Children love to play outside and should be encouraged to do so. Having fun and exciting options for them to choose from when they need something more stimulating than creating (erm… not so) delicious mud pies is important and can be found in the form of a jungle gym.
However, it is important to care for and maintain your wooden jungle gym, as it can easily become unusable after exposure to the elements. Below is some helpful advice for caring for your wooden jungle gym.
Use preventative maintenance
Preventative maintenance is one of the best forms of care for a wooden jungle gym. A jungle gym should be inspected periodically to check for damages and any spots that need repairs or replacement. Check the stability of the structure too in case it should become unstable.
It is recommended that you paint your jungle gym with a wood sealant at least once a year after its initial erection, in order to maintain its water-resistant capabilities. Due to the natural expansion and contraction of wood, you will find that some bolts may need to be tightened at first. Check these bolts after one month to see if they need to be tightened again and do so if necessary.
Keep sandboxes hygienic
A sandbox is often paired with a jungle gym, and while this is a fun play accessory for your children, it is important to keep it clean and hygienic as much as possible. Be sure to keep all pets out of the sandbox, particularly cats as they often use this sand as a litter box.
You will need to cover the sandbox when not in use, using chicken wire or netting so cats cannot use it. Avoid using planks or lids, as the sand will retain any moisture under this covering and this can cause mold and dampness. Using chicken wire allows your sand to stay fresh and odour free, and is easy to remove when your children want to play. Replace the sand regularly to ensure that your children always have clean sand to play in.
Look after the timber
All new wooden jungle gyms have been treated with a sealant to protect them from both moisture and the sun’s rays. However, in South Africa, the sun can be rather unforgiving which means that you will need to care for the timber of your jungle gym regularly.
Rather than use a pressure cleaner to restore the wood to its natural golden tone, use sandpaper to remove the silver-grey colouring that the sun and the elements cause. Apply a stain if you would like to refresh the colour but remember to apply a sealant over this once it has dried. Avoid using paints that can cause a slippery surface as this can be dangerous for your children.
Nuts and bolts
It is vital to check all the hardware used in your jungle gym. As mentioned earlier, tightening the bolts when needed is essential to keeping the jungle gym stable, but there are other checks you need to perform to ensure the safety of the structure.
Be careful not to over tighten any bolts so as not to crush the wood and cause splintering. You should also inspect the hardware, brackets and swing hooks for rust, which can have an effect on the strength. Replace these parts if necessary, and be sure that if you do have to replace them that no sharp nails or screws are facing outwards where they can hurt your children.
Swings and accessories
If you have swings and other accessories attached to the jungle gym, keeping them clean and cared for is essential. You can clean plastic swings with warm soapy water and keep these inside during the cold months so they do not become brittle.
When play season starts, usually in the warmer months, check all swings and accessories for damages or deterioration and replace if necessary. If the swings are also wooden, treat them as you would the rest of the jungle gym and use a sealant to prevent moisture from seeping in. Be sure that the chains or ropes connecting the swings are in good condition without rust or splitting as this could be dangerous for children. Replace and repair wherever necessary.
Caring for and maintaining your wooden jungle gym is vital, as it reacts differently to the elements as metal jungle gyms do. You will need to look for splintering and discolouration, and apply a sealant every year to keep it from becoming waterlogged. Preventative maintenance is key, but regular upkeep can help the jungle gym to remain intact throughout the year. Remember to check the nuts and bolts for tightening and keep your sandbox covered when not in use. A few simple tips and tricks can help to create the ultimate play area for your children.