Every year, about 200,000 kids are injured seriously enough in public playgrounds that they require emergency room treatments. As seasonal warm weather starts to settle in and kids head to public parks and play spaces, National Playground Safety Week offers a good reminder to parents. Don’t take it for granted that the public or commercial play equipment that your kids like so much are safe – make it your business to check out these spaces for yourself. Don’t hesitate to call your Parks & Recreation department to ask about safety.
The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) offers a helpful checklist of things that you should look for in playgrounds. For other excellent guides, see KidsHealth and the
National Safety Council.
We’ve compiled just a few these tips:
Provide supervision. Adults should be on hand to watch for hazards and respond to any emergencies.
Ensure age-appropriate outdoor play. Make sure your kids are not using equipment that is above their age or safety level. See the NPPS guide for age appropriate design.
Be alert for clothing hazards. Be careful about strings on your kids’ clothing or on equipment. Strings can get caught causing strangulation.Remove strings, scarves, necklaces, and jewelry. Kids should also wear appropriate footwear. And here’s one important point: some parents might think a bike helmet would offer good playgroup protection – wrong! Playgrounds and helmets don’t mix. Helmets can snag on equipment or tree branches and cause asphyxiation.
Prevent burns. In addition to being careful that your kids are not out in the sun too long and have sunscreen to prevent burns, be sure to check the temperature of equipment surfaces. On a hot day, some equipment could be hot enough to cause burns. See Tips for limitings sun exposure.
Be alert for heavy molded plastic animal swings. Those animal swings might look fun to you and your kids, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recalled these a number of years ago because the weight and frame can cause serious injuries if they strike kids. CPSC offers a 61 page Public Playground Safety Handbook that offers more safety information.
If you are planning for equipment at homes, see the NPPS backyard playground video series for tips. And if you do have a backyard playground, make sure that you check with your insurance agent to be sure you have adequate liability insurance.