Playground equipment may seem all fun and entertaining until your child gets injured. The equipment there can be quite dangerous if playground operators don’t put proper measures into place. That’s why it’s advisable that both the parents and children get to know some of the most important playground safety tips.
Some of the most common playground safety measures you should know include:
- Proper dressing
- Using age appropriate equipment
- Checking the temperatures
- Avoiding ropes
- Safe fall techniques
If you’re not sure where to start from as much as playground safety is concerned, then you’re in the right place. Here are the top ten playground safety tips from the experts that can help you improve your current playground conditions and also raise playground safety awareness.
1. Playground Inspection
Playground inspection is quite necessary as it prevents accidents, hence ensuring your children’s safety. When conducting playground inspections, you want to systematically assess it to see if there is a breakage on the structures, damage, or vandalism. Also, look out for structure deterioration, wear and tear, and exposure.
While still at it, don’t forget to remove any litter around the playground. There could be some hazardous materials near the area, so a thorough sweep could help save the day.
Though playground inspection is basically about ensuring children’s safety, this exercise can also help maintain the playground equipment’s aesthetic value, usability, and sanitation.
Playground inspection should be an everyday exercise conducted by both the caregivers/parents and children. But, it’s also advisable that playground operators hire a professional or a trained person on playground equipment to do it periodically.
The frequency on which professionals inspect playgrounds depends on several factors. Such factors include:
- The playground’s level of use
- weather conditions
- Environmental issues
- Type of playground structures
- Playground surfacing.
Remember, as an operator, you must inspect playground structures with moving parts regularly to maintain and replace broken parts.
The inspectors you hire must thoroughly evaluate the entire playground by moving under, on top, and around the equipment to spot various issues. They should also touch various parts to see if they’re securely attached. Finally, advise your children to report to any adult near them if they see any dangerous substance like a sharp metal or broken glass on the ground.
2. Dress Your Children Appropriately to Ensure Safety
The number of children rushed to emergency rooms in the US every year to get treated for playground-related injuries keeps rising. While most of these injuries are from falling off playground equipment, how you dress your children also contributes to some of them. The idea of dressing is to encourage both free play and safety. Here are some of the dressing safety tips you can follow to prevent playground accidents related to clothing.
Choose Long-Sleeved Shirts and Long Pants
It doesn’t matter if it’s hot outside or not, your children should always wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to playgrounds. Such clothing covers their body and skin adequately so they don’t get too exposed to the sun and remain protected from scrapes and mosquito bites. Neither the shirt nor the pants should be too tight or too loose to get easily caught.
Additionally, the pants should be a bit stretchy to ensure free play, like track pants and joggers. An ideal shirt that ensures both cooling and comfort comes out of breathable materials like cotton. Cotton fabric can also wick away their body moisture and keep them cool all day long. Avoid shirts with hoodies and drawstrings as they can easily get caught and cause an accident.
Avoid Sandals/ Open Shoes
These types of shoes don’t offer any protection whatsoever on your children’s feet, so you must avoid them even when it’s hot. Instead, opt for closed shoes like sneakers for optimal feet protection. Also, ensure you securely tie their shoelaces before they leave, or better, buy them laceless shoes for the playground.
They must also wear their socks to avoid blister formation. Always remind your kids not to remove their sneakers while playing to avoid getting feet punctured by sharp objects.
Ensure You Tie up their Hair
Ensure you properly tie their hair up in the house for children with long hair before they leave for playgrounds. Tying up their hair ensures it doesn’t get caught on the playground structures.
Limit Accessories As Much As Possible
Accessories such as necklaces and bracelets are huge accident risks on the playground. When these types of accessories get caught on the playground equipment, they can cause strangulations or abrasions. If they must wear accessories, you can only allow a pair of earrings.
3. Provide Active Supervision
Active supervision is not only excellent in ensuring playground safety. It also ensures positive and healthy play experiences. The adults offering active supervision must be alert and aware of what happens on the playground. Also, they need to be always ready to intervene whenever a problem occurs and understand safe playground rules.
They need to position themselves in a manner with which they can observe, watch the behaviors of all children playing, and listen to them. They must also know how to anticipate what these children will do, get involved in their activities, and advise them when necessary.
The adult supervisors need to continuously scan the playground environment to know where every child is and check on what they’re up to. The absence of noise can sometimes mean danger. There is some specific noise that can also signify danger.
There must always be more than one adult supervisor at a given time because of the many distractions that can occur. For instance, in case of an accident, you’ll need to rush the injured child to the hospital quickly. The remaining supervisor should take over and remove the remaining children from the playground quickly enough.
4. Ensure Proper Fall Surfacing
Most of the injuries incurred in playgrounds are a result of falls on unsafe surfaces. Proper playground surfacing plays a significant role in ensuring children’s safety since it prevents injuries. Follow the below tips to ensure proper playground fall surfacing.
You need to select an appropriate material for the playground surfacing to ensure playground safety. Place the material both under all equipment and around the playground area. The best materials you can place in and around the playground include unitary materials like rubber tile and loose-fill such as crumb rubber, sand, wood products, and pea gravel. Avoid concrete, dirt, cement, and asphalt.
Height of the Playground Equipment
In case a child falls from a piece of equipment, will the playground surface provide adequate protection? Remember, the equipment’s height can limit what material is used in the surfacing. That is because different heights require different types of surfacing materials to offer adequate protection if a child falls.
Depth of the Surfacing Material
The thickness of the surface also matters greatly. Every playground is different, and so are the materials used in and around them. But the depth of the surfacing material used should be between 8-12 inches to keep your little ones safe when they fall.
5. Check the Safety of Each Playground Equipment
Each playground equipment has a different safety concern. The most common types of equipment found on playgrounds include swings, sea-saw, and slides. There is some equipment you shouldn’t allow kids to play on, no matter how careful they are.
Most children on playgrounds get injured from swings. But with a few precautions, you can help your children to swing safely. First, ensure your children only swing on swings made of rubber and other soft materials. Avoid metal or wood swings by all means because they pose a danger to the kids.
Also, teach your children to always sit on the swing seats and hold tightly on the handles while swinging. They shouldn’t kneel or stand on them as they can easily fall from such positions. The children can only get off the swings once they’ve stopped completely.
Not more than one child should ride on the swing as they can only hold one kid safely at a time. Remember to always keep a safe distance between the children on the swings and those not riding. The collision can be deadly if it happens.
Seesaw and Merry Go Round
For these two pieces of playground equipment, there should be cooperation between children. Note that they’re not safe for preschoolers. You need to approach both the merry-go-round and the seesaw with caution.
Just like swings, don’t allow more than one child on a seesaw or merry-go-round seat. On a seesaw, ensure the two children have the same weight or are not too farther apart. They should also sit facing each other. Let them hold on tightly to the equipment when playing and avoid touching the ground.
Kids should never slide down in groups. Only allow one child at a time, with feet first and sitting in an upright position. Teach them always to take one step at a time, and when climbing the ladder to reach the top of the slide, they should hold tightly to the handrails.
Finally, the bottom of the slides must always be clear for the kids to land safely. So, once a kid slides to the bottom, they should immediately move away. Moving away from the slide’s end allows other children on top of the slide to slide and reach down safely.
6. Be Careful On Rope-Based Playgrounds
Most people have fond memories of playing with ropes in their childhood. It was all fun and entertaining then, and thank goodness nothing bad happened.
However, playing with ropes can turn out quite dangerous if you don’t take proper care. Even though some may look stronger, when put under excess tension, a rope can easily fail. The biggest risk about playing with ropes is strangulation.
A rope playground equipment can help improve your children’s physical abilities. These types of equipment may include climbing structures, rotating towers made of ropes, and net towers.
Before taking your children to a rope-based playground, ensure you teach them some basic rules to ensure their safety. Let them know that it’s not safe for them to shove or push other children. Also, they can only play in turns and should be patient enough to wait for their turn.
Always check if the rope-based playground equipment is in excellent condition before letting your child climb on it. The best rope materials are manila and polyester twisted. Manila ropes not only offer excellent flexibility but are also salt water-resistant and highly durable.
Similarly, polyester twisted ropes offer high abrasion resistance. They can also resist mildew, rot, and withstand weather elements.
7. The Children Should Only Play On Age-Appropriate Equipment
If you didn’t know, most accidents that happen on playgrounds would result from children playing on equipment that doesn’t fit their age. Preschoolers, for instance, shouldn’t be allowed on some playground equipment like swings since their upper body strength isn’t developed yet. NPPS has some age-appropriate equipment recommendations for different age groups, 6-23months, 2-5years, and 5-12years.
Playing only on age-appropriate playground equipment does offer your children safety. It can also help develop the children’s cognitive and physical abilities and enhance their sensory organs. You should choose age-appropriate equipment based on its size.
A good playground equipment designer will consider several factors, depending on each age group. Such factors include the national safety guidelines, cognitive and physical abilities, and anthropomorphic research.
The sizing also matters in defining age-appropriate equipment. You must note that standing and seating heights will greatly vary, depending on a child’s age.
Their abilities will also vary. So, before letting your child play on a piece of playground equipment, you must first consider all the above factors. You should always be there to offer your supervision and guide them whenever they play on a new structure.
8. Teach Your Children the Safe Fall Techniques
No parent likes to think that their children will fall from playground equipment and probably get hurt. However, this is something that usually happens on playgrounds and can lead to serious injuries. Thankfully, there are several safe fall techniques that you can practice or teach to your children to avoid severe falls. Here are some of those techniques.
Teach Them to Stay Bent
Whenever a child senses danger, that is, when they lose their balance, they should learn to stay bent and fall on their knees and elbow. This landing will surely soften the impact on reaching the playground surface.
They Should Protect Their Heads
Hitting your head hard on the surface can cause some serious, long-lasting internal injuries. If you’re falling on your back, practice tucking your chin to your chest to ensure your head doesn’t hit the ground. Also, if falling forward, turn your head facing sideways.
Land on the Meaty Parts
By all means, you should avoid landing on your bones as they can easily break. Your thighs or butt can surely offer the needed support.
Once you’ve landed on the surface, keep rolling on the floor. This safe fall technique will ensure your safety in the long run.
9. Confirm the Equipment Temperature before Allowing Your Kids In
Weather is something we can’t control but can greatly affect the safety of a playground. Whether too cold or too hot, your children will be at risk playing.
Don’t allow your children on metal playground equipment when the weather rises high. That’s because metal is a good heat conductor that can cause heat-related injuries to your dear babies. They can easily get thermal burns. Don’t allow them if the weather index hits 90 degrees and above.
Always check that the equipment temperatures are ideal for your children to play.
10. Always Carry With You A Hard Copy of Playground Safety Report Card
There are several other safety recommendations that a parent or caregiver can easily forget. That’s so common with so many things a parent has to think about, like what you’ll eat later after playing and how you’ll get back home. It’s always good to carry with you a hard copy checklist whenever you visit playgrounds.
With such a safety report card at hand, you can prevent many mistakes to ensure the playground is in a safe condition. You can always download one from the National Program for Playground Safety-NPPS.
An accident can still occur on a playground, no matter how thorough and careful you may be. Some accidents can be catastrophic while others are just simple scratches. Still, you need to be very vigilant as much as playground safety is concerned.
By following the ten tips from the playground experts discussed in this article, you can greatly improve the playground equipment’s conditions and enhance playground safety.
Always check your safety score to make sure that the park, recreational facility, or school playground is safe for all children. The NPPS report card, for instance, can come in handy in ensuring playground safety. Don’t also forget to inspect the area around the playground and apply common sense while at it to keep your playground safe.