A playground should be a place where children can play and have fun, not a place where serious injuries occur. Some of these tragedies can be attributed to deliberate misuse of the equipment, poorly maintained equipment or having no parental supervision. Most injuries can be prevented.
Playing on the playground can teach children how to share and take turns with other children, and follow rules. Children can build strong bodies through physical exercise while have fun at the same time. Choose safe clothes for your child before they head out to play – no strings or loose clothing that can catch and potentially choke a child. Helmets straps can also be a danger, so make sure your child takes theirs off before playing. Shoes need to be worn at all times.
Before you allow your child to play at a new playground, you should check the equipment yourself to ensure safety. Walk around a playground before your child starts to play to determine if there are any unsafe areas. What you want to avoid at all costs are those conditions that could easily cause more serious injuries to your child, such as equipment failure or improper installation.
There is an easy rule called the '5 S's of playground safety': Surface, Structures, Site, Supervision and Safety.
Surface - Most injuries happen when children fall off equipment. Playground surfaces should have a soft surface such as wood chips, shredded rubber or sand. It should be close to twelve inches deep and surround equipment on all sides at least out to six feet. Asphalt, concrete, dirt and grass are not safe materials for playgrounds. Also, check a metal slide before your child slides down – the sun can heat it up and this can cause painful burns to exposed arms and legs.
Structure – If the play structure is wooden, check for splinters or weak spots in the wood that could break. Check equipment for areas that look large enough for a child to get a body part caught. All steps should have good traction. Swing seats should be made of a soft material with spacing of at least two feet apart. The swing sets themselves should be in a separate area to lessen the chance of someone getting too close to a child swinging.
Site – Checking for objects lying on the ground or on equipment like glass, nails or bolts sticking out from equipment or broken parts.
Supervision – Supervision is critical to safe play. Children do not always play on equipment the way it was designed. Climbing on the outside of equipment is a common occurrence. Make sure there are not any areas or tubes that you cannot see your child.
Safety – Be sure to read any posted rules on a playground and make sure your children understand them. One of the biggest causes of injury on playgrounds is that the equipment is not age appropriate for the child using it. A good playground will have clearly separated age-appropriate areas. Toddlers should not be permitted to play on regular sized equipment.
No amount of precautions will keep your child from injury if their play is unsafe and, at young ages, unsupervised. Instill safe playing in your children and you will have little to worry about whether they are playing at home, at school or a friend’s house.
Teach your children the following:
- Avoid wearing hooded sweatshirts or other clothing with long strings that could get tangled and become a choking hazard.
- If you rode your bicycle or rollerblades to the park, remember to take of your helmet, so the straps won’t get caught in anything.
- Be careful of metal slides. The sun can make them very hot.
- Don't go barefoot. Always wear your shoes. If you go barefoot, you could get a splinter or a cut.
- Play only on dry equipment. If it is wet, you could slip and fall.
- Go down the slide one at a time. Wait until the person in front of you is on the ground and has moved away from the slide.
- Move away from the slide as soon as you reach the ground.
- Always slide sitting down and facing forward. NEVER slide down headfirst.
- Guardrails are there to protect you. Don't climb over them.
- Sit down when you swing.
- Swing with only one person per swing.
- Wait until the swing stops before you get off.
- Be careful when you walk in front of moving swings. Don’t get too close or you could get hit accidentally.
- Climb steps slowly and hold on to the handrails.