9 Essential Playground Safety Tips

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

In the United States alone, more than 200,000 cases of playground-related injuries among children 14 years and below are treated annually (Source: CDC). It was also cited in the National Program for Playground Safety's (NPPS) website that a child, within US, is receiving emergency medical attention every 2 1/2 minutes due to playground-related injury.

About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe–fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations (Tinsworth 2001).About 75% of nonfatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds (Tinsworth 2001). Most occur at schools and daycare centers (Phelan 2001).Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground-related injuries. Of them, 82 (56%) died from strangulation and 31 (20%) died from falls to the playground surface. Most of these deaths (70%) occurred on home playgrounds (Tinsworth 2001, CDC, 2012)

In our modern world, it is not uncommon to see parents allowing their children to use gadgets as a either for entertainment or education. However, it is also undeniable that amidst our busy days we tend to forget to monitor and/or implement time limits. Eventually, this could result to lack of physical activities among children.

Adequate amount of physical activity is essential in child development as it strengthens the growing body, promotes social/ interpersonal skills, enhances mental well-being, and could improve cognitive performance.

It is generally recommended that children and teens do at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day or on most days. This can be done in smaller chunks of time for children since they might get too exhausted if done continuously.

Related Post: Types of Play in Child Development.

Many communities and schools advocate for children's physical activity by building playgrounds. There are also indoor playgrounds that allow kids to have fun if the weather is not conducive for outdoor play.

Unfortunately, there could be inevitable and hidden dangers in playgrounds. Risks can be generally minimized with careful supervision (especially among the younger ones) and regular maintenance of play equipment. Parents should also take the responsibility of teaching their children good playground manners.

Here are few general, practical and common sense playground guidelines you can use to ensure that your kids stays safe. Don't forget to check your locale's specific laws or guidelines regarding child safety in playgrounds.

1. Age separation. It would be best to separate play area and equipment for children under five, primarily because they have less coordination and could easily lose their balance. This would prevent active bigger and older kids from unintentionally causing the little ones to fall.

2. Surfacing materials. Protective surfacing materials, such as wood chips, sand, pea gravel, mulch or rubber mats, should be present and of proper depth around playground equipment (slides, seesaws, swings, monkey bars, etc). Serious traumatic brain injuries could occur if a child hits his head on a concrete or any hard surface.

3. Safe clothing. Ensure that your child's clothing does not pose any risk for strangulation. Drawstrings, scarfs, necklaces, or anything loose that could become tangled or get caught in playground equipment should be avoided. Bike helmet straps could also strangle a child and so shouldn't be used when playing on the playground equipment. Parents need to remind their children to remove the helmet once they get off the bike. All children should also wear footwear, particularly when playing in outdoor playgrounds.

4. Playground surfaces. Playground surfaces should be free from sharp and protruding points or edges which could hook a child's clothing and cut or puncture the child's skin. It should also be free from exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, rocks, cracked sidewalks, and others which could cause a child to trip or get injured.

5. Regular inspection. An adult needs to regularly inspect playground equipment for any rust, loose joints, missing bearings, or any sign of damage.

6. Playground behaviors. Before going to the park, discuss safe playground behaviors/ manners with your child such as:

  • When using the swing, sit in the middle of the seat and hold the swing chains with both hands. Only one kid should be using a swing and never walk behind or in front of the swing when someone else is using it.

  • When using the slide, use the ladder and do not climb up on the sliding surface. Be patient in waiting for one's turn and no pushing. Upon reaching the bottom of the slide, the child should immediately leave to allow other kids to slide down and prevent himself from accidentally getting kicked from behind. In addition, ensure that kids slide down with feet first and in a sitting position. Never on their tummy or back, or head first.

  • Teach older and bigger kids to be considerate of the smaller ones while on the playground.

7. Climbing equipment. Toddler and preschoolers should not use climbing equipment that's taller than they are without close adult supervision. Younger kids generally have slower movement and reaction time; thus they could easily fall.

8. Sun exposure. As you go to an outdoor playground with your child, make sure there is sufficient natural or man-made shade. Too much sunlight exposure, especially during the most intense part of the day (UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm), can cause skin cancer and sunburn. It's also important to remember that playground equipment could get really hot after long exposure to the sun and this could cause burn on the skin.

9. Close adult supervision. Close adult supervision cannot be overemphasized as a preventative measure against playground injuries, especially among smaller kids. Not all playground equipment maybe suitable for every child. Furthermore, supervising adults should monitor the place for any nearby hazards such as roads, creeks, ponds, lakes, cliffs, and others.

United States' Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published Public Playground Safety Handbook. You may also want to check it out for more comprehensive guidelines in keeping your child safe on playgrounds.

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