Every kid enjoys a trip to the playground because it allows them to exercise, socialize, and explore their imaginative minds without fear of being reprimanded. They also enjoy playing on different playground equipment such as slides, swings, and monkey bars.
Unfortunately, playgrounds are not always fun, joy, and games for children and their parents. They are also among the common places where children get hurt.
Statistics show that at least 200,000 kids aged 14 and below are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained on playgrounds.
Approximately 30% of these injuries are severe, including bone fractures, brain injuries, and internal body injuries. Most of the injuries occur due to the existence of a dangerous condition on the playground.
Fortunately, there are many things parents and playground owners can do to minimize the risk of injuries. Read on to find out some of the recommended ways to prevent playground injuries.
Common Types of Playground Injuries
Although most injuries sustained on playgrounds are minor, some are more severe and life-threatening. Bruises, minor bumps, and cuts are some of the minor accidents that kids experience while playing.
Broken bones and fractures, sprains and strains, dislocations, internal organ injuries, and concussions are among the most common playground injuries that require a doctor’s care.
Even though it is uncommon, deaths have also been associated with different playground equipment.
While most playground injuries happen on public playground swings, slides, and climbing equipment, more than 70% of the deaths happen on home playgrounds.
What Causes Playground Injuries?
Some of the most common causes of playground injuries include:
A significant number of playground injuries happen on slides. Research shows a strong correlation between shinbone fractures and young kids going down a slide on an adult’s lap.
In most cases, the kid’s leg gets stuck, but both the child and adult cannot stop moving down the slide.
In some cases, the child’s leg twists during the ride down, but the parent won’t know until he/she complains of pain.
Falls from playground equipment to the ground is the top cause of playground-related injuries. Children fall due to a wide range of reasons.
Sometimes they lose their grip, slip, or lose their body balance while playing on swings, monkey bars, seesaws, merry-go-rounds, and slides.
In other cases, something as simple as the drawstring from a hooded sweater can attach itself on a piece of playground equipment, leading to a fall. Mostly, kids are hurt not only by the fall but by being struck by the play equipment as they fall.
To protect themselves, most kids will fall on an outstretched hand, breaking the bones in their elbow. This type of elbow bone fracture is the most common playground injury that requires immediate treatment.
3. Other causes
A relatively small number of playground injuries usually occur on seesaws and teeter-totters. In a few cases, injuries result from contact with the sharp edges of play equipment or falling after being struck with another type of playground equipment other than what the kid was playing on.
For instance, your child can be struck while walking past a moving swing to go to a slide. Playgrounds with poorly maintained equipment present greater safety hazards that could lead to severe injuries.
You should always avoid playgrounds with poorly maintained surfacing material, rusty play equipment, or damaged fall surfaces.
Ways to Prevent Playground Injuries
Now that you understand the common types of playground injuries and their causes, let us discuss some of the measures that can be taken to minimize the risk and ensure your kids are safe.
1. Ensure your kids use age-appropriate equipment
As mentioned earlier, the most common playground injuries that occur due to falls are bone fractures and broken limbs. However, most doctors and playground experts believe that these injuries are preventable if kids use their age-appropriate equipment.
Quite often, you will come across young children who want to match the activities of their older counterparts on the playground.
For instance, you can have a 4-year-old who believes he/she can go across the monkey bar as fast as his/her 10-year-old friend.
While this might seem like a good thing, the truth is that it endangers the child’s safety and puts him/her at an increased risk of suffering an injury. Typically, using equipment that isn’t age-appropriate will only increase your child’s chances of getting injured.
2. Check the play equipment temperature
As the weather warms up, some playground equipment can become too hot and cause severe burns. Metallic slides and swings still exist in some playgrounds, and if it is not well protected from direct sunlight, the metallic areas can become insanely hot.
As a parent or caregiver, it is your responsibility to test the temperature of equipment before allowing your kids to play on it. Furthermore, playground surfacing material that is not adequately covered by shade can also become too hot.
Some surfacing materials such as sand and pea gravel can absorb and retain heat for prolonged hours, making them a safety risk in the summer. Exposed concrete and asphalt around the playground can also become extremely hot.
It is critical to understand that severe burns don’t only happen in hot weather. Cases of burns have been reported in relatively low temperatures. Therefore, it is always good to test the temperature of the play equipment before allowing your little ones on it.
3. Close supervision is critical
While this may seem obvious, the truth is that not all parents keep a close eye on their kids when they are out playing.
Active supervision can prevent an accident before it happens and save your kid. Make sure your children are using age-appropriate equipment and observe all playground rules. Separate older kids from younger kids to make your supervision a little bit easier.
Besides supervising your children, you should inspect the play equipment for potential hazards and report any problems to the officials. If something is wrong with the play equipment, don’t allow your kids on it until the damage is fully repaired.
You should also ensure your little ones are using equipment properly. The common pieces of equipment associated with playground injuries include slides, overhead ladders, swings, and climbers.
4. Dress your kids appropriately
Before you step out of the house, make sure your children have dressed appropriately. Remove scarves, jewelry, purses, open shoes, and clothing with drawstrings that could easily get caught on play equipment, posing a significant hazard for strangulation.
If the weather is relatively warm, dress them in lightweight clothing to prevent overheating and protect their skin from hot surfaces.
However, if the weather is cool, ensure your kids wear fitting and warm clothes. When they arrive at the playground, make sure they put on closed shoes to protect their feet. Avoid open shoes or plastic shoes while on the playground.
5. Teach your kids proper playground etiquette
Kids are always eager to visit the playground. However, before you step out, it is always good to have a candid conversation with them and remind them of basic playground safety rules.
Remind them to stay calm and patient, avoid pushing others in an attempt to be the first one on play structures, and avoid engaging in dangerous activities. Be sure to punish anyone who breaks the rules so that others can learn a lesson and take the rules seriously.
Once you are on the playground, monitor them closely to keep everyone safe. Ensure your little ones are always visible even when they are in crawl spaces or tunnels. But don’t be so strict to the point of interfering with their unstructured free play.
6. Beware of choking and strangulation hazards
Play structures with nets may appear safe because they provide kids with a soft landing spot in case of a fall. However, most of us don’t know that cargo nets can be quite harmful if the openings are bigger.
Typically, nets with a perimeter opening of between 18 to 28 inches could pose a significant danger for your children. These nets are mostly found on indoor playground equipment.
Safer nets should have smaller openings such that a child’s body can’t go through but large enough for their head to fit.
Wearing helmets on a playground can also pose a strangulation hazard. A simple mistake can turn a standard helmet into a dangerous thing. Therefore, it is always good to leave helmets at home.
To prevent head injuries, playground owners are encouraged to provide softer landing surfaces that don’t pose strangulation risks.
There is nothing more enjoyable for your kid than a playground. A good playground offers your little one a perfect platform to try out a lot of things and explore their imagination. However, playground injuries are quite common, and parents need to be aware of safety hazards.
As a parent, the last thing you want to deal with is an injured kid fighting for his/her life because you failed to protect him/her.
Take time to learn different ways you can prevent playground injuries and practice them. You can always keep your children safer and happier throughout the years by following the simple tips outlined in this post.