Did you know that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commision (USPSC), emergency departments treat more than 200,000 pediatric playground-related injuries each year!!
As many of our families find themselves outside playing and trying to soak up the nice weather, we thought it'd be a good time to review some playground safety tips provided by HealthyChildren.org! Remember though, that even with safe, age-appropriate playgrounds, adult guidance and supervision is the best way to prevent injuries. Actually, research shows that nearly half of all playground-related injuries are linked with a lack of supervision!
Size It Up
- Make sure the playground equipment is suitable for your child's age, abilities, developmental level and size.
- Make sure that the surface underneath the playground can help absorb and soften the impact when children land on it.
- Steer clear of hard surface like concrete or asphalt
- Although grass looks soft, it is not a shock absorbing surface
- The USPSC recommends a thick layer of one of the following materials, extending at least 6 feet in all directions, underneath the play equipment:
- Wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel (12 or more inches deep)
- Mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like material
- We all know how much kids love to climb. Climbing helps to build strength, coordination, and depth perception while letting your child see their surroundings on a different level. However, there are certain precautions you should take to help prevent falls or getting caught on climbing equipment:
- Platforms higher than 30 inches above the ground intended for school-aged children should have guardrails or barriers to prevent falls.
- Vertical and horizontal spaces, like those between the ropes of cargo nets, should be less than 3½ inches wide or more than 9 inches wide. This is to keep a small child's head from getting trapped while preventing them from falling through easily.
- Stairs, steps and rungs, the horizontal supports used to climb a ladder, should be evenly spaced. Round rungs to be gripped by young hands should be about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter.
- Check for sharp points or edges. For wooden structures, check for nails or screws sticking out. Metal structures should not have rust or peeling paint, which could contain lead.
- Don't let your child wear or play with anything that could get caught on equipment and become a strangulation hazard. Avoid sweatshirts with drawstrings or necklaces, for example, and keep jump ropes and pet leashes away from equipment. If your child rides a bike or scooter to the playground, he should take off his helmet while playing.
- Slides can provide kids with a gentle, confidence-building thrill but please keep in mind:
- Metal slides can get very hot from the sun and seriously burn a child's hands and legs. Plastic slides can get very hot, too. On hot, sunny days, look for playgrounds where slides are shaded.
- Slides should have a platform with rails at the top for children to hold. There should be a guardrail, hood, or other structure at the top so that the child must sit before going down the slide. Open slides should have sides at least 4 inches high.
- Make sure there are no rocks, glass, sticks, toys, debris, or other children at the base of a slide. These could get in the way of a child landing safely. The cleared area in front of the slide should extend a distance equal to the height of the slide platform.
- Teach your child to go down the slide feet first to avoid head injuries, and to make sure anyone in front of them is all the way down before they go.
- Don't go down the slide with children on your lap. While it might seem safe if you are holding them, research shows children's legs often get caught and injured on the way down.
- While swings are shown to calm kids, build sensory skills, and even help them better cooperate with other children, to help avoid injuries, make sure:
- The cleared distance in front of and behind a swing, and the shock-absorbing surface beneath it, is twice the height of the suspending bar.
- Walls, fences or other objects should be at least 6 feet away from either side of a swing.
- Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic, or canvas.
- Make sure open or "S" hooks on swing chains are closed to form a figure 8.
- Swing sets should be securely and deeply anchored to prevent tipping.
- Swings should not be too close together. There should be at least 24 inches between swings and no more than 2 seat swings (or 1 tire swing) in the same section of the structure.
- Discourage kids from swinging on their tummies or jumping off. Teach them not to run in front of swings while other children are using them.
So as you spend this weekend outdoors and your child climbs, slides, swings and glides, remember to keep an eye on them and be ready to jump to action if they are using the equipment inappropriately!