 50% black.

 

 

 

You will also want a playground safety surface that offers adequate fall protection based on the height of the play structure, since children this age will still fall occasionally.

 

Ages: 5 to 12 Years

Children ages 5 to 12 are learning new skills at a rapid pace. They are perfecting their fine motor skills, gross motor skills, strength and balance. These children are steadier on their feet and ready for bigger challenges. Their social skills are becoming more advanced, and playground games can become more competitive.

Children in this group need higher platforms and slides (generally up to 72”), swings, corkscrew/loop pole elements, climbers including faux rock walls, larger and loopier slides, sliding poles, rope climbers, monkey-bars, and other equipment that develops upper-body strength. Open spaces for running and games of tag are a big advantage at this age.

Unfortunately, this stage is also when children tend to embrace their inner daredevils. So, while selecting play equipment that will challenge them physically and intellectually, keep safety in mind and watch out for “Evel Knievel” stunts!

Playworld is another great provider of playground structures for children of all age groups. Check out the colorful play equipment provided by Playworld, along with our No Fault Safety Surface in colors of tan and terracotta red.

 

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No Fault’s range of playground safety surface products provide fall protection for up to 12 feet, as well as offering a low-maintenance surface to keep up with this very active age group.

 

Need Help Planning an Age-Appropriate Playground?

We understand that building playgrounds suitable for the different age groups can be challenging. No Fault specializes in playground safety surfaces, but we work with many playground equipment companies across the country. No Fault has several connections to playground manufacturers and can put you in touch with a Rep in your area.

Contact No Fault today for our recommendations for play equipment, as well as rubber safety surfacing products for your playground project.

No Fault Project Spotlight – Holy Trinity School Inclusive Playground, St. Matthews, Kentucky

No Fault worked on this amazing playground project with Jennifer Ferriell Birge of Bluegrass Recreation Sales & Installation (Little Tikes Commercial).  Jennifer stated, “The planning for this playground at Holy Trinity School in St. Matthews, Kentucky started with a child in a wheelchair sitting outside the school’s playground watching while her friends played.  She wasn’t able to access the entire area, and there weren’t any activities for her to engage in. People began to take note and from there conversations began expressing the need for change.”

 

 

 

The School aimed to create a playground that provided the opportunity for children of all abilities to be able to play together. Several planning meetings later, an amazing playground design emerged, and Bluegrass Recreation was awarded the project. Bluegrass provided a variety of slides, an incredible amount of climbing activities, a wheelchair swing, a spinning platform for standing and wheelchairs, a rocking ship for wheelchairs and standing, musical instruments, and imaginative play opportunities throughout the roughly 9,500 square foot playground.

 

 

 

To ensure the playground was easily accessible and slip-resistant for children using mobility devices, we installed 9,500 square feet of No Fault Safety Surface in a 50% tan/50% black color combination.  No Fault’s ADA accessible surface is poured-in-place by our certified installers as a 2-layer system at varying depths in alignment with the required critical fall heights. The impact absorbing layer is made of clean, recycled rubber. The top decorative EPDM/TPV layer comes in a variety of colors and provides the option for fun, theme-shaped designs.

 

 

 

Both Bluegrass Recreation & No Fault were proud to be part of such a worthy project!  Contact No Fault today to speak with one of our Regional Account Managers.  Our team can provide you with more information about our easily accessible rubber surfacing products for your new playground allowing children of all abilities to play together!