The summer break is almost over and late August is upon us. This can only mean one thing: the start of the school year is right around the corner!

Most back-to-school planning focuses on the classroom; however, it’s equally important to prepare the kids outdoor  playground. Outdoor play areas provide children with crucial benefits to childhood development such as an ideal environment for exercise and exploration, socialization, and connection with nature, so we need to make sure they’re ready for action.

Here are a few ways to get your playground ready to ensure outdoor fun throughout the school year:

1. Check for defective equipment

Kids are usually excited to be back from vacation and to reunite with friends. We certainly wouldn’t want the year to start with the playground off-limits due to defective equipment. Be sure to repair any damage before school reopens.

2. Check safety surfacing

Inadequate playground safety surfacing is the number one cause of preventable playground injuries from falls. If you have wood fiber or rubber bark, ensure they are at an adequate level for the fall height of the structure. If you have rubber tile, ensure there are no gaps or tears in the material.

3. Check for loose hardware

Take a close look at all your playground equipment to make sure nothing has come loose since the last official inspection. Tighten any loose hardware to ensure the equipment functions correctly and does not pose any hazards.

4. Check for rust and rot

Always be on the lookout for rust on metal components and rotting of wooden equipment. Rust is normally not an issue when it first starts, but it can be a major problem later on. Take care of any kind of rot immediately, because unlike rust, rot creates an immediate safety hazard.

5. Make sure your fall zones are clear

Always double-check to see whether your fall zones are clear. Playgrounds that are not regularly inspected often end up having objects placed within the fall zones by kids during their play time. These objects pose a safety hazard, especially at the bottom of slides and underneath climbing equipment and swings.

And of course, always ensure that kids are supervised on playground equipment by trained staff to minimize the risk of injuries. Here’s to a fun — and safe — school year for all!