Playing it safe with age-appropriate playground equipment

Playground equipment A number of playground-related accidents occur because children are allowed to use inappropriate equipment for their age. Because preschool children may not have developed upper body strength and agility, they should be directed away from some playground equipment. An effective playground supervision policy should include recognizing equipment that may be inappropriate for young children.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission's Public Playground Safety Handbook offers the following guidelines for age-appropriate equipment. This is not an all-inclusive list, and you should consult the manufacturer's guidelines or use good judgment for equipment not listed below.

Guidelines for age-appropriate playground equipment

Toddlers - under age 2

  • Climbing equipment under 32 inches high
  • Ramps
  • Single file step ladders
  • Slides
  • Spiral slides less than 360°
  • Spring rockers
  • Stairways
  • Swings with full bucket seats

For toddlers, slide chutes should have an average incline of no more than 24 degrees, with no section of the chute having a slope greater than 30 degrees, and the chute exit region should be no more than 6 inches above the protective surfacing.

Preschool – ages 2-5

  • Certain climbers
  • Horizontal ladders less than or equal to 60 inches high for ages 4 - 5
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Ramps
  • Rung ladders
  • Single file step ladders
  • Slides
  • Spiral slides up to 360°
  • Spring rockers
  • Stairways
  • Swings – belt, full bucket seats (2-4 year olds) & rotating tire

For preschoolers, slide chutes should have an average incline of no more than 30 degrees, with no section of the chute having a slope greater than 50 degrees. The chute exit region should be at least 7 but not more than 14 inches above the protective surfacing, if the slide is over 4 feet high. If the slide is less than 4 feet, the exit chute should be no more than 11 inches above the protective surfacing. Playgrounds designed for children under 4 years old should avoid arch climbers, flexible climbers, horizontal ladders, parallel bars, and other upper body equipment.

Grade school – ages 5-12

  • Arch climbers
  • Chain or cable walks
  • Free standing climbing events with flexible parts
  • Fulcrum seesaws
  • Ladders – horizontal, rung & step
  • Overhead rings
  • Merry-go-rounds
  • Ramps
  • Ring treks
  • Slides
  • Spiral slides with more than one 360° turn
  • Stairways
  • Swings – belt & rotating tires
  • Track rides
  • Vertical sliding poles

Playground Equipment Product Recalls

Did you know that over the past five years, there have been nine product recalls relating to playground equipment? Be sure to check periodically for product recalls on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission's (CPSC) web site to ensure playground equipment is safe to use.

When you purchase new playground equipment, complete and mail the manufacturer's registration form immediately in order to receive recall notifications.

Playground equipment
This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances. Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice. Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss or damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting  manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.
© 2023 Markel Service, Incorporated.  All rights reserved. 
Was this helpful?