Playing it Safe on Playgrounds

Warmer weather means lots of time spent on backyard play sets or local playgrounds for families with children. But did you know that more than 600,000 children were injured on playgrounds in 2012 alone? The most common reason: falls.

Falls account for more than 40 percent of playground mishaps. Many of these injuries occur on monkey bars, swings and slides. Besides the occasional scrape or bruise, more serious injuries frequently include fractures, concussions and sprains. Burns are another potential playground risk. Even though many slides and other equipment are no longer made of metal, plastic and rubber surfaces can still become too hot for a child’s delicate skin.

Home playgrounds may be especially hazardous. In a recent study in the journal Injury Prevention, researchers compared 13 years of injury data for home and public playgrounds. They found younger children were more often injured on home play sets. What’s more, those injuries tended to be more severe. Why? Homeowners may not always follow proper playground construction, including installing soft landing surfaces.

8 Playtime Safety Tips

Not all playground injuries can be prevented. But you can limit accidents. Experts, including the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the Consumer Products Safety Commission, recommend the following safety measures:

  • Inspect the playground before allowing your child on it. Look for any sharp edges, protruding bolts or loose hand grips. If possible, remove any tripping hazards, such as tree roots or rocks.
  • Pick playgrounds that are age appropriate.
  • Choose a playground with a soft landing surface surrounding it. Good ground cover choices include mulch, wood chips and pea gravel.
  • Check the temperature of all equipment. Touch it to make sure it isn’t too hot for your child’s skin.
  • Dress your child appropriately. Shoes are a must. To avoid snags, don’t let your child wear jewelry or clothing with drawstrings or hoods.
  • Make sure the playground is regularly maintained. Call your local park district or other responsible party if problems persist.
  • Teach your child proper playground etiquette. For instance, always slide down feet first. Never share the slide with another child. And always use handrails.
  • Watch your child at all times.

If you have a home playground or want to build one, keep these additional precautions in mind:

  • Place a rubber safety mat or shock-absorbing material, such as mulch or sand, beneath and at least six feet around the play set. Grass doesn’t adequately soften falls.
  • Eliminate open spaces that can trap children. Make sure they are either smaller than 3.5 inches or bigger than nine inches.
  • Periodically inspect the landing surface and equipment. Make any repairs as necessary.

Wherever you choose to play, have a safe (and fun) spring!