How to Have the Coolest Backyard on the Block this Summer

(And how you can get the right coverage)

Girls sitting in a treehouse

Backyard equipment has evolved from simple swings and a slide to palatial play structures complete with tube slides, zip lines and rock walls. Everyone wants to have the coolest backyard, but safety should never take a back seat to fun. According to a recent article in USA Today, trampoline accidents alone caused over 1 Million emergency room visits between the years 2002 and 2011. Below are some of summer's hottest backyard play items, along with ideas on how to keep kids safe as they play, including an affordable home insurance policy.

Trampolines

Trampolines are a great way for kids to burn excess energy, but they can also result in severe injury if proper safety controls are not in place. Netting around the trampoline helps to prevent falls from the equipment. Follow the manufacturers' guidelines on age and weight restrictions, and always supervise children on a trampoline.

The perceived risk of owning a trampoline is high enough that some home insurance policies explicitly mention trampolines as an exclusion, so be sure to review your policy before purchase. If you are looking for new home insurance or the time has come to renew your policy, be sure to discuss an existing trampoline with your agent.

Zip Lines

Once used to traverse rain forests, zip lining is now becoming a backyard sport. Zip lines may appear to have a simple construction consisting of a line fastened between two supports, such as large trees, but poor engineering can easily result in fall-related injuries. 

Commercial zip lines are set to withstand higher speeds and greater amounts of weight, while homemade lines vary widely in quality and safety. If you really want a zip line, keep it low to the ground and place plenty of cushioning under the line in case of falls.

Tree Houses

Tree houses are common backyard items which have also grown more elaborately designed in recent years. Tree houses were once made of simple wood planks and a string ladder, but now serious do-it-yourselfers build multi-level castles, some with wooden steps. 

Safe tree houses require sturdy construction and solid support, so choose your tree and your building materials wisely. According to the Center for Injury Research and Policy of Nationwide Children's Hospital, nearly 2,800 children are injured each year while playing in tree houses, most of the time after falling or jumping from the house.

Swing Sets

Over the years, swing sets have improved to better protect children as they play. According to Consumer's Digest, recent changes have included the removal of monkey bars as standard equipment and the addition of enclosed play areas similar to tree houses. The latest generation of swing sets also adds more bells and whistles, such as rock climbing walls and tube slides.

For long-term safety, proper maintenance of swing sets in imperative. A thorough inspection of your play structure should be conducted at the start of each year and periodically throughout the summer. 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Outdoor Home Playground Safety Checklist, equipment maintenance should include checking nuts, bolts, caps, swing seats, suspension ropes, chains and cables. Any worn or broken equipment should be replaced and the mulch or other soft surface underneath the play set should be refilled as needed.

Backyard Pools and Spas

Each summer accidental drownings of young children occur in backyard pools and spas - over 200 in 2013 alone. Safety precautions for swimming pools are often mandatory according to local ordinances, especially in regards to keeping out young children who have not yet learned to swim.

Locked or latched fences are a safety necessity around pools and often mandatory according to local ordinances. For additional safety, exit alarms on doors and windows leading from a residence to a pool help to warn home owners when a guest or small child wanders into the backyard. Other pool alarms activate when someone enters the pool itself. Child-sized wristbands which sound an alarm when submerged can be used as an additional precaution.

From a home insurance standpoint, swimming pools that are properly secured may not have a large effect on your premiums. However, additional risk factors weighed by agents include the depth of your pool and the presence of a diving board, which may add enough risk to result in increased premiums.

Summer is the perfect time to relax and enjoy your backyard. If you're thinking of adding any new play equipment for your kids or a swimming pool, don't hesitate to contact an independent insurance agent to inquire about any changes in your home insurance. Our independent agents work for consumers, not a large parent company, and they will assist you by writing a policy to meet all of your insurance needs.

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