Spring is here and the playgrounds are open again! All of us have fond memories of playing at recess or going to the park with our families. Playgrounds are a great place to enjoy the outdoors with friends and to develop our physical fitness and agility.
Did you know that April 24th through April 27th is National Playground Safety Week? This is a time where we focus on the outdoor environments where our children play. As parents and children, we commit to being safe and making good decisions when playing. We acknowledge those who have built and maintained our playgrounds to ensure our children’s safety.
Inspect Your Playground
Playground safety requires all of our efforts. Playgrounds don’t maintain themselves. They require regular inspection and necessary maintenance and repairs. Help your playground by inspecting and reporting any unsafe equipment.
- Check the surfaces under the play structures. They should provide a cushion for where your child jumps or falls. The surface should be wood chips, sand, or gravel. Shredded tires are also commonly used now. The surface should be a foot deep for proper shock absorption.
- Check playground equipment for hazards such as loose bolts, wood splinters or sharp edges. Make sure swing seats are not cracked and that the chains or ropes are in good condition. Pick up any trash or animal waste that might make your playground unsafe or unsightly.
- The fall zone of any play structure should be six feet in all directions. This makes it less likely for your child to fall on an unprotected surface.
- Inspect playground equipment for possible head entrapment risks. There should be no openings in equipment between 3 ½ and 9 inches.
- Identify old, unsafe play equipment. Monkey bars account for many injuries and are being removed from playgrounds.
Practice Safe Play
Most playground injuries are caused by falls. Swings, slides, ladders or any overhead structures present a potential risk to your children. In addition to the play structures being safe and maintained properly, you can help celebrate National Playground Safety Week by practicing safe play. Here are a few things you do to keep safe.
- Dress for Safety
Dress appropriately for the weather and prepare for it to change by bringing an extra jacket, blanket or umbrella. Do not let your children wear clothing which can get caught in the playground equipment. Avoid dresses or hooded sweatshirts with drawstrings. These could cause strangulation or other injuries.
- Wear the Right Shoes
Good, well tied athletic shoes without long laces are what your children need on a playground. Do not let them wear boots, sandals, or flip-flops, which make their footing less secure on the playground equipment. Open toed shoes are prone to woodchips and rocks getting under their feet, which can be harmful or at least painful.
- Play Nice
Everyone is safer if they play well together. Teach your children to share, take turns on the equipment, and to get along with others. Pushing and shoving cannot be tolerated on a safe playground. Give them a few simple rules and make sure everyone follows them.
Children must always be supervised by an adult. Make sure they are playing safe and playing nice. Keep younger children away from play structures or equipment that they are not ready for. Don’t allow excessive numbers of children to occupy one piece of equipment. Make sure they aren’t pushing swings too high or spinning the merry-go-rounds too fast.
In addition to inspecting and ensuring the safety of playground equipment, you can take further actions to bring awareness to playground safety and National Playground Safety Week.
- If you see unsafe playground equipment, report it to someone who can address the issue such as the park authority or owner.
- Help your school survey the children and parents to identify what playground equipment they like and don’t like, which equipment they feel is safe and unsafe.
- Have students make posters celebrating National Playground Safety Week. Have them make lists and draw pictures depicting safe play.
- Enlist the help of your elected officials to show their support for safe environments and playgrounds for children. Get the word out about National Playground Safety Week.
- Invite a local newscaster or other celebrity to come to a few parks or schools to talk about National Playground Safety Week and about the importance of safe play.
- Write to your local newspaper to praise safe parks and to identify those which aren’t safe. Make their readers aware of National Playground Safety Week.
We all want our children to play, and we all want them to be safe. No one wants to end their day at the playground with a trip to the emergency room. Unfortunately, accidents do happen, and all kids fall from time to time. Playground injuries can be decreased or avoided if we all take the time to make ourselves aware of the potential hazards. If we are all active in identifying and addressing unsafe playgrounds or equipment our children will be that much safer. Please spread the word about National Playground Safety Week, and help keep our parks and playgrounds safe and enjoyable.