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Tumbles and falls are part of the outdoor play experience. It's part of the fun. As parents and care givers we want our children to have fun outdoors, be challenged, but also be safe. That's why installing safety surfacing under and around your backyard playground is so important. Safety surfacing provides children with a more forgiving surface to play on and reduces the likelihood of serious injury in the event of a major fall. Because falls are the most common cause of playground-related injuries, installing safety surfacing is one of the most important factors in preventing a playground-related injury.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has created a playground safety handbook that is widely used as a safety resource in the playground industry. Check out their Outdoor Home Playground Handbook or the Plublic Playground Safety Handbook that has loads of info and detail.
Once you've decided what type of playground surfacing to use, the next thing to consider is how to contain it. There are a couple different types of playground borders designed specifically to go around the perimeter of the play area and contain loose-fill surfacing material.
A safety zone is the area under and around the playground equipment where children are expected to fall. The safety zone gives children an area free of obstructions and other structures to run around and safely play on the play equipment. A 6' safety zone on each side of the play structure is a good rule of thumb; however, there are a few additional recommendations for swings and other play features made by the CPSC. Check out their Outdoor Home Playground Handbook for a complete guide on safety zone recommendations.
Depending on your yard and your swing set, there are a few different ways to consider laying out your playground.
Rectangular Layout: A rectangular layout is the most simple option and is very common among residential and commercial playgrounds. It is based on the rectangular dimensions of the safety zone as shown by the example below.
Irregular Layout: An irregular layout relies on the actual curves of the safety zone rather than the box dimensions as you can see in the example below. This makes it a more compact design which is great for conserving space or for keeping surfacing material to a minimum by trimming off the corners and edges