Playgrounds and outdoor playground equipment offer countless health and developmental benefits to adults and kids alike. However, they could also pose a safety threat, especially to children. According to the CDC, more than 200,000 American children, age 14 and under are admitted into the emergency ward due to playground-related injuries. If anything, this statistic proves that you cannot be too careful about playground safety. Below are some important playground safety tips everyone should know about.
Adult supervision is important
Although it’s quite tempting to leave the kids on the playground while you attend to some other urgent business, you should know there should be nothing more pressing than the safety of your children. On no account should you leave children on a playfield with outdoor playground equipment without the necessary adult supervision? Injuries occur frequently on playgrounds because young are usually unable to foresee dangerous situations and the older ones are notorious for always testing their limits.
If there is a supervising adult around, the kids are more likely to ‘play safe’. This would go a long way in preventing injuries. In the event that an injury occurs, the supervising adult can always administer the necessary first aid and call for help if the situation warrants.
If you’re visiting a public playground, you should confirm they have supervising adults on site before leaving your kids to play there. And the number of supervising adults present should be proportional to the number of kids on the playground.
Evaluate the playground surface at a glance
The ideal playground surface should be firm enough to prevent slips and falls while still providing a soft landing when the falls occur. A soft and thick surface can help reduce the severity of injury arising from falls. Below are the important things to consider about playground surface:
- Hard surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and blacktop are unacceptable.
- Grass, packed earth, and soil are manageable but they should be properly monitored because wear and the weather can affect their integrity.
- The solid rubber surface is generally considered the safest material for playground surface
- The playground surface should be free of dangerous materials such as pebbles, twisted metal, broken glass, etc.
- The surrounding area of any outdoor playground equipment that is up to 8 feet high should be filled with loose-fill surface materials at least 12 inches deep.
- If the combined height of a child and the platform is higher than 12 feet, no surfacing material is considered safe.
- It is imperative to note that even the best playground surface cannot prevent injuries. However, the frequency and severity of injuries would be reduced with the proper surfacing.
Check playground equipment for signs of neglect
Outdoor playground equipment on both home and public should be regularly inspected and appropriately maintained. Here are a few signs that a piece of playground equipment or the general may be unsafe for your child:
- Cracking or splintering on wooden equipment
- Rusts on metal equipment
- Weather-beaten appearance
- Absence of foam pads on metal parts of equipment meant for kids
- Uneven playground surface especially for grass and packed-earth surfaces
- Broken fences that may give room for children to wander off the playground premises.
- Presence of sharp or unfinished edges on playground equipment
- Presence of potentially hazardous debris such as broken glass or sharp sticks
Check the design and spacing of the playground
The ideal playground should have separate spaces for different age groups. The safest playgrounds have appropriately designated play areas for older and younger children. This would help prevent avoidable collisions while ensuring children play on the playground equipment that’s meant for their age group. Below are a few things to note about playground design and spacing:
- Elevated surfaces must be well-guarded with protective barriers and guardrails.
- Playground equipment with moving parts should be installed in a separate area on the playground.
- Climbing nets should have the appropriate perimeters so they do not pose an entrapment hazard.
Teach your kids about playground safety
As kids get older, they should become more responsible for their safety as well as that of their peers on the playground. When kids learn to act responsibly on the playground, the job of the supervising adult becomes much easier.
The following are the important playground safety tips you need to teach your children from as soon as they can understand instructions
- Do not push anyone while playing on playground equipment.
- Always wait your turn whenever there is a queue on the playground.
- Before jumping off any playground equipment, you should always confirm other kids are not in the way.
- Backpacks, bags, and bikes should be safely tucked away from playground equipment to prevent others from tipping over them.
- Avoid wet playground equipment because they increase your chances of slipping.
- Be careful before playing on equipment with metal surfaces during the summer.
- Do not wear clothes with cords or drawstrings while playing on playground equipment.
- Wear sunscreen whenever you’re playing on an outdoor playground to protect against sunburn.
- Always call on an adult if you have trouble using any equipment or if there is an emergency on the playground.
- Always make use of the equipment that’s appropriate for your age group.
Spending quality playtime on the playground can contribute greatly to the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social development of your kids. However, it is your job to ensure they are not exposed to avoidable hazard on the playground. The safety tips shared above should help make playtime safe for your kids.