It is important to encourage children to play outdoors whenever possible - this promotes healthy development and physical activity.
Trampolines, swings, slides, roundabouts, climbing frames and bouncy castles are some of the many popular types of play equipment that children love to play with and be active on, yet all of them present their own potential risks.
Take action now to reduce the risks
- Supervise your children while they play.
- Allow children to play only on equipment suitable to their age and developmental stage.
- Check that all play equipment is in good condition - both in your own home and before you let your children on play equipment in parks, other houses, etc.
- Make sure that safety features are an integral part of play equipment whether in public places or when purchasing them - for example safety net on trampolines, helmets for cycling.
- Purchase good quality play equipment - make sure it has a recognised safety symbol such as the CE mark, is well made - with no sharp edges or bits sticking out which could get caught up in clothing - and can be secured to the ground safely.
- Properly assemble and secure play equipment - following manufacturer's instructions - and install all the necessary safety features.
- Locate play equipment in a safe area of the garden not too near walls, trees or hard surfaces such as tarmac, decking or paths, or near places where children might try to jump on to or off of.
- When installing play equipment ensure that the ground clearance around it is adequate for the child to be able to play on it without hitting anyone or another item/structure. It is also important to ensure that if a child jumps or falls off, they won't be crashing into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves.
- Read the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission's advice about Toys and Play Equipment Safety.
- Do not use a baby walker - it serves no beneficial function to children, may hinder walking ability and it places babies at greater risks of burns, scalds, head injuries, falls and poisonings.
- Make sure that your children cannot access the road or the farm when they are playing outdoors.
- Keep children indoors when grass or hedges are being cut. If this is not possible, they should be supervised closely by a second adult.
- Keep children well away from lawnmowers, strimmers, etc. Remember danger comes not just from body contact with the blades or motor - blade speed can also eject an object at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.
- Keep children well away from barbecues - devastating burn injuries can occur in seconds.
- This video from TIE (Toy Industries of Europe) highlights twelve of their top tips to help keep children safe during play. These are actions such as, buying toys from trustworthy retailers, who you know will accept returns on faulty goods; paying attention to age labels; making sure toys are used as intended; supervising play and even tidying up toys!
Many children love the chance to have a go on a bouncy castle, either when you’re out and about visiting attractions, or if one has been hired especially for a children’s party. But as innocent as bouncing around on an inflatable castle may seem, there are some important potential dangers to be aware of.
Bouncy castles are safe as long as certain rules and regulations are followed:
- When the castle is set up, it needs to properly anchored to the ground with good mooring straps, to ensure it’s completely solid and can’t be accidentally blown by a strong gust of wind. Remember, weather can change in the blink of an eye, so even if the day appears calm, the bouncy castle must still be properly anchored to the ground.
- Don't place the bouncy castle on a hard surface such as concrete.
- Keep the area around the bouncy castle clear.
- It is important to ensure that if a child jumps or falls off, they won't be crashing into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves.
- Impact absorbing mats need to be used at the opening of the bouncy castle and around any sides that are open.
- All bouncy castle use by children, whether at a venue or at someone’s party, needs to be properly supervised by a responsible adults at all times.
- Before getting on the bouncy castle, children should remove their shoes and any articles of clothing or jewellery they have on that has sharp bits on it, as it could damage the inflatable.
- Keep a careful check of how many children are on the bouncy castle at any one time and what age groups they are. Too many children can cause problems and overload the bouncy castle, and older boisterous children could accidentally throw younger children off balance and cause accidents.
- If you’re hiring a bouncy castle, then it will come with recommendations for how many children can safely be on at any one time and what size or age they should be.
- Rotas can be used to ensure everyone gets a go safely.
- While bouncing is fine, children shouldn’t be allowed to try to climb the walls of the bouncy castle or attempt acrobatics, as both could be dangerous to them and other children using the inflatable.
- Keep a careful watch that the bouncy castle remains properly inflated during use - a deflating bouncy castle can cause serious injury.
- At private parties, do not allow children near the electricity supply for the bouncy castle - unplugging the cable will cause the castle to deflate which could cause serious injury.
Children can be easily injured on trampolines. Take action now:
- Always use a safety net - but remember that this does not protect against all injuries, so:
- Always supervise your child while he/she is on the trampoline
- Assemble the trampoline according to the manufacturer's instructions
- Do not allow children under six years of age to play on a trampoline
- Allow only one person on the trampoline at any time:
- always bounce in the middle
- never jump off
- stand back when someone else is using it
- never go under the trampoline when it's in use
- remove all jewellery, watches, necklaces or clothing that could catch
- Check the equipment regularly for safety conditions
- Remove trampoline ladders after use in order to prevent unsupervised access by young children
- Make sure there is enough protective padding around the supporting bars, strings and surrounding landing surfaces
- Never place the trampoline on a hard surface such as concrete
- Keep the area around the trampoline clear - so that if a child jumps or falls off, they won't be crashing into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves
- Trampolines can move around while in use so secure it to the ground.
Consider whether a trampoline is a suitable item for home use. Recommendations in a joint statement from the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine include:
- Trampolines should not be used for recreational purposes at home (including cottages and temporary summer residences) by children or adolescents.
- Health care professionals, including family physicians and paediatricians, should warn parents of the dangers of trampolines as a recreational toy at routine health care visits.
- Parents should be advised to avoid the purchase of trampolines for the home because enclosures and adequate supervision are no guarantee against injury.
- Trampolines should not be regarded as play equipment and should not be part of outdoor playgrounds.
In the case of swings, you should look out for:
- Ropes that are protected against wear at fixing points.
- Seats that are impact absorbing.
- Swing ropes that don't cross in the middle.
- 'S hook' fixings on swings that are closed or can be closed.
When installing the swing ensure that the ground clearance around it is adequate for the child to be able to swing without hitting anyone or another item/structure. It is also important to ensure that if a child jumps or falls off, they won't be crashing into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves.
As some degree of climbing will be involved with a slide (as well as the fun bit of sliding down!), you don't want children falling, especially if the slide wobbles due to it not being suitable for certain weights/ages.
So when you're choosing a slide, you need to look out for:
- Slides that have sides that are high enough to prevent falls.
- Guard sections and hand grips at the top of the slide, as these will help prevent falls.
- Slides that have access ladders and steps securely fixed to the side, so children won't have accidents getting onto the equipment.
When installing the slide ensure that the ground clearance around it is adequate so that children won't crash into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves.
You may think of roundabouts as only being suitable for larger spaces, but mini garden roundabouts exist, too. For the safety of your children these should ideally have:
- No unexpected protrusions underneath the equipment.
- Lots of hand grips dotted around, so that children can hold on safely.
- Room for children to comfortably sit on, to enjoy the ride.
- A smooth and relatively silent rotation.
When installing the roundabout ensure that the ground clearance around it is adequate so that children won't crash into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves.
To ensure Climbing Frame Safety in the garden, it should be:
- Nice and sturdy, so they won't topple over with the weight of children on them.
- Hand grips set at regular intervals, to enable safe climbing.
- Any ropes that are on it should be fixed top and bottom to reduce movement and enable safe climbing.
When installing the climbing frame ensure that the ground clearance around it is adequate so that children won't crash into an item/structure thereby hurting themselves.
Cycling is a great activity - take action now to make it a safe one:
- Children under 12 years should not cycle on their own in or near traffic- they do not have the necessary skills yet.
- Always accompany your children when they are cycling in or near traffic.
- If you are bringing your children cycling on a public road, make sure that they have the necessary skills and confidence to be safe.
- Use cycle lanes whenever possible.
- Your child should always wear a cycle helmet when using their bicycle – lead by example, wear your own helmet when cycling.
- Make sure your child's bicylce is in good condition (has good tyres, a bell, working brakes and lights, reflectors etc) and is suitable for their weight and height.
- Look out – stand out; always wear hi-vis clothing, especially in the dark or when visibility is poor - be safe be seen with hi-glo silver.
- Look at some of the excellent online information with your child:
Most unintentional injuries (often called accidents) can be prevented:
Remember the key message where child safety is concerned -
Watch your child at all times, as children do not understand danger