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Chicago is unmatched in its playground structures, often with several playgrounds within a few square blocks. Playgrounds have to pass a myriad of safety regulations in the United States, and they are usually quite safe. Inevitably, though, accidents can happen on playgrounds. Following are some tips to ensure a safe summer of playground fun.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the equipment the right size? For example, smaller swings are for smaller children and can break if larger children use them.
  • Is the play equipment installed correctly and according to the manufacturer’s directions?
  • Can children reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part?
  • What’s underneath the equipment? The best way to prevent serious injuries is to have a surface that will absorb impact when children land on it. This is especially needed under and around swings, slides, and climbing equipment.
  • Is wooden play equipment free of splinters and nails or screws that stick out?

Climbing Structures

  • Platforms higher than 30 inches above the ground intended for use by school-aged children should have guardrails or barriers to prevent falls.
  • Vertical and horizontal spaces should be less than 3½ inches wide or more than 9 inches wide. This is to keep a small child’s head from getting trapped.
  • Rungs, stairs, and steps should be evenly spaced.
  • Round rungs to be gripped by young hands should be about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter.


  • Slides should be placed in the shade or away from the sun. Metal slides can get very hot from the sun and burn a child’s hands and legs. Plastic slides are better because they do not get as hot, but they should still be checked before using.
  • Slides should have a platform with rails at the top for children to hold. There should be a guardrail, hood, or other device at the top of the slide that requires the child to sit when going down the slide. Open slides should have sides at least 4 inches high.
  • Make sure there are no rocks, glass, sticks, toys, debris, or other children at the base of a slide. These could get in the way of a child landing safely. The cleared area in front of the slide should extend a distance equal to the height of the slide platform, with a minimum of 6 feet and a maximum of 8 feet cleared.


  • Swings should be clear of other equipment. Make sure there is a distance in front of and behind a swing that is twice the height of the suspending bar.
  • Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic, or canvas.
  • Make sure open or “S” hooks on swing chains are closed to form a figure 8.
  • Walls or fences should be located at least 6 feet from either side of a swing structure.
  • Swing sets should be securely anchored according to the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent tipping. Anchors should be buried deep enough so that children can’t trip or fall over them.
  • Swings should not be too close together. There should be at least 24 inches between swings and no more than 2 seat swings (or 1 tire swing) in the same section of the structure.