If you have young children, chances are that you’re already familiar with your neighborhood playground. To a kid, there are few things more exciting than running, climbing, and crawling through playground structures with some friends. Visiting the playground allows your child to enjoy some time outdoors, explore their own physical strengths and limitations, and cooperate with their peers in a social environment. However, playground equipment can pose a significant hazard to a child’s wellbeing, particularly if it is old or poorly maintained.
In this article, we discuss some strategies you can use to keep your child safe when they visit a playground. By minimizing risk to the greatest extent possible, you help your kid have an enjoyable, safe experience.
Check for Playground Hazards
According to the National Safety Council, almost 80% of playground injuries are caused by falls. It’s essential to carefully inspect a playground’s climbing equipment before allowing your child to use it. If you observe anything you think is dangerous, do not allow your child to use the playground and report the hazard to the proper authorities immediately. Some potential dangers to be aware of include:
- Inadequately padded ground: The surfaces around and below playground equipment should consist of soft materials to cushion a child’s landing if they fall, trip, or slip. Sand, mulch, wood chips, and rubber mats are all acceptable materials for a playground’s flooring. Concrete flooring or rocks around equipment can cause serious injuries if a child falls.
- A lack of guardrails: Elevated structures should always have guardrails to prevent accidental falls.
- Overcrowded play areas: The areas around and under playground equipment should be completely clear, particularly for attractions such as slides or swings. Having a cluttered playground increases the chances of children running into one another.
- Potential for entrapment: The openings between the rungs of ladders, rails, and bars should be sized so that a child’s head could not possibly get stuck.
- Sharp or pointed objects: This goes without saying, but a playground should not have any sharp or protruding objects. “S” hooks, bolt ends, and broken equipment can cause serious cuts or scrapes.
If your child is hurt by dangerous, defective, or poorly maintained playground equipment, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. If a lawsuit is successful, you can collect damages to help cover the costs of any medical treatments your child needs. It is always a good idea to speak with an attorney before deciding upon a legal course of action. They can explain your options in detail and help you make the best decision for your family’s needs.
Always Keep an Eye on Your Child
It’s easy to think of a playground as a place where your child can enjoy some time outside with minimal supervision, but it’s absolutely essential to keep an eye on what they’re up to. Make sure that your child always uses the equipment properly. Using equipment incorrectly, such as by having multiple people going down a slide at one time, can cause serious injuries. Before you get to the playground, gently explain to your kid that they shouldn’t shove, push, or crowd other children.
Children of different ages play differently. Many playgrounds have specific areas for young children with less strenuous activities for them to enjoy. Make sure your child is using equipment that is safe for their age and current state of physical development. If you have a baby that’s just learning to walk, check that the ground is soft and smooth. Finally, you should be mindful of your child’s clothing before even getting to the playground. Necklaces, backpacks, scarves, or purses can get caught on equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.
Equipment Safety Guidelines
Although every play area has a unique combination of swings, slides, and other equipment, there are some items that are found at most playgrounds. In the following sections, we share tips for common items playground equipment that you and your child are likely to encounter.
Playgrounds frequently contain multiple different types of climbing equipment, from rock walls to ladders. If your child wants to climb, make sure they have a safe way to get back to the ground if they are unable or unwilling to complete the climb. Explain to your child that they need to follow other climbers at a safe distance and use both hands at all times, so they don’t slip and fall.
As long as your child is careful when going down a slide, they should be reasonably safe. Some things to keep in mind regarding slides:
- Kids should never go down a slide headfirst, even if the landing area is padded. When going down a slide, your child should always go feet-first and seated.
- Only one person should use the slide at a time. Kids should only enter a slide when they see that the rider before them has exited the slide and moved out of the way.
- Teach your child to move out of the way once they exit the slide, so they don’t get run over by the next person to come down.
Swings are capable of causing serious injuries if they are misused. To reduce the chances of your child suffering harm, you should make sure that:
- The swings themselves are made of a soft material such as plastic or rubber, not metal or wood
- Your child knows to always sit in the swing and hold tightly to the ropes with both hands while in motion
- There aren’t people walking in front of or behind the swings while they are in use
- There is not more than one person on a single swing at any time
Unlike most other playground items, a seesaw requires cooperation between multiple children. You should make sure your child is paired with another kid of a similar size or weight, so that the seesaw functions as intended. Be sure that the kids are facing one another, not turned around. Children should hold on tightly to the seesaw with both hands and keep their feet to their sides so they can’t get caught in the ride.
Enjoying a Safe Excursion to the Playground
We hope that this article helps you and your loved ones enjoy your next trip to the neighborhood playground. By keeping an eye on your child and checking the state of the equipment before they begin to play, you can reduce the chances of an avoidable accident occuring.