The “attractive nuisance.” This is a term used widely by insurers to describe recreational and architectural elements in and around your home that may be fun or appealing, but which may also be potentially dangerous. Included on this list? Bounce houses, swing sets, slides, jungle gyms, tree houses, and trampolines. Because owning an attractive nuisance increases the risk that someone will be injured while on your property, they could also raise your insurance rates. Luckily, there are a number of steps homeowners can take to help keep kids safe on play structures, while also mitigating their risk.

Swing sets, slides, and jungle gyms

It’s estimated that some 200,000 children visit an emergency room each year because of falls from playground equipment. Here are some tips to help children play safely.

  • For play structures under 7 feet: install a 6-foot-wide perimeter of a loose-fill, shock-absorbing material like mulch, wood chips, or shredded rubber.
  • For play structures under 5 feet: install at least a 9-inch layer of pea gravel or sand.
  • Make sure guardrails and other protective barriers are being used for elevated areas on the play structure.
  • Place swings a safe distance apart from one another (at least 24 inches apart and 30 inches from the frame).
  • Regularly inspect equipment for evidence of wear and tear like cracking, splintering, or rust.
  • Always actively supervise children as they play.

Tree houses

Even the most well-built tree house could be seen by your insurer as a liability. There are a few steps you can take to help moderate the dangers a tree house poses.

  • Check with your local jurisdiction to see what their regulations are for building or installing a play structure like a tree house.
  • Create a set of rules for the tree house (for example, prohibit use during bad weather or limit the number of people who can occupy it at a given time).
  • Consider installing a pulley system (like a bucket on a rope) to help you move items in and out of the tree house, leaving your hands free for safer climbing.
  •  Always check the tree for loose or rotting limbs and the structure for decaying boards.

Bounce houses

From collisions, falls and bumps to injuries that come as a result of faulty installation (bounce houses have actually taken flight with children still inside them as a result of bad anchoring, accidents involving backyard bounce houses are on the rise.

  • Follow all installation and maintenance guidelines, including proper anchoring methods, weight limits, and safe operating protocol.
  • Always have an adult actively supervise children while the bounce house is in use.
  • Set rules and limits for behavior. Make sure to communicate those clearly with children before the start of play.
  • Be sure to check in with your insurer before purchasing or renting  many homeowners’ policies don’t offer coverage for such structures, while other may insist on certain safety measures.

Trampolines

Some insurers will not offer any coverage for trampolines, while others will require specific safety precautions to be put into place and/or raise your rates. But there are steps you can take to increase their safety and reduce your liability when it comes to trampolines.

  • Follow all installation and maintenance guidelines, including proper anchoring methods, weight limits, and safe operating protocol.
  • Pad the trampoline frame, strings, and other supporting features.
  • Lower the jumping surface as close as possible to ground level.
  • Enclose the perimeter of the trampoline with a safety net (many trampolines are now sold this way) and secure it during jumping.
  • Insist on adult supervision at all times.
  • Limit or prohibit horseplay and other high-risk moves like flips.
  • Only allow one child at a time on the trampoline to minimize the collision risk.

Unsure what your policy does or doesn’t cover? Contact your specific insurer, as coverage can vary significantly. Esurance policyholders: learn more about your coverage here or call 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262) for any home insurance queries.

Insurance 101 | Safe and smart | Home safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.