Playgrounds make for the best entertainment on sunny days. My kids always tire themselves out climbing, sliding, running, and swinging—it’s all games, fun, and laughter. Unfortunately, as accidents are always waiting for a place to happen, playgrounds seem to happily apply for that job.
If, like me, an unexpected visit to the emergency room isn’t your idea of a fun day out, be sure to take extra precautions. We’ll look at how to keep your child safe on the playground as best you can.
With a bit of thoughtful preparation, a trip to the playground shouldn’t have to turn into a nightmare. Here’s what to think of and look out for:
What Not to Wear
Make sure you and your kids are dressed appropriately. Besides considering the equipment potentially being dirty or rusty, think ‘entanglement and strangulation hazards’ when getting your kids ready. Stay away from drawstrings, scarves, necklaces, or any other dangly bits that could get caught in playground equipment.
Safety comes first, but don’t overdo it. Helmets on a playground can also get caught, so leave those at home—or for the bike ride there and back.
Upon arrival, make a brief round over the playground and surrounding area. Ensure the ground surface under the playground equipment is suitable, and the equipment and fence around the playground are in good shape.
Surfaces should be shock-absorbing in case your child falls off the playground equipment. Head injuries, fractures, and concussions are all too common when falling onto concrete or asphalt, so choose a playground with a surface similar to:
- Wood fiber
- Rubber mulch
- Solid rubber
- Rubber tiles
- Pea gravel
- Artificial grass
When inspecting the equipment, look for hazards or signs of it being damaged or broken. Can you spot potential risks? These could include
- Loose parts
- Loose or missing bolts or screws
- Objects sticking out with sharp or unfinished edges
- Equipment with moving parts (merry-go-rounds, see-saws, swings) should be inspected for pinch points that could potentially crush a child’s finger
- Missing secure bars or railings in place to prevent falling off
- Tripping hazards such as stepping stones, rocks, or tree roots.
Last but not least, playground equipment may have nets. It may appear safer, as it provides for a softer landing when falling, but they can also be dangerous if the net openings are too big. The openings should be too small for the body to fit through, but large enough for the head.
Out to Play: Responsibilities
Once you’ve established the safety of the playground, surfaces, and equipment, and you made sure your kids are dressed appropriately, you’re good to go. Leaving it all to the gods from here would be a bit naive, though. It’s best not to expect you can finally read that bestseller in peace, yet.
If you have younger children, direct and active supervision is highly advisable. This means you may even need to be with them on the equipment to assist or be within an arm’s reach. It may help prevent injuries, or in case an injury does occur, you’re close enough to assist and tend to the injury immediately.
If you have older children, you may observe them from a bit further away. They may feel awkward having you too close at all times, so keep your distance and be ready to assist if you suspect immediate danger.
In any case, it’s a must to keep your eyes on your children at all times. Not only can you spot danger before your child becomes aware of it and intervene, but you should also be aware of any strangers trying to approach your child.
Make sure to check any signs indicating the age group the equipment is designed and suitable for. In general, equipment is suitable for up to five, or five years and older. Allowing your child to play on equipment that is meant to be for older kids may cause unnecessary harm.
Likewise, an older child on equipment meant for toddlers can also get injured or stuck, for the simple reason of it being the wrong size and ending up either breaking it or injuring themselves.
Be mindful of the weather and conditions of the playground after it has rained. Not only can equipment get slippery and, therefore, dangerous, the surrounding surfaces can also get muddy and slippery. They will be easy to slide on or get stuck in, so pay attention!
Hot or Not?
Alternatively, a very hot day has its own challenges on the playground. Metal and aluminum surfaces and even plastic can get so hot that they can leave burns or blisters, so be mindful. Test surfaces with your hand for several seconds before putting your child on it. Bringing a cloth or towel could help prevent these issues.
Playground Safety Rules for Kids
You didn’t think going to the playground would involve this much, right? Now that you’ve prepared yourself and your children made sure the playground is safe to use, and the weather conditions are considered safe for the use of equipment, it’s time to talk to your kids.
It’s advisable to have clear ground rules set before heading to the playground. Review these basic safety rules every time you’re on your way there. Basic safety rules for kids in any playground include the following:
- Sit down on swings and slow down before getting off
- Use both hands when climbing and make sure your feet are placed properly
- Avoid climbing on wet equipment or ask for assistance
- Only sit down the slide, one by one
- Don’t walk in front of swings, you might not be able to estimate speed properly
- Avoid broken equipment and inform an adult if anything is broken or damaged
- No pushing or shoving, it can be dangerous—take turns and be patient
Explain the dangers of pushing, hitting, and shoving others on equipment to your child, and make sure they adhere to these rules. If politeness, patience, and kindness are encouraged at an early age, your kids will hopefully apply them in other situations too.
Play it Safe
There’s no need to become an overly paranoid parent or to wrap your kids from head to toe in protective gear. Better not, as it might actually get caught and make things worse, as you now know! With a bit of mindful consideration and a clear set of safety rules, a trip to the playground should be the fun experience it is designed to be.
And if you do it well, supervise them actively and motivate them to do another round, run another lap, or climb that rack once more, you might even create your own opportunity to finally read that bestseller at night. Your kids will be sleeping like babies—win-win situation.