Who gave your little one a shot of caffeine this morning? If it feels like you’re training for the next New York City marathon as you run laps around the couch chasing him, you’re not alone. Maybe your little one is more of a pole vaulter than a runner as he jumps from the chair to the couch and back to the chair again. That’s where a home playground comes in handy. He can expend all his energy from the comfort of your own backyard. Keep a few things in mind when it comes to choosing the best playground for your toddler.
Three types of playgrounds are available for your toddler’s entertainment: wood, metal and plastic. A wooden playground set looks more natural, metal will last longer and plastic is durable and fairly maintenance free. Cedar or redwood is the best choice for a wood set since both types of wood are rot- and insect-resistant. A metal playground set needs to be treated to prevent rust and corrosion. And dont forget to use lead free paint.
Pick a spot for your playground that is away from the road and any other obstacles that might injure your little one, such as trees, rocks or patio furniture. There should be six feet between the playground and any structure. Swings need even more space in front and behind. Make sure the surface is level to prevent the set from accidentally tipping over. If possible, choose a shaded area to prevent hot equipment and keep your little one from turning into a lobster.
A shock-absorbing protective surface under the playground is important to prevent injury. Wood mulch or chips, rubber mulch, sand or pea gravel are all good choices for protective surfaces. Use about 12 inches initially which will compress down to 9 inches over time. Maintain a 9-inch depth for safety. Do not put the equipment on asphalt or concrete even with a protective surface. Openings between ladder rungs, posts and railings should be smaller than 3 ½ inches so your little one’s body cannot fit through, or larger than 9 inches so she can fit through safely. Check the playground regularly for wear and tear such as corrosion, splinters, deteriorating parts or exposed bolts.
Spice up your toddler’s playground with a few additions of your own to the area. Add a sandbox or water table to an area near the playground. Fill it with shovels and pails to help your child develop his gross and find motor skills. Plant flowers or bushes nearby that will attract interesting insects or hang a bird feeder nearby for a little natural entertainment. Hang wind chimes on the patio to add visual and auditory stimulation.