Playgrounds should be a place where your children can have fun without having to worry about the risk of injury. Unfortunately, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in the United States approximately 200,000 children are treated in emergency departments for injuries sustained at a playground. Of these injuries, 45 percent of them are severe fractures, concussions, dislocations, internal injuries, and amputations, and more than 75 percent of the accidents occurred at public playgrounds according to a report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Public playgrounds refer to those located at apartment complexes, fast food restaurants, daycares, schools, and public parks.
The study also found that the age group with the highest occurrence of these injuries is children aged five to nine years old. These types of injury can be prevented with some added attention to both the supervision of the children and maintenance of the equipment itself.
Probably one of the best things you can do as a parent to protect your child is pay attention to what they are doing. This may seem like it goes without saying, but many accidents could have been prevented had an adult recognized the risks. This includes knowing what pieces of equipment is appropriate for your child. It is also pertinent to inform your children of the safety rules and make sure you enforce these rules—if the child doesn’t believe there are consequences to breaking the rules, what will stop them from doing something dangerous?
Some suggested rules are:
- On a sunny day, metal equipment gets hot and could burn you. You should not go on a metal slide on a hot day.
- Always wear shoes that cover your feet to avoid cuts and splinters.
- Do not play on wet equipment.
- Use the slide one person at a time, and make sure no one else is on the slide when you go down. Only go down the slide facing forward and move away from the bottom of the slide as soon as you get down so that no one slides into you.
- Don’t climb on support beams and don’t climb over guardrails.
- Wait until your swing stops to get off.
- Do not walk to close to moving swings because you could get kicked.
- Only one person on each swing.
When choosing a playground that is safest for your child you should pay specific attention to the type of surfaces. If the playground has a lot of concrete or asphalt, the injuries that can occur would be more severe than at a playground with soft ground surfaces like sand, wood mulch, or shredded tires. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends that packed dirt, grass, soil, and turf not be used as a playground surface. They explain that, “their ability to absorb shock can be affected greatly by weather conditions and wear.”
In an ideal playground you would want it to be formatted in the safest way. For example, a playground should have different types of activities separated; swings should be away from quieter areas like the sandbox. Also, it would be beneficial if there was a toddler section of the playground separate from the area where older kids would play. You also want a playground that does not have vision obstruction so that parents can properly monitor their children.
It is good to routinely check your local playground for any hazards or things in need of repair. If you find something that needs to be fixed, bring it to the attention of the town, school, etc. that is in charge of maintaining the property. The CPSC has specific guidelines for playground equipment; to check if your playground meets them you can request one free of charge by writing to U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207.
Utilizing these prevention tips does not guarantee that your child will not be injured at the playground but it does greatly reduce the chances. Too many children are getting injured when these accidents could have been prevented.