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  • Top Tips To Prepare Your Back Garden For A Winter Storm

    Most of the UK north of London his faced with stormy weather this week.

    As Hurricane Gonzalo is set to make an unwelcome appearance, the Met Office has issue a Yellow Weather Warning for this Tuesday, covering much of the UK.

    Strong gales, with gusts of up to 60mph and torrential rain has the potential to cause damage to anything kept outside.

    Thankfully, we've had enough notice to make careful preparations before the turbulent weather arrives.

    Keep your home, garden and outdoor play equipment safe with these top tips.

    1. Remove Any Loose Items From The Garden

    Make a thorough inspection of your garden and notice any loose items. Some will be obvious, like toys left lying on the lawn, but others require a little more attention. Hanging baskets, bins, go-karts, bicycles, anything that could be moved by the wind should be secured in a garage. Anything lifted into the air by the wind can cause damage to your or your neighbours' property, or could potentially injure somebody by striking them.

    2. Check Anchor Points

    Large pieces of play equipment such as climbing frames and swing sets should already be anchored to the ground for safety reasons. Over time, as the equipment moves slightly during use, these anchors can work loose. Also heavy rainfall can wash away the mud the anchors are pushed into. Check every anchor point thoroughly to check it is capable of holding the frame down in the event of a strong gust of wind. After the storm has passed, re-check every point again before allowing children to use the equipment.


    3. Secure Loose Accessories

    If your play equipment includes hanging accessories such as a swing or trapeze bar, it may be possible to unclip these easily from the frame, and keep them indoors for the duration of the storm. If not, consider securing them tightly to the frame so they aren't crashing into each other in the wind.

    4. Keep Drains Clear

    If you have drains on the ground, make sure these are clear of leaves and mud so that rain water can flow freely away. If it is safe to do so, check gutters and down pipes are clear of leaves and debris so that rain water can flow away rather than flood into the garden.

    5. Bring Furry Friends Indoors

    Besides the risk of injury from flying debris, or the possibility hutches could be tipped over by the wind, storms can also cause psychological distress to pets. Keep furry friends safe by inviting them indoors for the duration of the bad weather.

    You can get more advice on how to prepare your property and cope during a power cut from the Met Office.

  • Leaves: Seasonal Beauty Or Safety Peril

    As Autumn is making its presence known the trees are finally giving up their leaves for the year.

    As the foliage changes colour, and the leaves flutter to the ground like snow, our trees are putting on one of nature's most beautiful visual displays.

    But for keen gardeners and parents enthusiastic about outdoor play, leaves can be a scourge.

    To help motivate you to clear up nature's litter, here are five safety threats posed by leaves you've never even considered.

    1. Slippery When Wet

    Once coated with rain, wet leaves tend to adhere to the hard surfaces creating a slick coating to footpaths and driveways. This is a slipping hazard for anyone who might walk over them, but for young children who tend to run everywhere, they are even more dangerous. They can also cause bike riders to fall if ridden over. Leaves are much easier to sweep away when they are dry, so don't put off until tomorrow what you could do today. If it's a fine, dry, autumnal day, seize the opportunity and sweep those leaves away.

    2. Loss Of Grip

    Leaves don't only accumulate on the ground. They can blow against climbing frames, and will stick if the frame is wet, especially on metal equipment. They can also gather on the rungs of ladders. Children using play equipment covered with leaves are at risk of losing their footing or grip and falling. A quick way to remove wet leaves from play equipment is using a stiff brush, they type that usually comes with a dust pan.

    3. Blocked Drains And Gutters

    When gutters become blocked with leaves and debris, rainwater bubbles over and falls to the ground, instead of being directed to the down pipe. This can flood the garden and cause damp patches to the brickwork of the house. If a hard surface, such as a patio, is wet much of the time due to this overflow, a film of green algae can develop on the surface, which is extremely slippery and dangerous to walk on.

    4.Encouraging Rot

    If you disregard a pile of leaves for long enough it will eventually rot down into a mulch. If you a pile of leaves accumulates against a piece of wood, the same moisture and fungus that breaks down the leaves will begin to attack the wood. Our wooden climbing frames are built to withstand the British weather, but they will not enjoy being coated with rotting leaves. Keep the legs of wooden climbing frames, swing sets and slides clear of debris. This will allow air to circulate and discourage wet rot from attacking the wood.

    5. Creepy Crawlies

    None of the creepy crawlies that make fallen leaves their home are likely to be dangerous. If you enjoy bug hunting, then using some fallen leaves to make a bug hotel can encourage so interesting species to come and stay in your garden. However, if you have a sheltered play space such as a playhouse, allowing a build up of leaves inside will encourage mini beasts to make the space their home, and may deter your children from playing inside. Unless you intended the playhouse to be a luxury home for insects, keep the interior free of leaves.

    We have so many leaves to deal with here at Wicken, last year we put together this blog post for 101 things to do with leaves.

  • Swing Set Safety Tips

    A swing set can bring hours of pleasure, without occupying too much space in the garden, making them a great investment for parents. Follow these top tips top keep your little ones safe while they play.



    Position You should locate your swing set on level ground. Any slope can make the structure unstable once the swing is in motion. A shaded, sheltered area of the garden will help prevent plastic or metal components getting heated by the Sun and will help keep your children cool while they are playing. Beware any overhanging branches or structures that could be knocked by a child's head as they swing, or could drop onto the swing.

    Seats Ensure the swing is fitted with a seat appropriate for the age of the child using it. We stock bucket swing seats suitable for babies and toddlers, giving them a more secure ride. We also sell tire swings, balls, trapeze bars and more. Check the age range for the product before you attach it to your swing set. Older children should not be permitted to use swing seats designed for toddlers. Their weight is likely to exceed the product's upper limit causing damage to the seat, and risking injury to the child, and they may topple out of the bucket style seat if they are too tall for it to remain upright and stable.

    Safety Mats Covering the area under the swing set with safety mats will provide a softer landing for your child if they fall. In the Spring and Autumn lush grass and moist mud make the ground soft and springy, but in the Summer heat it can bake to an almost concrete consistency.

    Clearance Area Each swing set comes with its own recommendations regarding clearance space around the play structure and the swing area, which must be adhered to. When you decide the location of the swing set in your garden, consider any other play equipment you have, and how your children currently use the space. Will they be running directly in front of the path of the swing, or can the other equipment be accessed without risk.

    Maintenance Keep your swing set in safe working order by carrying out regular maintenance inspections. Nuts and bolts may work themselves loose over time, ropes may fray, or children may have caused damage to some parts. Adult Supervision When using play equipment, children need to be supervised by an adult, who can help out when a child gets stuck exploring, prevent the equipment being mis-used, and conduct back garden rescue operations if needed.

    Whether your swing set is a stand alone piece of play equipment or an integral part of a large play structure, these safety tips will help keep your children safe while they are having fun.

  • Swing Set Maintenance Tips

    Adding a swing set to your garden can provide your children with hours of fun and relaxation. Whether they want to gently rick back and forth watching the world go by, or energetically reach for the clouds, a swing is a great investment for outdoor fun.

    Keep your swing set safe, and help extend its useful life with these top tips for play equipment maintenance.


    1. Coping With Cold Snaps During a harsh cold snap, outside temperatures may drop below freezing. Check the temperature tolerance level in the manufacturing handbook. Although all the plastic component on our swing sets are suitable for use outdoors, their integrity may be compromised during extremely cold weather. If possible detach the plastic swing set and store indoors until the temperature improves. Also be aware that in cold temperatures the ground will be very hard. If you don't have safety matting underneath the swing set, a fall onto this harder ground can cause injury. 2. Metal Maintenance Whenever two metal components are in contact with each other, a small amount of oil will help keep them moving smoothly. Your manufacturer's information booklet should provide details of which parts require oiling, and when. Our metal swing sets constructed from galvanized steel or aluminium do not need any additional corrosion protection, and as a result and almost maintenance-free. 3. Wooden Components Our wooden swing sets are constructed from pre-treated timbers, which means they are ready to use immediately after assembly. Help keep the wood in good condition by ensuring it is not exposed to a continuous flow of water, for example from an overhead leaking gutter, and that any debris such as moss or soil is removed, as this could trap water against the wood, encouraging rot.

    4. Safety Area If you have used safety mats beneath the swing set, carry out a periodic inspection to ensure they haven't crept away from their intended location.

    5. Nuts and Bolts Over time, nuts and bolts may wiggle themselves use. This can damage the swing set as component parts are given the freedom to rub against each other. Check them over regularly, for example once a month, to check they are tight enough. Also look out for signs of rust. If a bolt rusts through it is no longer structurally secure, and can be very difficult to remove, so it's better to replace it at the first sign of trouble.

    6. Smooth And Safe Whether the swing set is made from wood or metal, all the surfaces should be smooth to the touch. Look out for any sharp edges that could snag clothes or scratch skin.

    7. Seat and Chain Inspection When inspecting the seat and chain, pay particular attention to the point at which the chain attaches to the frame, and where the chain links to the seat. Also look for any cracks in the plastic of the seat, as it will need to be replaced immediately. 8. Do It Yourself Our swing set frames are designed for use with the swing seats supplied, any any other manufacturer supplied attachment. Please do not modify the set with your own additions such as car tyres, or by looping chains over the cross-bar, as this will impact on the safety of the play equipment.

    All of our swing sets come with a manufacturer's guarantee and are designed to be as maintenance-free as possible. If you have any questions or would like further information about caring for play equipment from Wicken Toys, please contact us.

  • Wrapping Up Warm, Playing Safely

    As the temperatures drop it can be tempting to stay snuggled up warm indoors. But in the run up to Christmas, children have more energy to burn off than ever, so it's important they still have regular opportunities to play outside.

    Even when the it's cold outside, your children can still enjoy the space and fresh air your garden has to offer, provided you keep them wrapped up warm. Getting cold outside, then coming indoors to warm up with a hot chocolate makes for some lovely childhood memories.

    To ensure your children are still using their outdoor play equipment safely, even when they are bundled up in winter-weather gear, take a note of our top toasty-warm tips.

    1. Grippy Gloves If you have a climbing frame, slide, or any kind of play equipment that will rely on your child gripping with their hands, invest in gloves with rubbery dimples on the palms. Without gloves, your children may find the metal unpleasantly cold to hold onto. Gripping cold metal could even cause their hands to cramp and release their grip. Ordinary fabric gloves will keep little fingers warm, but are useless for maintain a reliable grip. You can buy grippy gloves, with the dimples normally found on slipper socks, for around £2 a pair.

    2. Full Range Of Movement Layer upon layer of clothing will restrict the range of movement your child has at their shoulders and elbows. This is not only frustrating for them, but also can cause problems, as restricted mobility may cause a trip, slip or fall. Add an extra layer to their normal amount of clothing, with a gilet or body warmer. This will keep their chest and back warm, without adding bulk around their arms and shoulders.

    3. Slipper Socks Not Slippy Socks If your children normally like to bounce on the trampoline barefoot, invest in some thermal slipper socks so they keep can on jumping all through the winter. Normal socks may be too slippy for the trampoline, so look for thick slipper socks, with grippy dimples on the sole.

    4. Helmet Not Hats When their head is well covered with a woolly hat, it might be tempting to keep the heat in and not bother with a cycle helmet. But a winter hat will not provide adequate protection in the even of an accident, so it's important that they continue to wear their cycle helmet all through the winter.

    5. Sensible Footwear Around about this time of year, your garden is probably beginning to look like a swamp of mud and puddles. Wellies are the perfect footwear for puddle sploshing and mud stomping, but they shouldn't be worn when using play equipment. The loser fit will makes it harder for children to feel if their foot is safely seated on a climbing rung, and often the soles of wellies do not provide much grip. It's understandable you won't want their footwear ruined during a play session in the garden, so invest in a pair of cheap trainers saved just for playing on the outdoor equipment.

  • Prepare Your Back Garden For Windy Weather

    Autumn's here and it's arrived with gusto.

    With high winds predicted this weekend and next, you need to start getting your back garden storm-ready.

    It may be a pain to keep storing toys, then getting them back out again a few days later, but a flying plastic slide, or airborne water play table is no joke. Your garden toys could cause damage to your property or even your neighbours.

    Here's some tips on how to get your garden ready for the wintery weather.

    Preparing Your Garden For High Winds

    Any smaller lightweight toys, like go-karts, and plastic playhouses, should be stored in a shed or garage.

    If you don't have access to one of those, you should bring them into the house, or even store them in the boot of your car.

    If you have a trampoline in the garden, the official advice from ROSPA is: * Turn smaller trampolines upside down so the wind can't get underneath the mat and lift it; * Tie down large trampolines with purpose built tethers or anchor kits; * Remove safety netting as it will act like a sail in the wind.

    Anchor Larger Play Equipment

    For larger play equipment that you cannot take apart and store, you will need to find a way of tethering it to the ground.

    Most climbing frames come with anchor posts. If you have not installed these yet, now is the time to do it. If you are purchasing anchor posts separately, look for thick stakes that are either jagged or corkscrew in shape as these will not lift out of the ground.

    Our heavy duty ground anchors are £85 for four stakes, and are worthwhile investment, since a toppled climbing frame can cause damage to the play equipment, and surrounding property. The corkscrew shape keeps the stakes firmly embedded in the ground, even when the climbing frame is buffeted by windy conditions. The ground anchors also help keep the frame more stable when children are playing on it.

    We also have specially designed trampoline anchor kits available for £19.99. The kits, made by TP Toys will fit any make of trampoline. The four substantial straps are wrapped the trampoline frame, and attached to the metal stakes which are then drive into the ground.

    Post-Storm Clean Up

    It's important to carry out regular inspections of your outdoor play equipment throughout the year, but this is especially true after you have experienced high-winds.

    On trampolines, pay particular attention to pads covering the springs as these are especially vulnerable.

    If you do find any damage, we can supply any replacement spare parts you need. If in doubt, feel free to call our customer service team to discuss your problem.

    If you have taken down the trampoline's safety net due to bad weather, it is important that children are not allowed to bounce on the trampoline until the net is reinstated.

    Also check that any anchor stakes are still firmly attached to the play equipment and embedded in the ground.

    The correct preparation for bad weather can save you a lot of trouble and cost in the long run.

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