If your family is like mine, you are probably spending a lot of time at playgrounds now that spring time is here. I love playgrounds, and I have many happy memories from my childhood of going down slides, spending many afternoons on the swings, and exploring on the monkey bars. However, I also have memories from the playground that included tears. I was six years old when I fell off the monkey bars, hit my head, and ended up with a huge bump on my forehead. I have a scar on my left knee from a fall that happened when I was seven. I remember when a friend of mine broke his arm when jumping off the swings and when another friend chipped her tooth when she was trying to run up the slide, but fell off instead.
These incidents are never far from mind when I’m at the playground with my six year old daughter and 22 month old son. As much as I want them to have to fun, to explore, and to develop their gross motor abilities, I also don’t want them to get hurt. The CDC estimates more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger make a trip to the Emergency Room each year due to playground-related injuries; and an estimated 8,250 of those children are under the age of 2 years old.
Here are some other facts to consider:
- About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe–fractures, internal injuries, concussions, and dislocations
- On public playgrounds, more injuries occur on climbers than on any other equipment
- On home playgrounds, swings are responsible for most injuries
- For children younger than four, the head and face are the most commonly injured
- For children older than five, the legs and arms are the most commonly injured
- Nearly 40% of playground injuries occur during the months of May, June, and September
- Only 42% of all playgrounds in the US have separate play areas for children ages 2-5 and 5-12; and worse yet, only 9% of these playgrounds have signs indicating age-appropriateness of the equipment. If there is signage, please adhere to those guidelines!
The statistics also show that a lack of supervision is associated with approximately 40% of playground injuries. It’s tempting, I know, to catch up on your text messages, enjoy an iced coffee or chat with other parents; but active supervision is important. Your preschooler may tell you “Don’t follow me, Momma!” as she runs from one climbing structure to the next. Your toddler may yell “No, no, no!” when you want to hold his hand as he goes down the slide.
But please make sure you’re there to supervise.
- Inspect the equipment and make sure all the hardware is in place
- Make sure there is protective surfacing underneath the equipment
- Read signs about which age group the equipment is intended
- Be aware of any spaces that could entrap children, such as openings in guardrails or in between ladder rungs
- Don’t ride down the slide with your child – if his foot gets caught, the force of you behind him could break his leg – read an Isis mom and instructor’s post on this surprisingly common playground injury you never considered
- Look for any tripping hazards, like rocks or tree stumps
- Inspect your child’s clothing and make sure they don’t have any drawstrings on their clothing that might get tangled on playground equipment
- Make sure your child is wearing appropriate foot wear (flip-flops aren’t safe for playgrounds – I have this conversation with my daughter on a regular basis!)
- Teach your child to use the equipment the correct way: “Climb up the ladder and go down the slide.”
If you notice anything on the playground that seems dangerous or needs repair, you should call your local Parks and Recreation Department. Playgrounds are inherently designed to be safe and these departments conduct routine inspections, but appreciate reports alerting them to any hazards so they can ensure continued safety!
For more information about playground safety, you can visit Safe Kids.