Most people have fond memories of playing on the playground as a child.
Playgrounds are a great place for preschoolers to get much-needed exercise, use their imaginations and participate in fun learning activities in lots of academic subjects.
But the playground can also be dangerous, especially for young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that more than 200,000 kids go to the emergency room each year because of playground injuries, and falling from playground equipment is the most common culprit.
As a parent, how can you make sure your child is safe while having fun on the playground?
To help you out, Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool® has put together a helpful list of 5 playground safety essentials every parent should check for.
#1: General Location
Playgrounds should be easy to get to, in good condition and free of dangerous landscaping features.
- Children should be able to access the playground from a classroom or other room without having to cross a street.
- The playground should have fencing or other sturdy boundary on all sides to prevent kids from wandering away unsupervised.
- Equipment should be free of sharp, broken or loose pieces, and sidewalks should be free of cracks.
- There should be no open bodies of water such as pools, ponds or fountains.
- Avoid plants that attract bees, have thorns or sharp leaves or that are poisonous.
#2: Soft Surface
While grass may look or even feel soft to the touch, it doesn’t really provide enough shock absorption to cushion a fall, and neither does the dirt underneath. And you definitely want to avoid playgrounds with concrete or asphalt surfaces.
- Look for a soft, shock-absorbent surface that extends at least 6 feet in all directions from every piece of equipment.
- Loose-fill materials like wood chips or sand should be at least 12 inches deep.
- Other acceptable options include mats of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like substitutes.
#3: Age-Appropriate Equipment
Besides being in good condition and securely anchored to the ground, playground equipment must be appropriate for your child’s age, height and developmental level.
Equipment designed for toddlers or preschoolers may break if older kids or adults use them. Similarly, larger equipment built for older kids or adults may be hard to reach and too high for younger children to climb safely.
- Swings should be at least 24 inches apart and 6 feet away from walls, fences or other objects in all directions. Clearance in front of and behind the swing should be twice the height of the suspending bar. Seats should be made of a soft material and S-hooks closed to form a figure-8. No-nos include swinging on your tummy, jumping off of the swing or running in front of or behind the swing when someone else is using it.
- Slides must have guardrails, a hood or other protective structure at the top so that your child has to sit to go down. The sides must be at least 4 inches high and the base must be clear of rocks, glass, sticks, toys or other debris. The area in front of the base must be equal to the height of the platform. Only go down feet first to prevent head injuries, and only one person at a time. Never use the slide while sitting on someone else’s lap.
- Climbing structures. Above-ground platforms should be protected with guardrails or other barriers. To prevent kids from getting their heads stuck, spaces between railings must be narrower than 3 ½ inches or larger than 9 inches. Steps and rungs should be evenly spaced, and rungs need to be 1 ½ inches in diameter for younger hands. Check for nails, screws and sharp points or edges. Never let children wear necklaces or clothes with drawstrings, as this poses a strangulation hazard.
#4: Good Organization
Tricycles, balls and other playground toys should never be left unattended as they create a trip and fall hazard.
Preschools should have a safe place to store all toys when they are not in use on playgrounds or indoor play areas. If children have brought a favorite toy of their own to use on the playground, make sure they bring it back inside when playtime is over.
#5: Attentive Supervision
Finally, even the safest equipment in the world is no substitute for close adult supervision.
- Maintain an age-appropriate adult-to-child ratio.
- Adults must pay attention to the children and avoid getting lost in conversation or looking at electronic devices.
- Adults should move around and observe the children in action. Watch for kids using equipment incorrectly and intervene immediately.
- Be prepared in case of an accident. Keep a first aid kit and injury report form close to the playground, and have a mobile phone or walkie talkie to call for emergency help if needed.
Little Sunshine’s Playhouse & Preschool® understands the importance of play to early childhood learning and development. That’s why we’re committed to making playtime a safe time with properly maintained equipment and close teacher supervision.
Learn more by visiting a location near you today!
Read our previous articles on the importance of play, exercise and outdoor learning: