Playing it safe at the playground
Going to the playground with your children is always fun, but accidents can easily happen.
Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
Susan Helms, director of Injury Prevention and Safe Kids Mid-South, strongly urges parents to keep a watchful eye on their children on the playground. She suggests reading these tips from our partners at Safe Kids Worldwide:
Supervise kids using playground equipment
- Actively supervise children on playgrounds. It won’t be hard – they’ll probably be calling for you to watch them climb, jump and swing.
- Check playgrounds where your children play. Look for age-appropriate equipment and hazards, such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Report any hazards to the school or appropriate local office.
- Teach children that pushing, shoving or crowding while on the playground can be dangerous.
- Dress appropriately for the playground. Remove necklaces, purses, scarves or clothing with drawstrings that can get caught on equipment and pose a strangulation hazard. Even helmets can be dangerous on a playground, so save those for bikes.
Choose the right play area based on your child’s age
- Ensure that children use age-appropriate playground equipment. Separate play areas for bigger kids and children under 5 should be available and maintained.
- For babies who are mostly crawling or at best learning to walk, the play area should have a smooth and easy surface to walk on.
- If your baby has fairly good head control and can sit up with support (usually around 9 months old), give the baby (bucket-shaped) swings a try.
Ensure safe surfacing beneath and surrounding playground equipment
- Avoid playgrounds with non-impact absorbing surfaces, such as asphalt, concrete, grass, dirt or gravel.
- Recommended surface materials include: sand, pea gravel, wood chips, mulch and shredded rubber. Rubber mats, synthetic turf and other artificial materials are also safe surfaces and require less maintenance.
- Surfacing should be at least 12 inches deep and extend at least 6 feet in all directions around stationary equipment. Depending on the height of the equipment, surfacing may need to extend farther than 6 feet.
- For swings, make sure that the surfacing extends, in the back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar. So if the top of the swing set is 10 feet high, the surfacing should extend 20 feet.
Check that playgrounds are inspected and maintained by qualified personnel
- Double check with your school and child care center to make sure they have age-appropriate, well-maintained playground equipment.
- If there are any hazards in a public or backyard playground, report them immediately and do not allow children to use the equipment until it is safe.
- Report any playground safety hazards to the organization responsible for the site (e.g., school, park authority or city council).