Colder weather is on its way – but that doesn’t mean that playtime has to stop! Playgrounds are a wonderful resource for getting exercise and burning off energy during the wintertime. But, with colder temperatures, snow, and even hail, there are a few things you should consider to ensure the safety of your playground during the colder months. Check out our top six winter playground safety tips to keep children at play safe!
1. Prep Your Playground For Winter
Most modern commercial playgrounds are made of metal and plastic, but some still have wood frames or elements. If you have wooden equipment on your playground, you’ll need to do a little extra preparation for the colder months.
Applying a non-toxic wood sealer or preservative will prevent deterioration and protect your equipment against the harsh weather. Not only will it improve the safety of your playground, but it will help you maintain the value of your investment.
2. Check Your Surfacing Drainage System
Most playground surfaces are tested for performance in ideal conditions. This means you may see unexpected results if ice builds up on the surface at below-freezing temperatures. For example, engineered wood fiber (EWF) is a great surfacing option, but it can freeze into a hard, solid surface if there is inadequate drainage.
In addition to inspecting your playground and surfacing, check your drainage system to ensure it is functioning properly and has no clogs. If you find that your surfacing is freezing, close your playground immediately and have your drainage system inspected by a professional.
3. Inspect Your Playground
Once you think you have your playground all ready for winter, it’s time for an inspection. An informal, visual inspection is good, but a periodic inspection by a professional is even better.
Cold temperatures can cause hardware to loosen and plastic features to become brittle and crack. Having a professional inspect your playground can help you tackle any repairs or maintenance tasks and have your playground ready for action come spring.
Don’t have the budget for a formal playground inspector? Check out Park Protector, our playground inspection software, where our certified playground safety inspectors guide you through the process so you can do it yourself!
4. Remove Snow When Possible
In addition to freezing temperatures, snow is another huge potential safety hazard in the winter. Snow is never considered a safe or protective surfacing, even in small amounts. Whenever possible, remove snow from your playground quickly and thoroughly. If you are unable to remove the snow from your playground, you should mark the equipment as closed until the snow melts.
You may be able to shovel off the top layer and allow the sun to melt the remaining snow, or you may need to consider a non-toxic, chemical method. Just be sure to check with your playground and surfacing manufacturers to ensure that the products won’t harm your equipment or surface.
5. Maintain & Clean Your Playground Regularly
Keeping your playground properly maintained is key year round. But, it’s even more crucial in the winter months when snow and ice can build up. Frequently inspect your playground’s elements, including:
- Slide surfaces
Keeping your eye on these areas can help identify potential slipping hazards and avoid injuries.
In addition to snow and freezing temperatures, with winter comes cold and flu season. Playgrounds can be vectors for these illnesses without regular sanitization. Whether you choose to hire a playground sanitization company or purchase DIY playground sanitizing products, keep your playground clean to help kids stay healthy.
6. Encourage Appropriate Playground Attire
Finally, children may be more prone to injury on the playground in the winter because of their attire. Hoods, drawstrings, and scarves can all be dangerous on playground equipment. Any snow boots worn should have laces or other closures, as opposed to pull-on style rain boots. And, gloves and mittens should have grips that enable safe play on swings, ladders, monkey bars, and more.
Enforcing safe playground attire may be as simple as sending out an email to teachers and/or parents to remind them of safe playground attire. If you operate a community or neighborhood playground, you may want to consider adding signage to remind parents of these winter playground safety tips.