One way to ensure your children remain safe while playing outdoors is to maintain the play equipment you own. Learning how to keep your outdoor play equipment in tiptop shape can keep your children safe and extend the life of the equipment. Below are some ideas you may want to use.

Most people will recommend you inspect the outdoor play equipment at least once a year. However, it might be a better idea to inspect it twice a year – once in the fall when children stop playing on it and once in the spring before children begin using it again. By inspecting the equipment in the fall, you’re aware of any problems which may need to be addressed. Inspecting it in the spring will allow you to make any improvements or replacements before it is used again.

If you have a wooden structure of any kind, you’ll want to begin the inspection by checking the wood to see if there are any places where the wood has splintered or is rough. Sand those areas until the surface is smooth again. Then clean any dirt, mold or mildew which may have accumulated on the equipment. Finally, check with the manufacturer to determine the best way to seal the wood as each type of wood may have its own treatment requirements.

Some outdoor play equipment is made of metal. The paint may be peeling or chipping off which allows rust to begin forming. Check the structure to ensure it is still intact rather than being rusted and weakened to the point it is no longer safe. If the structure is still sturdy, sand off any rusty spots and then clean the entire unit. Prime and paint the set, allowing it to dry thoroughly before you allow the children to play on it.

While you’re checking either of these structures for problems, you’ll also want to have tools with you to tighten any loose bolts. Tightening the bolts will make it harder for your child to be scratched or gouged by them.

Check the cushioning surface under the outdoor play equipment. There should be between 8 and 12 inches of material under the equipment and about 4 feet around it in the ‘fall zone.’ If the surface – which can be mulch, pea gravel, or sand – isn’t deep enough, now is the perfect time to add more to reach the appropriate level.

Outdoor play equipment for small children is generally made of plastic. This material needs to be inspected and cleaned each year as well. Check to be sure the bolts are tight, then you can pressure wash the plastic equipment. Spray it with a mild soap and rinse it before allowing it to air dry.

Learning how to keep your outdoor play equipment in tiptop shape isn’t difficult. It may take some time to inspect and repair or paint/stain it, but the results will be worth it. Once you’ve verified the equipment is safe to use and has been cleaned, it should be ready for another year’s fun.