Tips for Making Your Playground Safer for Everyone
Between school, homework, lessons, organized sports, and family responsibilities, a child’s life can be very scheduled. In this context, a simple visit to a playground can be much more than “fun.” The unstructured free play opportunities that they offer allow kids to move their bodies, practice social skills, and exercise their brains in ways that build their confidence and encourage healthy development.
Our only responsibility as adults is to ensure that the playground is safe. To be sure you’re looking at all the items that comprise playground safety, here’s a list of essential items to watch out for on your next inspection:
Provide and maintain a protective surface
Given that 4 out of 5 playground injuries involve falls, providing and maintaining appropriate surfacing materials is one of the most important elements of safety.
· If your playground is covered with loose-fill surface material such as mulch or pea gravel, check it regularly to be sure that a depth of 12 inches is maintained in flat areas as well as under swings and at the bottom of slides.
· Place wear mats in areas that receive heavy use to make your playground even safer by ensuring there is adequate surfacing material all the time.
· Unitary surfacing materials such as poured-in-place rubber are increasingly popular and work well. However, accumulated dirt and debris can negatively affect their resilience, making injury more likely—so be sure to keep the surface clean.
Always Supervise Kids on the Playground
· Free play isn’t the same as unsupervised play. Accidents happen with little to no warning, so make sure you’re watching their adventures, engaging with them, and cheering them on.
· Proper playground etiquette doesn’t always come naturally to excited little ones, so it’s up to you to teach them how to take turns on the structures.
· Any clothing with drawstrings or other clothing or accessories that pose a strangulation risk should be removed.
Maintain Equipment Regularly
Weather and use can wear down playground structures, making them dangerous. Keep a maintenance checklist based on the manufacturer’s recommendations and make thorough inspections part of your routine.
· Ensure there is no rust on the equipment, nor are there any damaged spots or missing bolts, screws, or other parts.
· Look for openings where a child’s head, body, arm, or leg could get caught.
· Locate areas where playground surface material should be replenished or cleaned.
Get an Annual Certified Safety Playground Inspection
Do you really need a certified inspection every year if you do regular routine inspections yourself? Absolutely. A certified inspector will provide an expert evaluation and deliver a report of all the improvements you need to make. Keeping your playground safe is your primary responsibility, so don’t ignore any of the certified inspector’s recommendations.
Provide Adequate Space Between Structures
A crowded playground is an unsafe playground.
· Aim for at least three feet of space between play structures.
· Allow for a clear enough space between different structures to allow a clean impact on the ground below the apparatus.
· Ensure adequate space between any protective borders or guardrails that surround any structures.
Check Equipment Temperature
Always check the temperature of the playground structures before allowing your kids to play. Surface temperatures of equipment can become hot enough to cause severe burns.
· Provide some form of shade to keep playground surfacing and metallic structures like swings and slides from becoming dangerously hot.
· Remember that structures can become hazards even if the weather isn’t blazing hot. Burns have been reported on relatively mild days when the equipment is directly in the sun.
· Exposed concrete and asphalt can also become very hot.
For many kids, playground visits with family and friends are some of their most treasured memories. By following these safety tips, teaching your little ones how to play safely, and staying engaged with them while they practice their new skills, everyone can stay safe and healthy!