Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment can provide your child with fun, fresh air and exercise, but they can also pose some safety hazards. Faulty equipment, improper surfaces, careless behavior and lack of adult supervision are just a few of the dangers that cause children on playgrounds to visit hospital emergency rooms.
You can make the playground a place that’s entertaining and safe for your child by checking equipment for potential hazards and following some simple safety guidelines. In addition, teaching your child how to play safely is important: kids who know the rules of the playground are less likely to get hurt.
Safety Guidelines for Parents
A proper playground surface is one of the most important factors in reducing injuries – and the severity of injuries – that occur when kids fall from equipment. The surface under the playground equipment should be soft enough and thick enough to soften the impact of a child’s fall. Here are some things to consider:
- Concrete, asphalt and blacktop are unsafe and unacceptable. Grass, soil and packed-earth surfaces are also unsafe because weather and wear can reduce their capacity to cushion a child’s fall.
- The playground surface should be free of standing water and debris that could cause a child to trip and fall, such as rocks, tree stumps and tree roots.
- The surfaces may be loosely filled with materials like wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel or shredded rubber.
- Surfacing mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials are also safe.
- Rubber mats and wood chips allow the best access for people in wheelchairs.
Whether your child plays on a home or public playground, it’s important that you take a general look at the equipment to make sure that it is clean and well maintained. All hardware on equipment should be secure, with no loose or broken parts. Plastic and wood should show no signs of weakening, and there should not be any splintered or rusted surfaces.
If the local playground has a sandbox, check for hazardous debris such as sharp sticks or broken glass, and be sure that the sand is free of bugs. Sandboxes should be covered overnight to prevent contamination from animals, such as cats.
Help keep your playground clean and safe by picking up trash, using the equipment properly, and reporting any problems to the city, town, or county parks department, school or other organization that is responsible for the upkeep of the playground. If a part seems broken, loose or in need of other maintenance, designate it off limits immediately and report the problem to the appropriate authorities.
Unsafe Playground Equipment
The following types of equipment are not safe for playgrounds:
- animal figure swings
- glider swings that hold more than one child at a time
- swinging ropes that can fray, unravel or form a noose (any kind of rope attached to play equipment poses a strangulation hazard, so never let your child tie jump ropes or leashes onto the equipment)
- exercise rings (as used in gymnastics) and trapeze bars
- monkey bars
Teaching Kids About Playground Safety
Kids should know how to be safe and act responsibly at the playground. Here are some general rules to teach your child:
- Never push or roughhouse while on jungle gyms, slides, seesaws, swings and other equipment.
- Use equipment properly — slide feet first, don’t climb outside guardrails, no standing on swings, etc.
- If you jump off equipment, make sure that you check to make sure that there are no other children are in the way. When you jump, land on both feet with knees slightly bent.
- Leave bikes, backpacks and bags away from the equipment and the area where you’re playing so that no one trips over them and falls.
- Playground equipment should never be used if it is wet, because moisture causes the surface to be slippery.
- During the summertime, playground equipment can become uncomfortably or even dangerously hot, especially metal slides. So use good judgment — if the equipment feels hot to the touch, it’s probably not safe or fun to play on.
- Don’t wear clothes with drawstrings or other strings at the playground. Drawstrings, purses and necklaces could get caught on equipment and accidentally strangle a child.
- Wear sunscreen when playing outside even on cloudy days, so that you don’t get sunburned.
Play is an important part of kids’ physical, social, intellectual and emotional development. Following these safety tips will help your kids play as safely as possible.