Safety and compliance are two important elements to designing inclusive playgrounds. A play space that is designed thoughtfully helps children and families feel secure, not only physically, but also socially and emotionally. A safe and compliant play area encourages children to take risks that are appropriate for their age and ability, and it fosters an environment where children can grow skills and bolster their confidence through play. That’s why we are focusing on “Be Safe,” the fifth principle in our guidebook, Me2®: 7 Principles of Inclusive Playground Design.
Many factors go into creating a safe play area including selecting age appropriate equipment and amenities, reducing potential hazards, labeling designated play areas for specific age groups and providing comfortable seats and supervision areas that offer unobstructed views of the playground. Some parents fear a child eloping, or leaving unattended, from a playground, so designers may consider placing a playground away from busy roads or parking areas. Incorporating natural or manufactured boundaries can discourage children from wandering away from a play space.
A safe play area should offer more than just physical elements. It should also support children’s emotional well-being. When a child feels emotionally secure on a playground, he/she is more likely to process the environment and engage in meaningful experiences. Designers can provide seating or natural observation points next to dramatic play, music or other active areas to intentionally draw children into play. These “jump-in” points allow children to watch, learn and gain understanding until they are emotionally ready to engage. Cozy areas integrated within the play space allow children to retreat, seek sensory relief and re-engage when they are ready.
Once a safe and compliant playground is designed and installed, it’s important that it be properly maintained. GameTime recommends that playground owners develop a maintenance and supervision plan to keep equipment functioning well and avoid potential hazards. To assist with proper and regular playground maintenance and supervision, GameTime publishes comprehensive maintenance and supervision guides and provides them free of charge.
In summary, a safe playground includes more than just well-maintained, compliant equipment. It also promotes a socially and emotionally secure environment. A safe playground is designed with every child’s physical and emotional well-being in mind – giving them a fun place where they can feel and “be safe.”