Safety at the playground

Published in For the Health of It Author: Abigail Taylor,MD

Play is an important part of children’s physical, social and emotional development. Playgrounds provide the opportunity to work on balance, coordination and flexibility. Fresh air and interacting with other children are just a few of the other benefits. Yet, before you open the vehicle door and let your children run freely, keep safety in mind. Each year emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children for playground-related injuries.

Playground safety tips

  • Choose an age-appropriate playground. Since children differ in size and ability, not all playground equipment will appeal to and be safe for all ages. Evaluate if the swings, slides, and climbing equipment are at the proper height for your child. The higher the equipment, the more potential for a dangerous fall. Here are some age-specific tips to keep in mind:
    • Babies and young toddlers need safe spaces to crawl, stand and walk.
    • Ages two to five enjoy play areas that include smaller steps, lower platforms and crawl spaces.
    • School-age children look for more challenging equipment such as ropes, sliding poles, horizontal bars and cooperative pieces like tire swings.
    • An open space that allows children to run and play ball can appeal to all ages.
  • Check that the equipment is properly maintained. Before starting to play, take a quick walk around and make sure that there is no broken equipment or areas that may be hazardous for trapping or strangulation. Equipment should be free of deterioration such as rust, cracks or splinters.
  • Teach children about safety rules. Proper playground etiquette will go a long way in keeping your children safe and help them play cooperatively. Rules can include use the equipment properly, feet first on the slide, no pushing or shoving, wear shoes, walk cautiously around swings, wait until the other child is finished before taking a turn and treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Provide proper adult supervision at all times. While it can be tempting to take a seat on the park bench and chat with another adult or check emails on your phone, remember that children need to be watched attentively and assisted on certain equipment or activities. Young children struggle with depth perception and may not have developed a healthy sense of caution. If there are various ages of children at the playground you may need to give friendly reminders to slow down and be careful around the younger children.