Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.1 Play Area/Playground Size and Location

6.1.0 Enclosures for Outdoor Play Areas

The outdoor play area should be enclosed with a fence or natural barriers. Fences and barriers should not prevent the observation of children by caregivers/teachers. If a fence is used, it should conform to applicable local building codes in height and construction. Fence posts should be outside the fence where allowed by local building codes. These areas should have at least two exits, with at least one being remote from the buildings.

Gates should be equipped with self-closing and positive self-latching closure mechanisms. The latch or securing device should be high enough or of a type such that children cannot open it. The openings in the fence and gates should be no larger than three and one-half inches. The fence and gates should be constructed to discourage climbing. Play areas should be secured against inappropriate use when the facility is closed.

Wooden fences and playground structures created out of wood should be tested for chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Wooden fences and playground structures created out of wood that is found to contain CCA should be sealed with an oil-based outdoor sealant annually.

This standard helps to ensure proper supervision and protection, prevention of injuries, and control of the area (3). An effective fence is one that prevents a child from getting over, under, or through it and keeps children from leaving the fenced outdoor play area, except when supervising adults are present. Although fences are not childproof, they provide a layer of protection for children who stray from supervision. Small openings in the fence (no larger than three and one-half inches) prevent entrapment and discourage climbing (1,2). Fence posts should be on the outside of the fence to prevent injuries from children running into the posts or climbing on horizontal supports (2).

Fences that prevent the child from obtaining a proper toe hold will discourage climbing. Chain link fences allow for climbing when the links are large enough for a foothold. Children are known to scale fences with diamonds or links that are two inches wide. One-inch diamonds are less of a problem.

CCA is a wood preservative and insecticide that is made up of 22% arsenic, a known carcinogen. In 2004, CCA was phased-out for residential uses; however, older, treated wood is a still a health concern, particularly for children. For more information on CCA-treated wood products, see Standard

Picket fences with V spaces at the top of the fencing are a potential entrapment hazard.

Some fence designs have horizontal supports on the side of the fence that is outside the play area which may allow intruders to climb over the fence. Facilities should consider selecting a fence design that prevents the ability to climb on either side of the fence.

For additional information on fencing, consult the ASTM International “Standard F2049-09b: Standard Guide for Fences/Barriers for Public, Commercial, and Multi-family Residential use Outdoor Play Areas” (2).

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Treatment of CCA Pressure-Treated Wood
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 2008. Public playground safety handbook. Bethesda, MD: CPSC.
  2. ASTM International (ASTM). 2009. Standard guide for fences/barriers for public, commercial, and multi-family residential use outdoor play areas. ASTM F2049-09b. West Conshohocken, PA: ASTM.
  3. Fiene, R. 2002. 13 indicators of quality child care: Research update. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.