When I was growing up, there was a 3-person merry go round at school that I loved. It went so fast you had to hold on tight or go flying off. All there was to land on was dirt, but boy was it fun! Of course, the playground also had monkey bars, horizontal bars, swings, and a bigger merry go round… all metal, and all with dirt underneath. There was nothing to cushion our landings back then. The equipment and surfaces were certainly nothing like today’s. What both playgrounds back then and today’s playgrounds do have in common is they are places where children can be injured. The most common type of playground injuries (75%) are caused by falls, and 45% are related to a lack of supervision. So, how can we keep children safe on playgrounds? The following tips can serve as a checklist to help your kids have fun and reduce the risk of injury.
Actively supervise children while they play. Keep an eye on children… watch them climb, jump, swing, and slide. Even better, join in with them. It’s a great way to have fun, not only for them, but for you too!
Look for playgrounds with shock-absorbing surfaces. Playground surfaces made from sand, pea gravel, wood chips, mulch, and shredded rubber… or those with rubber mats, synthetic turf, or other artificial materials…provide cushioning when children fall and reduce the risk of serious injury. Surfaces should extend at least 6 feet in all directions around stationary equipment, and surfaces around swings should extend twice the height of the top of the swing set behind and in front of the swing.
Choose the appropriate play are area based on your child’s age. Younger children play differently than older ones and need a separate area. Children 4 years old and younger should have a separate play area from older children, with equipment that is sized for them. Play surfaces should be smooth and easy to walk on.
Wear appropriate clothing. Some items of clothing and accessories can pose hazards, so it’s important that you check what children are wearing. Avoid necklaces, scarves, or clothing with drawstrings, as they could catch on equipment.
Teach children to avoid horseplay. Remind children that it is never safe to push or shove others on playground equipment or the playground itself. While it’s great fun to run around, remind them also to be aware of other children and equipment. Also, always teach your kids to use equipment the way it was made to be used.
Check playground equipment to make sure it is well maintained. Look for hazards such as broken or rusted pieces of equipment or other dangerous surfaces. If you find issues at a school or municipal playground, report them to personnel in charge of maintenance.
For more information on playground safety, go to the “Playground Safety” article on KidsHealth from Neumors. To make sure your own home playground is safe, check out this flyer from the Consumer Product Safety Commission.