Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 9: Administration

9.2 Policies

9.2.6 Play Area Policies Policy on Use and Maintenance of Play Areas

Child care facilities should have a policy on the use and maintenance of play areas that address the following:

  1. Safety, purpose, and use of indoor and outdoor equipment for gross motor play;
  2. Selection of age-appropriate equipment;
  3. Supervision of indoor and outdoor play spaces;
  4. Staff training (to be addressed as employees receive training for other safety measures);
  5. Recommended inspections of the facility and equipment, as follows:
    1. Inventory, once at the time of purchase, and updated when changes to equipment are made in the playground;
    2. Audits of the active (gross motor) play areas (indoors and outdoors) by an individual with specialized training in playground inspection, once a year;
    3. Monthly inspections to check for U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled or hazard warnings on equipment, broken equipment or equipment in poor repair that requires immediate attention;
    4. Daily safety check of the grounds for safety hazards such as broken bottles and toys, discarded cigarettes, stinging insect nests, and packed surfacing under frequently used equipment like swings and slides;
    5. Whenever injuries occur.

For centers, the policy should be written. Documentation of the recommended inspections should be maintained in a master file.

Properly laid out outdoor play spaces, age-appropriate, properly designed and maintained equipment, installation of energy-absorbing surfaces, and adequate supervision of the play space by caregivers/teachers/parents/guardians help to reduce both the potential and the severity of injury (2). Indoor play spaces must also be properly laid out with care given to the location of equipment and the energy-absorbing surface under the equipment. A written policy with procedures is essential for education of staff and may be useful in situations where liability is an issue. The technical issues associated with the selection, maintenance, and use of playground equipment and surfacing are complex and specialized training is required to conduct annual inspections. Active play areas are associated with the most frequent and the most severe injuries in child care (1).
Increasing awareness and understanding of issues in child safety highlight the importance of developing and maintaining safe play spaces for children in child care settings (3). Parents/guardians expect that their child will be adequately supervised and will not be exposed to hazardous play environments, yet will have the opportunity for free, creative play.

To obtain information on identifying a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) to inspect a playground, contact the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) at

The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) is another source of information on playground safety at

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Reports of Annual Audits/Monthly Maintenance Checks of Play Areas and Equipment Records of Proper Installation and Maintenance of Facility Equipment
  1. Rivara, F. P., J. J. Sacks. 1994. Injuries in child day care: An overview. Pediatrics 94:1031-33.
  2. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. 2008. Public playground safety handbook. Washington, DC: CPSC.
  3. Quality in Outdoor Environments for Child Care. POEMS Website.