Avoiding The Most Common Playground Injuries

There are a lot of ways that kids can hurt themselves while playing at a playground and despite your best efforts, you can’t always protect them from injuries. As long as you plan ahead and keep close supervision on your kid, you can avoid major injuries and keep the fun going safely.

Playgrounds can be a source of great joy for kids of all ages, but they can also be places that kids risk injury as well. Luckily, it is very easy to prevent a child from injuring themselves on a playground. 

You can help your child avoid common playground injuries by:

  • Assessing the safety of the equipment before they play
  • Following the guidelines for proper use of the equipment
  • Teaching your child about playground safety

Now, there are a few steps you can take before you even leave the house to try to ensure your child’s safety while playing. This will take care of some of the work on the front end so that you can enjoy more of your day out together. 

Assess the Safety of the Equipment Before They Play 

The most common playground injuries come from the actual equipment on the playground, but you should also be aware of anything around the playground that could be a cause of injury.

Before you let your child play on any playground, it is important that you make sure that there is some sort of material under the equipment other than the ground. Typically, this will be sand, mulch, or wood chips. 

You also keep a lookout for things that your child could trip on while playing. If the playground is raised up or has some sort of border around it, you may want to watch out for your child while they enter and exit the play area. 

Any equipment that is raised above the ground should have some sort of railing to keep your child safe. 

If you are planning on visiting a public playground, an important precautionary step you can take is to find out details about the maintenance of the playground. Important things to know can include:

  • Who is responsible for maintaining the safety of the playground?
  • What are the safety standards for the playground? 
  • How often is the playground checked for damage or anything that could make the playground equipment unsafe for use? 
  • What age group is the playground designed for, and does your child fit that age bracket?

Playground Equipment that Children Often Hurt Themselves On 

In order to begin to effectively protect your kids from hurting themselves on any playground, you first need to know what type of equipment is available at your local playground for your kids to play on. 

Playgrounds vary from area to area so there may be equipment available for play that you may be unfamiliar with. Familiarize yourself with yourself unfamiliar equipment so you can be prepared for any possible injury. 

A happy girl hanging.
To keep the kids safe and healthy at all times, you should consider safety precautions for specific equipment pieces.

Despite variations, there are a few common playground amenities that you are sure to see at your local playground including:

Now that you know what playground equipment to look out for, we can look at what precautions to take when taking children to play at playgrounds. 

Follow the Safety Guidelines for the Equipment 

Oftentimes, play equipment will have labels listing behaviors to avoid when either using the equipment or playing near the equipment. Some labels will also have age advisories for the recommended ages for users. It is important that your child follows these guidelines to minimize the possibility of getting hurt. 

Swings 

The only way to safely use a swing is to swing your feet while sitting with your feet facing forward. Your child should be holding onto the sides of the swing with both hands and refrain from getting off of the swing until it has stopped moving completely. 

A boy having fun on the swing.
To avoid injuries while swinging, you have to make sure that your kid can keep the body balanced.

Kneeling or standing on the seat should never be done as this is very likely to lead your child to lose their balance and fall off. Kids should also never double up and sit on a swing two at a time as swings are typically not built for two people to sit in the same seat at the same time. 

Your child should also make sure to be aware of their surroundings and avoid playing near a  swing set. They can accidentally put themselves in harm’s way by walking in front of or behind someone who is swinging. 

Slides

Slides are generally straightforward to use but there is still a possibility of injury if used improperly. Climbing up a slide should only be done by using the attached ladder or steps. 

Before your child slides down, they should make sure that the bottom is clear of people. Kids should also slide down individually, feet first, and facing forward. 

A kid having fun on the slide while being monitor by her grandparents.
To ensure the kids’ safety around the slides, they should only use ladders to climb and slide down when no one is standing at the bottom.

Climbing Equipment 

This type of playground equipment is notorious for injuries, so you may want to consider only allowing your child to use these whenever you or someone else can actively supervise them.

A kid climbing,
Kids should use climbing equipment only when they are being supervised the adults.

Kids should avoid hanging upsidedown by their waist or feet. If they only use their hands to climb and stay upright, on the off-chance that they fall, they’ll land on their feet instead of their hands. 

Your child should also be very careful when playing on or around climbing equipment as it is likely that they will get kicked in the head if they aren’t careful.

Merry-Go-Round

Just like any playground equipment that children climb on, playing on merry-go-rounds can result in injury even if used correctly, so it is very important that you are supervising your child when they are using one of these.

A merry-go-round.
Adult supervision is mandatory when children are playing on merry-go-rounds.

Kids should never be hanging off of the bars or over the side of the platform while the merry-go-round is in motion. This will decrease the risk of the child falling off if they lose their grip on the bars. 

You should also look out for how fast your child is spinning the merry-go-round as well as making sure the platform is stationary when they are boarding and exiting the merry-go-round.

Teach Children About Playground Safety 

Before you take a child to play on a playground, it is important that you teach them what behavior is appropriate and inappropriate for play on and around the equipment. 

"Love to learn" Pencil signage.
The best way to avoid severe injuries is to teach the kids how to stay safe on playgrounds.

Important general behaviors you should teach them to do include:

Avoid playing rough with others or pushing at all times.

This is important for children to practice in general as pushing and shoving can lead to injury in an environment without large play equipment. Factor in equipment like monkey bars or a slide and the risk of someone getting hurt is sure to increase. 

Avoid using equipment that is moist or wet.

On equipment that you have to sit on like slides or a swing, using them while wet may be uncomfortable but may not be considered dangerous to use while wet. However, it is vital to note your child may slide faster down a wet slide, potentially throwing them off the bottom when they would have stopped before the drop-off if it was dry. 

Equipment that you climb on should not be used while wet.  

Use your best judgment when deciding to play on the equipment during the summertime.

Contact burns can happen quickly, so you must teach children to avoid using anything that feels hot to the touch. This rule will likely be easier for children to follow since hot metal or plastic will take the fun out of playing. 

Bike and scooter safety is important too.

It is also important for children to know to store anything that they bring to a playground or park away from where they will be playing. It may seem obvious, but kids who are running around playing may not think to watch out for any bikes or bags to avoid tripping. 

Kids talking while on bikes.
To avoid tripping, children should store their bikes away from the play areas.

Use the equipment properly.

As mentioned before, it is very important that children know how to use all of the equipment properly in order to avoid hurting themselves. If you leave your child in charge of deciding what is an appropriate use of the equipment, don’t be surprised when their imagination leads them to get hurt. 

Avoid Strangulation Risk

Although it may seem unlikely, it is entirely possible that your child could accidentally choke themselves while playing. In order to decrease the risk of your child choking themselves, avoid allowing them to wear sweatshirts with drawstrings or low-hanging necklaces. 

It is also a good idea to advise your kids to avoid tying jump ropes or any other rope-like objects around any of the equipment. 

Make Sure the Child Has Adult Supervision at all Times

The easiest way to keep a child safe while playing is to make sure that an adult is watching them at all times.  This is a general rule for overall safety but especially true if your child is playing on the playground on their own for the first time or with others. 

First Aid For Playground Injuries 

Despite your best efforts to keep your kid safe, there is a possibility that they will have minor injuries at some point while playing. Here are some common injuries that you can prepare for when taking your kid to the playground. 

Bruises 

If your child falls or bumps against something a little too hard, they make develop a bruise. Most bruises do not require serious medical attention and can be treated quite easily. As soon as the bruise develops, rest the injured area. This may require you to cut your play day short, but it is important that you do not agitate the bruise. 

Next, place an ice pack of some sort on the bruised area and let it stay for 10-20 minutes. If there is any swelling, some controlled compression on the bruised area is needed. 

Contact Burns 

To help a child with a minor burn, cool the burn under running water and apply a cool, wet compress. Keep the burn covered in the compress until the pain subsides. If the burn develops blisters, it may help to bandage the burn in a sterile gauze bandage to keep the blister from breaking.

Cuts and Scrapes

Cuts and scrapes are common and very easy to treat.  

Generally, you should either stop the bleeding or clean the wound first. When cleaning the wound, use clean water and avoid using alcohol or peroxide. After you have done both, apply some antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a sterile bandage. 

Sprains 

For immediate care, the RICE method is most appropriate for treating sprains. 

  1. Rest 
  2. Ice 
  3. Compression 
  4. Elevation 

Depending on the severity, this injury may also be cause for your day at the park to be cut short, but it shouldn’t warrant a trip to the emergency room 

Encourage Kids to Play Games That Do Not Require Playground Equipment

This is a great option for playgrounds goers who have kids who may not be ready to play with the equipment for any reason or if the equipment is not safe for your child to play on. There are many other options for activities for kids at the park that often require no equipment anyway. 

Hide and Seek

Hide and seek is a perfect game to play to keep your child safe because it doesn’t require that your child climb up on anything to participate. Any of the taller equipment that you may not want them to climb on could be used as hiding spots rather than an opportunity for climbing. 

The rules are simple and easy to learn, and it is great for getting them used to socialize with other kids.  This game also does not require any additional materials, so there is no cost associated with playing. 

Four Square 

This is also a competitive game that is easy to learn and fun for kids to play.  The rules are a bit more complicated than something like hide-and-seek, but with a little practice and guidance, your kid can learn in no time.

A childhood game called four game.
It is not uncommon for public outdoor playgrounds to have these available.

To play four square, you need a four-square court. It is not uncommon for public outdoor playgrounds to have these available, but if they don’t, you can draw your own with sidewalk chalk. This game also requires four players and a larger ball made for bouncing. 

Hopscotch 

Hopscotch is another classic game that will be easy to teach to your child. This game requires very little equipment (sidewalk chalk to draw the squares) and can keep your kids away from any unsafe playground equipment. 

Jumprope 

You might be wondering how a jump rope can keep your child occupied for more than ten minutes, and you would be right to be skeptical. Expecting a kid to be actively entertained by a rope is a bit of a tall order. 

Luckily, with a bit of creativity, a jump rope can easily make a day at the park fly by. 

And of course, playing with a jump rope does not have to be purely an individual adventure. There are plenty of duo and group games that you can teach your kid including:

  • Chinese jump rope 
  • Double dutch 
  • Snake 
  • Banana Split 

Model the Correct Behavior for Playing on the Playground

It may sound silly, but there is some truth to the idea that your kids watch you and model your behavior rather than what you tell them. And what is a more fun way of learning than to do it while playing with your parent? 

Kids having fun on the slide.
Slides are generally straightforward to use but there is still a possibility of injury if used improperly.

This way you can develop playground safety habits that will stick and spend quality time with your child at the same time. 

Let’s Review How to Prevent Common Playground Injuries

There are several ways to keep your child safe while playing at a playground. You can:

  • Examine the playground equipment to see what is appropriate for your child to use based on their age and to see if you feel comfortable with the quality of the equipment.
  • Be aware of how often the equipment is given maintenance and by whom. 
  • Be aware of and familiar with the area surrounding the playground. 
    • Are there trees and bushes surrounding the playground?
    • Are there objects that your kid could trip on while playing?
    • Are there places for you to sit where you will have a clear view of your child?
    • Is there material under the equipment that will protect your child from a fall?
    • Is there a busy street or road near the playground?
  • Go over playground safety with your children verbally before you get to the playground or together after you arrive. 
  • Make a plan for supervision especially for group playdates. 
  • Come up with an itinerary for games to play if you are not comfortable with the quality of the available equipment.
  • Remove anything from your child that could be cause for strangulation, and come to the playground prepared to treat any minor injuries that may occur. Familiarize yourself with RICE and the type of injuries that occur frequently on playgrounds. 
  • Have a checklist of non-negotiables for the quality of the playground equipment, and use your best judgment when you are unsure.  

There are a lot of ways that kids can hurt themselves while playing at a playground and despite your best efforts, you can’t always protect them from injuries. 

As long as you plan ahead and keep close supervision on your kid, you can avoid major injuries and keep the fun going safely. 

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