Outdoor Environment Safety Checklist for Child Care

Check your playground frequently for damaged or worn equipment.

A well-maintained outdoor play environment at a child care center is essential for child safety. Whether you run a child care center or your child attends a child care facility, it is the center’s responsibility to maintain its outdoor environment. Children are naturally curious and might get hurt if certain hazards are overlooked. Use a checklist to ensure children can have fun and be safe while playing outside.


Boys playing in yard with wooden fence

Make sure the area is fenced or walled-in. Young children should not roam freely in the playground or yard. Check the fencing or wall to make sure there are no holes and no screws or wires are poking out that could hurt your child. The fence or wall should be constructed so a child cannot climb over the barrier or dig underneath of it. Make sure the fence gate can be locked.


Fence surrounding swimming pool

Check the landscape. While you might not know about poisonous plants, ask the child care center’s director about any unrecognizable foliage and research its properties when you get home. Make sure that if there is pool at the center, there is a high, durable fence that can be locked surrounding it.

Playground Surfaces

Wood chips

Make sure the playground has a mat or soft surface underneath the equipment. Avoid concrete or hard dirt because they will not be able to comfortably absorb slips or falls by your child. Look for playgrounds with wood chips, sand, mulch or rubber.

Equipment Spacing

Child climbing on bars

Note the spacing between the equipment. Playground equipment higher than three feet from the ground might entice children to jump from one piece to another. Measure how far apart the equipment is and choose a child care center where the equipment is at least nine feet apart.


Bolt on wooden playground

Check for protruding bolts, wires or hooks on the equipment that could cut children. Inspect the equipment closely and note any sharp, plastic edges that need to be sanded down or covered.


Girl holding railings of playground

Look for guardrails. Playground equipment for older children tends to offer bridges, ramps and high ladders. Make sure there are guardrails to prevent children from falling or jumping off the playground equipment. Also, measure the space between the rails and make sure your child won’t be able to put his head in and get it stuck.

Equipment Condition

Child on a swing set

Observe the overall condition of the playground. Check the equipment regularly and look for broken equipment, sharp edges, loose bolts and rotting pieces of wood. If there is a swing set, make sure the chains are strong and closed completely.


Child sitting on playground equipment

Measure the height of the equipment. For toddlers and preschoolers, playground equipment should not be taller than four feet; playground equipment should not be taller than six feet for school-aged children.