As a parent, you never want to think about your child getting hurt, but it can be an unfortunate reality. Around 9.2 million children visit the ER each year because of injuries, and falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injury. Many of these stem from outdoor playtime and time spent on playgrounds.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year more than 200,000 children 14 and younger go to the emergency room with injuries associated with playground equipment. Of these, more than 20,000 are treated for a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion.
The following is a guide for parents as far as what to know with playground safety.
Look for Hazards
You may assume that playgrounds are safe, and that’s not always the case. Playgrounds are often old and not up-to-date on current safety standards.
Around 80% of playground injuries are also caused by falls, so keep that in mind. Some of the hazards to watch for on the playground include:
- Look for improper surfaces on the ground beneath the play equipment. There should be a minimum of 12 inches of wood chips, sand, mulch, pea gravel, or mats that are made of rubber or a material that’s like rubber. There shouldn’t be exposed rocks, tree stumps or concrete footings.
- The recommended standard is that playground equipment should be a minimum of six feet in all directions as far as the area under and around it. Structures that are more than 30 inches high should be at least nine feet apart.
- If there’s a platform that’s higher than 30 inches, it should have barriers or guardrails.
- Make sure there are no sharp edges protruding from equipment like S hooks or bolt ends.
- Kids can get their head stuck in openings between rails, bars, and rungs so make sure there is enough space in the openings.
Make sure there is no rusted or broken equipment, either.
If your child is under five, they should only play on equipment designed for their age group and away from older kids.
Supervision Is Essential
Sometimes as parents, we might see a visit to the park as our time to relax and scroll through Instagram or read a book. That’s not a good idea, however.
It’s important you supervise your child at all times when they’re on playground equipment.
If you’re currently in the process of finding a daycare or preschool, you should ask their protocol for supervision during outside playtime.
Younger kids aren’t always sure of distance, and it can create problems on the playground, and older kids tend to want to show off or test limits which can be risky as well.
Since falls are one of the biggest risks for kids on the playground, it makes sense to pay particular attention to how to be safe on climbing equipment.
Climbing equipment might include ladders, arches, and climbing walls and it can be challenging for kids to navigate these structures.
Make sure that your kids know they need to use both hands and stay far away from the person in front of them.
When landing after jumping off something, kids should do so on both feet and with their knees bent.
Know the Signs of a Concussion
Concussions are one of the most serious and frequent injuries that children can get on the playground, in particular on climbing equipment, monkey bars and swings.
As a parent, know the signs of a concussion. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head or rapid movement of the head, causing the brain to move back and forth very fast.
Some of the signs and symptoms of a possible concussion may include:
- Seeming dazed or stunned
- Confused or forgetful
- Clumsy movements
- Slow to answer questions
- Brief loss of consciousness
- Changes in mood or behavior
- Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
- Nausea or vomiting
- Balance problems
- Blurry or double vision
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Feeling sluggish or groggy
- Concentration problems
If you notice any of these signs or something just seems off, you might want to get medical attention quickly.
Sometimes after a playground injury, it can take hours or days for symptoms to appear, so keep an eye on your child in the days following an incident.
Another playground risk area is slides. Slides can seem more innocent than climbing structures but can be just as dangerous.
First, you’ll need to check the temperature of slides before your child goes down them because, on a hot, sunny day, they can cause a serious burn.
Slides should have rails at the top, and the sides should be at least four inches high on open slides.
There shouldn’t be any debris at the base of the slide, and children should always go down feet first to avoid injuries to the head.
Never go down the slide with your child, with them on your lap.
This can lead to children’s legs getting caught and injured or broken as they go down.
When children are climbing to the top of the slide, they should always hold the handrail and not climb the slide itself. Only one child should slide at a time.
Other Playground Safety Tips
Other playground safety tips include:
- Teach your kids about proper behavior on the playground. They shouldn’t push or play roughly around the equipment.
- Before jumping off anything, your child should make sure they look to ensure no one is below them.
- No backpacks, bags, or bikes should be near equipment because they create a tripping hazard.
- Kids shouldn’t wear clothes with cords or drawstrings, or necklaces because they can get caught in equipment and post a strangulation risk.
Again, if you are worried about your kids on the playground at daycare, preschool, or elementary school, go and check out the equipment. You can also ask teachers and administrators what steps they take to keep kids safe.