Setting up an outdoor play yard

Outdoor play yards are a great way to let your child enjoy the outdoors and get some much-needed fresh air. Don’t let safety concerns get in the way—there are ways to create a play yard that’s both safe and convenient. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Your child may have a full arsenal of toys and games, but like any growing kid, he needs to play outdoors once in a while and get some fresh air. Outdoor play yards are designed to give your child just that—a safe, open area for free play and old-fashioned exercise. You can get pre-constructed yard enclosures from most toy stores, or set one up yourself. Here’s a quick guide to setting up an outdoor play yard for your kids.

Location

If you have a large enough backyard, you can simply make an enclosure in the middle and put your child in. Make sure it’s somewhere open enough to get plenty of air, but with enough shade to keep your kids cool. It should also be close enough to shelter in case it rains or snows. Find somewhere close where you can sit down and watch, and easily run over in case of accidents. A spot under a big tree or near a covered patio would be perfect.

Size

You don’t need a large play area—as long as there’s enough space to run around and fit in a few of his favorite toys, you’re good to go. If you have two or more kids, however, you’ll want something much bigger as they’re bound to fight over space. If you’re not sure what size you need, get a modular enclosure and start with the standard size, adding a few extra feet as needed. You may also need a wider space if your child has a bike or some other ride-on.

Surface

Grass makes the best outdoor playing surface, although some of the more curious kids may pick at the grass or put it in their mouths. If your child has this problem, look for a non-toxic turf material and lay it over the play area. When your child is past the will-eat-anything phase, you can simply pull them out and let them play in the grass. Avoid hard surfaces like gravel or cement—they’ll make falls and bumps more dangerous.

Enclosure

It’s important to enclose your child’s play area, especially if you’re on a busy street. If your yard is large enough, you can simply put up a fence around it and use it as your play pen. Make sure the fence is tall enough to keep your child from climbing over, and that the lock is placed far from their reach. Waist-high picket fences make good enclosures. Avoid those light plastic poles—they’re easily blown down by wind and pulled out by kids.

Safety

Safety should be your top consideration when setting up an outdoor play yard. Avoid common accident causes such as heavy pots, wires running across the ground, and large stones that they can trip over. Make sure the surface is soft enough to cushion falls, but not enough that their feet will sink in. Arrange the fence so that the pieces are close together—they can get stuck in big gaps or even squeeze through and leave the yard.

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