Keeping Children Safe on the Playground
Whether it’s a swing set in the backyard or the more elaborate apparatus in the park, there are many positive things to say about playground equipment. The use of this equipment encourages children to test and expand their physical abilities. However, there are some inevitable dangers. The risks can be minimized when equipment is well designed and children are taught basic playground manners. Here are some guidelines you can use in selecting playground equipment and sites for your child.
Children under five should play on equipment separate from older children.
Make sure there is sand, wood chips, or rubberized matting under swings, seesaws, and jungle gyms, and that these surfaces are of proper depth and well-maintained. On concrete or asphalt, a fall directly on the head can be serious—even from a height of just a few inches.
Wooden structures should be made from all-weather wood, which is less likely to splinter. Examine the surfaces periodically to be sure they are smooth. Metal structures, for example, can get extremely hot in warmer months.
Conduct a periodic inspection of equipment, looking especially for loose joints, open chains that could come loose, and rusted cotter pins. Be sure there are no open S hooks or protruding pieces that could hook a child’s clothing. On metal equipment, check for rusted or exposed bolts as well as sharp edges and points. At home, cover them with protective rubber. In a public playground, report the hazard to the appropriate authorities.
Be sure swings are made of soft and flexible material. Insist that your child sit in the middle of the seat, holding on with both hands. Don’t allow two children to share the same swing. Teach your child never to walk in front of or behind a swing while another child is on it. Avoid equipment in which the swings hang from overhead climbing bars.
Be sure children on slides use the ladder instead of climbing up the sliding surface. Don’t permit pushing and shoving on the ladder, and have children go up one at a time. Teach your child to leave the bottom of the slide as soon as he reaches it. If a slide has been sitting in the sun for a long time, check the sliding surface to see if it’s too hot before letting him use it.
Don’t allow children under four to use climbing equipment that is taller than they are (i.e., jungle gyms) without close supervision.
Between the ages of three and five, your child should use a seesaw only with other children of comparable age and weight. Children under three don’t have the arm and leg coordination to use the equipment.
Although trampolines often are considered a source of fun for children, about 100,000 people per year are injured on them, most often on backyard models. Childhood injuries have included broken bones, head injuries, neck and spinal cord injuries, sprains, and bruises. Parental supervision and protective netting aren’t adequate to prevent these injuries. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to take steps to ensure that their children never use trampolines at home, a friend’s house, the playground, or in a routine gym class. Older children should use trampolines only in training programs for competitive sports such as gymnastics or diving, and only when supervised by aprofessional trained in trampoline safety.
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- Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 (Copyright © 2009 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.