eaching kids how to play safely is important. If they know the rules of the playground, they're less likely to get injured. Many playground related injuries can be prevented with the proper supervision. Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment offer children fresh air and exercise, so it’s important for adults to make sure that the play equipment is safe and students are not engaged in careless behavior. You can help make the playground entertaining and safe for children by checking equipment on your community playground for potential hazards and following some simple guidelines.
Why are safe playgrounds important?
“Play” is the work of children. It is how they learn about objects and social relation. It is the vehicle for children to be able to make sense of the world and assists them with the development of motor skills, perspectives and stimulates their imagination. Children learn how to get along with other children, and avoid obesity through physical activity.
Playground Design & Surfaces
Know the equipment that children are playing on in your community. The most important factors in evaluating the safety of any playground are proper surface, design and spacing, and equipment inspection and maintenance. If you live in a subdivision that maintains the neighborhood play equipment, check with your HOA to ensure that the play equipment is regularly inspected and maintained.
A proper playground surface is one of the most important factors in reducing injuries — and the severity of injuries — that occur when kids fall from equipment. The surface under the playground equipment should be soft and thick enough to soften the impact of a child's fall.
Here are some things to consider:
- Grass, soil, and packed-earth surfaces are unsafe because weather and wear can reduce their capacities to cushion a child's fall.
- The surfaces may be loosely filled with materials like wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or shredded rubber. Surfacing mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials are also safe.
- Loose-fill materials will compress at least 25% over time due to use and weathering. It requires frequent maintenance to ensure surfacing levels never drop below the minimum depth.
- The cushioned surface should never fall below 9 inches in depth and should extend at least 6 feet past the equipment.
- The playground surface should have good drainage and be free of standing water and debris that could cause kids to trip and fall, such as rocks, tree stumps, and tree roots.
- Check the vicinity of the play equipment. There should be no dangerous materials, like broken glass or twisted metal.
Keep in mind that even proper surfacing can't prevent all injuries. Also, the greater the height of the equipment, the more likely kids may get injured if they fall from it.
Playground equipment should be designed for three different age groups: infants and toddlers under 2, 2- to 5-year-olds (preschoolers), and 5- to 12-year-olds (school-age kids). Although the intended group should be obvious from the design and size of the equipment, signs posted in the area or on the equipment should give some guidance to the age appropriateness of the equipment.
In the safest playgrounds, play areas for younger children are separated from those meant for older kids and signs clearly designate each area to prevent confusion.
Younger children should not play on equipment designed for older kids because the equipment sizes and proportions won't be right for small kids, and this can lead to injury. Likewise, older kids shouldn't play on equipment designed for younger ones. Smaller equipment and spaces can cause problems for bigger kids.
Adult supervision can help prevent injuries by making sure kids properly use playground equipment and don't engage in unsafe behavior around it. If an injury does occur, an adult can assist the child and administer any needed first aid right away.
Kids should always have adult supervision on the playground. Young kids (and sometimes older ones) can't always gauge distances properly and aren't capable of foreseeing dangerous situations by themselves. Older kids like to test their limits on the playground, so it's important for an adult to be there to keep them in check.
Before you visit a playground, check to make sure that play areas are designed to allow an adult to clearly see kids while they're playing on all the equipment.
Before children are allowed to play, look for safety hazards, such as broken glass and litter. Check for objects (like hardware, S-shaped hooks, bolts, and sharp or unfinished edges) that stick out on equipment and could cut a child or cause clothing to become entangled. Also, since we live in Arizona, check the equipment to make sure it is not hot.
It's important to take a general look at the equipment that children play on to make sure that it is clean and well maintained.
- All fasteners, connectors and covering devices should not loosen or be removable without the use of tools.
- All hooks, such as S-hooks and C-hooks should be closed (no gaps).
- There should be no broken equipment.
- Wooden equipment should not be cracking or splintering.
- Metal equipment should not be rusted.
- Surface materials on the playground should be maintained regularly so that the surfacing is loosely packed and covers all appropriate areas — especially the fall zones surrounding playground equipment.
- Playground equipment should be made of durable materials that won't fall apart or worn down too much by the weather.
All hardware on equipment should be secure, with no loose or broken parts. Plastic and wood should show no signs of weakening, and there should not be any splintered or rusted surfaces.
Help keep your playground clean and safe by picking up trash, using the equipment properly, and reporting any problems to the city or HOA that is responsible for the upkeep of the play equipment.