Position your play equipment so you can see it from the house. A view from the kitchen window, for example, allows you to watch the kids while you cook dinner.
If you're going to have a sandbox, get one with a cover that you'll keep closed when your child isn't in it. That way you prevent the neighborhood pets from turning it into a giant litter box, making it a breeding ground for parasites and germs.
Many of the same safety rules for public playgrounds apply to your home playground, too. You'll need a six-foot buffer zone between the equipment and any obstructions such as garages, fences, trees, utility poles, or wires. Soft surfaces—typically wood chips or sand—should extend several feet out from the equipment.
Don't buy play equipment too big for your preschooler. Buy pieces that are the right size for her now and add larger pieces later, rather than buying something she'll grow into. If your play equipment must accommodate older siblings, too, supervise the younger one carefully.
Prices for backyard play sets vary, with metal generally costing less than wood. A higher price doesn't necessarily mean you're getting safer equipment, though. Regardless of what you buy, if you install it yourself, make sure you follow the manufacturer's directions carefully.
Manufacturers of metal swing sets recommend that the legs be anchored so they cannot tip over when energetic kids swing on them. Most companies suggest setting the legs in concrete.
Plastic climbing equipment is popular with the preschool set. However, hundreds of children have been hurt, a few fatally, because the climbing gyms were used indoors in homes or day care centers The CPSC and manufacturers warn that climbing gyms should not be put on wood or cement floors and that even carpeting doesn't provide adequate injury protection. This equipment should be placed outdoors on sand, mulch, or another shock-absorbing surface.