Adding a swing set to your backyard is a wonderful way to get your kids outside to get some exercise, burn off energy and get fresh air. Making sure your swing set is properly set, spaced, and anchored is critical to avoiding falls and injuries.
Start with 6 Feet
Every playset needs 6 feet of clearance all around it. Before you add the swings, lay the hookup points on the ground under the swing bar and stretch them out as far back as they will go to determine the full arc of the swing. Double that to determine the total open space you need around your swing set.
It would be nice to think that your older children will never swing out to the fullest arc before jumping off. It would also be nice to think that they wouldn’t climb the biggest trees in your backyard.
However, childhood is a time of tremendous exploration and creativity. At the end of the day, making your family swing set as safe as you possibly can will reduce worries.
Create a Safe Base
Once you have determined the best spot for your swing set, you’ll need to make sure you have a soft base. While many folks put their swing set down on spring grass, this can actually lead to hot summer hazards. That grass will dry in the summer sun and the ground will get extremely hard.
Rubber mulch is an ideal choice for a soft surface under a large swing set. If your children are small enough to test fit everything in their mouths, rubber matting may be a better choice. Do make sure that you use rubber products designed for playground use. Shredded rubber for landscaping can contain metal shards.
Wood chips are another soft option under a swing set. If your children are often barefoot, wood is not a good option. There is also a risk of mold under the wood chips, they are easily dispersed by dragging feet, and they will need to be topped up seasonally.
Sand and pea gravel offer some protection under a swing set. Neither of these are great mulch products; your swing set area will need to be lined with weed blocking fabric before you put down the sand and/or pea gravel.
Anchoring Your Swing Set
The size of your swing set and the size of your children will impact your need to anchor the toy. For example, you may need to start with pound-in anchors to secure a smaller swing set for your young children. As your children get older and can climb higher and swing harder, you may need to set your swing set with concrete.
Staking a swing set can be risky if your children love to play with tools. You may take the weekend to stake out the swing set, but your tool-happy child has hours to start working those stakes out.
If you use rebar to secure the swing set, wet weather and hard-swinging can cause them to pull out. The top of the anchor could become a tripping and scratching hazard over time.
Older children will need a bigger swing set. If you choose to concrete in any of the posts on a larger play set, do make sure you call first to avoid hitting any lines that could put you at risk.
Safety Points to Check
Large wooden play sets are an excellent investment, but they will need regular checks to make sure that they are secure. For example, extreme temperatures can cause the wood of a large swing set to split at the hardware points.
Hot sunshine will dry out the wood. Wet weather can lead to mold growth on your wooden swing set.
Do what you can to prevent wood stability loss. If you’re building the swing set, make sure you pre-drill all holes before you set screws. Instead of screwing in a platform or a swing, invest in bolts that can be threaded through and locked down with a nut.
The wood may degrade over time as the hardware works inside the hole, but you will be able to plan to repair those problems. Screws fail unseen and can lead to nasty falls without warning.
As you work to protect the wood, make sure your swings, chains, and ropes are also easy on little fingers and hands. Unless your hemp rope is extremely old and well-oiled, your children can get splinters. Chains can pinch little digits.
A steel chain with a rubber coating will be protected against rust damage and will be easy to hold onto.
Make sure you seasonally check all hooking hardware. If you have eye-bolts to hold up the swing chains, make sure that the bolt itself is not rusted and that the curve of the bolt is not showing signs of wear.
Grab the eye hook and give it a good shake to make sure it’s secure. Water seal the wood of your swing set when the kids go back to school.
Finally, check the spacing on ladders, decks, and climbing platforms. Older children may know better, but a curious toddler can quickly get themselves into trouble trying to crawl into a space that is almost big enough for them.
If you’re adding a ladder to a large wooden play set, make sure it’s got enough of a lean that small children can rest on it as they build their climbing skills.