Welcome to Growing Up with Dr. Sarah!
April 14, 2022

Playground Safety Tips from a Pediatrician

Playground Safety

  • Great way to get your children outside to release some energy, enjoy the fresh air and play with other children. 
  • Playgrounds are also a community gathering place for children as well as adults. 
  • For many families, going to the playground is the children's number one request.
  • Playing is critical to your child's development and playgrounds offer a variety of equipment such as swings, slides, and monkey bars that your child can use to grow and develop their physical and problem-solving skills.
  • Your child can do all sorts of fun things while at the playground, from running and playing a game of tag with the other kids to swinging on swings or climbing a tree.
  • While playgrounds are an excellent source of fun, they can also be a leading source of injuries.
  • Many accidental injuries happen on playgrounds due to equipment that is in disrepair, improperly using the equipment, or not being under the supervision of a responsible adult.
  • Even though most injuries that kids experience on the playground are just minor scrapes and cuts, it is possible for your child to incur a more serious injury such as a fractured bone, dental injury, or even a concussion. 
  • By following these simple safety precautions, you can lower your child's risk of experiencing an injury at the playground.

 

Make Sure the Playground is Safe 

  • Before your child starts to use any of the equipment on the playground, take a brief walk through the area. Make sure that the playground is secure and free of obvious dangers such as broken glass or used syringes.
  • Check the type of safety surface and determine whether there is enough shock-absorbing material such as gravel, wood chips, mulch, sand, or shredded rubber. The type of shock-absorbing surface has a considerable impact on the prevention of a serious injury in case your child were to fall off of the equipment.
  • Avoid playgrounds that only have concrete, asphalt, dirt, or grassy surfaces. These materials will not absorb the impact of a fall, which could lead to a more serious injury.
  • During your walk through the playground, also look for signs of damaged or broken equipment. 
  • Look at the hardware to see if there are any loose or missing screws or bolts. 
  • Check for signs of rust. 
  • Give the guard rails a gentle shake to make sure that they are securely attached.
  • The platforms of slides and climbing structures should have secure railings to protect kids from falling. 
  • Also, look for tripping hazards such as tree roots, loose stepping stones, or rocks that have shifted out of place.

 

Choose Age-Appropriate Playground Equipment

  • Another common reason why kids get hurt while playing at playgrounds is because they are using equipment that was not designed for their size or developmental level. 
  • Kids can get hurt when they are trying to use the equipment for children who weigh more or less or who are taller or shorter than they are.
  • Look for posted signs about the recommended age for the equipment. 
  • Some playgrounds have separate play areas for children ages two to five and for children ages five and older. 
  • If you have toddlers, seek out a playground that is designed for kids of young ages.
  • Allowing a small child to play on equipment that is designed for much older kids increases their risk of experiencing a fall. 
  • The rails and straps may not be able to secure a child who is much smaller and lighter. 
  • Similarly, older kids may be able to climb right to the top of a structure and risk falling from a high altitude.
  • If your younger kids express an interest in playing on the equipment for the big kids, guide them to another activity. 
  • Even if your kids are unhappy about not being able to do what they want to do, it is not worth the risk of getting hurt. 
  • Do your best to guide your kids to the equipment that is best suited to their age and size.

 

Dress for Play

  • Before leaving home for the playground, make sure that your kids are dressed in clothing that will keep them safe and comfortable. 
  • Remember that playgrounds can be dusty, dirty and muddy, so dress them in clothes that you do not care about getting stained or torn. 

 

  • Many types of clothing can endanger a child on the playground. Avoid clothes that have a loose fit that could get caught or snagged on rails and posts. 
  • Kids should not be wearing anything around their necks due to the risk of strangulation. 
  • If your child has a necklace, scarf or helmet, these should be removed and set aside before your child starts to play.

 

  • Your child should wear closed-toe athletic shoes with tightly tied laces that will not come undone. 
  • Another option is to wear shoes that have elastic laces that will not untie. 
  • Avoid wearing flip-flops or sandals at the playground. 
  • These types of footwear do not protect the feet from injury.
  • Don’t forget to put sunscreen on your kids during late spring through early autumn in order to prevent painful sunburns.

 

Supervise Your Kids 

  • The simplest and most important way to keep your kids safe at the playground is to keep your eyes on them at all times. 
  • Keep them at arm's reach if you have toddlers or preschool-aged kids,
  • You may even need to get on the equipment with them
  • If they do get injured, you will be right there to respond and assess the scope of the injury.
  • Standing close to your kids at the playground also helps to prevent them from wandering out of the area and getting lost. 
  • Your presence will also deter any child predators from talking to your kids or trying to abduct them.

 

  • Older kids - probably will not want you standing right next to them the whole time, and that is okay. You can observe from a respectable distance and only come closer if you see that your child is in a dangerous situation.
  • For children of any age, you can intervene when you feel like there is an immediate danger. 
  • Guide your child to another place on the playground and explain what the danger was so that your child understands the change in inactivity. 
  • Playgrounds are also a common site for fighting and bullying, and your presence will keep the area safer for everyone.

 

Be Mindful of the Weather 

  • During the summertime, playground equipment that is made of metal and aluminum can get hot enough to burn your child's skin. 
  • You can test the temperature of the swings and slides by pressing your hand onto them. 
  • If it feels hot to you, keep your child off of it. 
  • Even plastic swing seats can get hot, especially if they are made of a dark material. 
  • Your child's skin could get blisters and burns within mere minutes of touching hot materials.
  • Playgrounds with partial shade 
  • Water to stay hydrated
  • Watch for puddles on equipment if it rained recently - slippery

 

Talk to Your Kids

  • Set the rules and expectations for the visit. Explain to your kids what they are allowed to do and not to do. 
  • Discuss potential dangers such as pushing others or not looking where they are walking. 
  • Talk about what could happen if a child gets shoved on top of the slide.

 

  • Explain to your kids that they need to be cognizant of the space around the equipment so that they don't get kicked in the head by someone on the swings. 
  • Keep your eyes on your kids to make sure that they are following the rules that you have set.

 

  • Encourage good manners and explain taking turns and sharing. 
  • Let your kids know that injuries can happen and that they can be prevented. 
  • Playground safety is similar to safety at home and at school. 
  • You might even consider showing your kids how to use equipment that they have never tried out before.

 

Playgrounds are a great place where kids can play and stay active while breathing in the fresh air. By keeping your eyes on your kids and setting the rules in advance, you can help to ensure that each visit to a playground is a safe one. Understanding how to play safely and how to be kind while playing will help your kids to develop great skills that they will use throughout life.