kids on playgroundWe tend to think of playgrounds as places that provide the perfect opportunity for our children to develop motor and cognitive skills and also to learn and practice the socialization skills that they are beginning to acquire. We rarely think of playgrounds as a place where serious injury could occur. Just how safe is your backyard or neighborhood playground?

Did you know that each year about 211,000 children in the United States aged 14 and under will receive emergency department treatment for injuries sustained on playground equipment? Of those children, 20 youngsters die each year from their injuries. Read on to see how parents can help to insure that their children are playing in areas that are safely structured and adequately maintained.

How can playground injuries be prevented?

Supervise your children

Statistics show that lack of adult supervision is a factor in 40% of playground injuries. Regardless of age, all children require some form of adult supervision when using playground equipment. Preschool age children require more attentive supervision than older children do. Adults need to be on the lookout for potential hazards, oversee child to child interactions, and be available in case of injury.

Consider the age-appropriateness of playground equipment

Because children at age 2 are developmentally different from children at age 8, the same type of playground equipment is not appropriate for all children. Preschool children ages 2 to 5 and school aged children ages 5 to 12 need separate areas to play on equipment that is appropriately designed for each group. Do not allow or encourage younger children to try to master equipment that has not been designed for them. Likewise, do not allow older children to overrule the youngsters and play hazardously on equipment that has not been designed for use by older children.

Visually inspect the playground area

Before allowing your children to use playground equipment, perform a quick overall visual inspection of the area. Is all equipment properly anchored into the ground? Do you see any exposed sharp edges or corners that could harm your children? Are nuts and bolts covered and are all S-hooks closed? Are climbing ropes anchored at both ends? Is there anything on the ground, for example, broken glass, rocks, litter, or large tree roots that could injure a child?

Check to be certain that there is adequate surfacing material under and around the play equipment

 More than 70% of playground injuries result from a fall to the surface. Falls are responsible for the most severe playground injuries that result in head injuries and fractures. The surface that is in place under and around the playground equipment is a major contributing factor in determining the degree of injury that may occur with any fall. Hard surface materials like asphalt and concrete are not suitable for use under or around playground equipment. Likewise, grass and turf are not recommended because of their poor shock absorbing capabilities. Some examples of recommended surfacing materials include: wood chips, double shredded bark mulch, fine sand, shredded tires, engineered wood fibers and fine gravel. Usually a depth of between six and twelve inches of surfacing material is recommended.

Remove drawstrings from hoods, necks, and children’s outerwear

Never allow children to wear anything around their neck, including purses, necklaces or clothing while on the playground. These items can easily get caught on protruding equipment and hardware. Strangulation has resulted from entanglement and entrapment.

Review playground rules with your children before they begin to play

  • Instruct children never to jump off of a moving swing.
  • Tell children not to walk in front of or behind a swing that is in motion.
  • Require that children go up and down the slide appropriately, no climbing up and over the sides.
  • Reinforce the importance of taking turns.
  • Encourage children to seek out an adult when problems arise.

Report all playground safety issues to the organization responsible for maintaining the site

The responsibility for maintaining a safe playground environment may rest with the homeowner, a daycare center or other school, or perhaps the local recreation department. Develop and implement plans for inspecting and maintaining your own equipment and inquire about plans to keep other playgrounds safe if your children are using them. Direct your concerns to the appropriate people.

Courtesy Health AtoZ