Playground safety tips

Playgrounds may be fun, but they’re not as safe as they seem. Many accidents from last year occurred in playgrounds, and many more are expected this year. Here’s how you can protect your kids while letting them enjoy the freedom of a playground.

Playgrounds often make a nice mental image: children playing, running around, and simply having a good time. But few parents know that playgrounds are a major site for accidents—in fact, more than 20,000 children are sent to hospitals every year due to playground-related accidents. Fortunately, most of these accidents are easily avoided. Here are some things you can do to make the playground a safer place for your child.

Never leave kids unsupervised. This may sound pretty basic, but you’d be surprised at how many parents forget this rule. Watching your child isn’t enough; try to stay within five meters of your child so you can easily rush over in case of an accident. If you must leave, have somebody else watch your child instead of leaving him alone.

Stay away from swings in use. Swings are one of the most popular playground attractions, but they’re not exactly the safest. Many playground accidents occur when a kid on a swing crashes against someone on the ground. Steer your kids clear of occupied swings, even if the rider isn’t moving—you never know when they’ll suddenly push off.

Look for soft surfaces. Someone’s always bound to trip or fall in a playground, and you want it to be well-cushioned in case that someone is your child. Soft, deep surfaces—typically 6 inches deep—are considered the best playground material for children. Grass is soft, but it gets wet when slippery so you might want to go for fake grass instead. Other good surfaces include wood chips, grain, and pea gravel. For indoor playgrounds, rubber mats are usually the best choice.

Remove extra articles of clothing. Before entering the playground, remove any clothes that can get snagged or cause accidents. Scarves and belts can snag onto poles and cause suffocation, while shoelaces can become untied and cause other kids to trip. As much as possible, make it so that your child’s clothes fit as snugly as possible without being uncomfortable.

Check metal fixtures. Metal rides can get really hot when out in the sun, so make sure they’ve cooled down before letting your kids play. This is especially important in elevated rides, as your child can impulsively let go and fall when it burns his hands. Look for a playground in a shaded area, such as under a tree or covered court.

Install guardrails. Guardrails are placed along any high surface, such as the platform of a slide. It’s important for playground rides to have sufficiently high guardrails, which prevent your kids from jumping or falling off. Experts recommend a guardrail height of at least 29 inches—high enough to keep kids from climbing, but not enough to hide the view.

Keep seesaws balanced. Children on seesaws rely on each other’s weight to keep the ride going. However, when one side is too heavy, the kid on the other is usually stuck in place (either on the ground or hanging from the seat). Make sure your child gets on the seesaw only with kids his size. If someone gets stuck, make sure there’s always someone to help out nearby.

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