Playground Safety for Kids
Children love to climb, swing and slide at the playground. It's good for them too! Playgrounds help children develop essential skills and maintain healthy weights. They can discover and create unique worlds while spending time outside and being physically active. Even though playgrounds are lots of fun, they can pose certain safety risks. Unfortunately, accidents happen.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency rooms in the United States attend to over 200,000 playground-related injuries every year. About 75 percent of non-fatal injuries happen at public playgrounds. Most injuries on public playgrounds occur on climbers, while swings are responsible for the majority of injuries at home. These stats paint a grim picture for kids without proper skils and safety equipment in place.
Although these numbers seem alarming, there is no need to keep children from experiencing the joy of outdoor play. Luckily there are strategies for reducing incidents and making sure kids are kept safe at the park and in the backyard.
We'll cover the basics of playground safety, from expert tips to the best playground equipment you can buy. Although no one can guarantee an injury-free childhood, you can take precautions to lessen the risk of playground injuries.
The Rules of S.A.F.E.
Keeping a playground safe is easier than one might think. The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) identifies four factors to maintaining a safe playground whether at home or in the community. To help you apply the rules of S.A.F.E., we will look at each factor in detail.
It's important for adults to supervise children at a playground to help prevent injuries. According to Safekids.org, lack of proper supervision accounts for almost 45 percent of playground-related injuries. Children of all ages need adult supervision when using playground equipment, whether it be at a park, school, community center, friend's house or at home. Even older children are not immune to playground-related injuries.
Young children may be unaware of potentially dangerous situations and need an adult to warn and protect them. For example, a 2-year-old may walk behind a swing without noticing it's being used.
Older children like to test boundaries, and adults can point out unsafe behavior. You might recall instances from your childhood where friends roughhoused on the playset, and someone got hurt. Children might not realize that standing on a swing or sliding with a friend is unsafe. Adults can make sure kids properly use playground equipment and behave themselves.
Also, parents and other caregivers can administer first aid immediately if a child is injured. They also know when to seek help. For example, if a child falls from a playset, they may need to go to the emergency room in case they suffered a concussion or other injury. Without an adult present, children might not recognize the urgency of a situation.
Supervising does not necessarily mean you have to follow a school-aged child every inch of the way through a playset. Also, toddlers and babies should be kept away from play areas designed for older children. The NPPS suggests following the ABCs of supervision, which are:
- Anticipate preventable problems and hazards.
- Behave in a way that allows you to be alert and attentive.
- Context is irrelevant when it comes to supervision — an adult should always be present no matter what type of play area it is.
At home, make sure your playground is designed in a way that allows you to see your children. In other words, make sure no trees or buildings are blocking your view.
Supervising your child at the playground is easy, and they likely will be excited to show you their skills.
Playgrounds help children develop socially, physically, emotionally and cognitively. Experts agree that free play is vital to healthy childhood growth. Children need to play in areas that suit their age group to get the most out of their experience and to stay safe.
Make sure to take your child to an age-appropriate playground. Likewise, design your home playset to be right for their age and development level. Consider the following appropriate playground equipment for each age group:
- Children ages 6 months to 23 months: Children in this age group only need places to crawl, stand and walk. A tunnel, for example, is fun for a baby to explore.
- Children ages 2 to 5 years old: Areas for this age group should include spaces to crawl and take small steps. A play area designed for young children might include sandboxes, slides no taller than four feet and low platforms with handles to grab onto. Young children are often injured on swings and slides.
- Children ages 5 to 12 years old: Children of this age group have higher rates of emergency visits for playground injuries than other age groups, with most injuries occurring at school. Older children have developed the coordination and strength to climb, swing and slide, but they might not realize the limits to their skills. An appropriate playground for this age range might include chain climbers, tire swings and sliding poles.
A great playground should help very young children learn to manipulate objects, explore new spaces and interact with others. In a separate area, older school-aged children should have opportunities to cooperate with others, solve problems and have fun while staying in shape. Play areas for young children and older children should always be separated and designated with clear, easy-to-read signs.
3. Fall Surfacing
According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for children ages 0 to 19. Almost 2.8 million children are treated in American emergency rooms for fall-related injuries every year. Although being present with a child is one way to prevent a fall, sometimes a fall can happen when you least expect it. Playground surfacing should be soft, thick and properly maintained to help cushion a fall. All playgrounds should have quality shock-absorbant surfacing beneath each piece of equipment.
Playground surfacing needs to be regularly checked and maintained to ensure its protective qualities are intact. When you decrease the height of the equipment and increase the shock-absorbent capabilities of the surfacing, you significantly reduce the risk of a serious head injury. Public playgrounds and home playgrounds should use loose-fill or synthetic materials under all playground equipment, including:
- Rubber mulch
- Pea gravel
- Wood mulch
- Engineered wood fiber
- Tested unitary surfaces
Loose-fill materials should not be installed on hard surfaces, like concrete. Unsafe materials not to use as a playground surface include:
Superior Play Systems offers safety surfacing to help keep kids safe when they land from a slide or swing. Here are some of our options perfect for residential or commercial playgrounds:
- Rubber Mulch: Soft, non-toxic and 100-percent-recycled, our rubber mulch is five times heavier than wood mulch and resistant to mold.
- Residential Play Mat: Use in one place like the bottom of a slide or under a swing to promote a safe landing at home.
- Safer Play Zones: Our Safer Play Zones combine rubber mulch and rubber borders to keep mulch contained in play areas, creating safer play areas year-round.
- Poured-In-Place Rubber: Available in many different colors and patterns, our unitary rubber surfaces are designed to meet up to 12-feet fall heights.
- Rubber Tile: Our recycled rubber tile meets up to 10 feet critical fall heights.
- Engineered Wood Fiber: Our engineered wood fiber is simple to install, requires a low initial investment and protects falls of up to 12 feet.
- Commercial Tie Guard: The tie guard places a protective rubber cap over wooden borders, protecting kids from splinters and scrapes.
- Commercial Play Mat: Use at the end of a slide or swing, our commercial play mats are tested for a 5-foot critical fall height.
Even if you use the best material for your playground, you still want to keep the following surface safety tips in mind:
- Keep playground free of standing water and trip hazards such as rocks and logs.
- Keep playground free of dangerous debris like broken glass or rusted metal.
- Loose-fill surfaces should be 12 inches deep for equipment up to 8 feet high.
- The cushioned surface should extend past the playground equipment by at least 6 feet.
Proper surfaces can't prevent all injuries but can drastically reduce the impact of a fall and the severity of an injury.
A report published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states nearly 1.5 million estimated injuries relating to playground equipment were treated in emergency departments from 2009 to 2014. The majority of these injuries, or 61 percent, occurred at schools or parks. Common equipment hazards include:
- Broken equipment
- Equipment tipping over
- Poor equipment design
- Poor equipment assembly
Many equipment-related injuries were due to falls. Bars, climbers, steps, platforms and slides could all lead to a fall, for example. So, how can children stay safe while enjoying their favorite playground equipment? The most important steps to ensuring equipment safety involve regular inspection and maintenance. When at home or a public park, check playground equipment for the following before allowing your child to engage in playtime:
- Broken equipment
- Cracked or splintering wooden equipment
- Rusty metal equipment
- Sharp objects like hooks or bolts sticking out of equipment
- Loose or broken hardware
- Hazardous debris in sandboxes such as glass or animal contamination
- Openings where a child's head or body could get trapped
- Areas at the top of slides where strings could attach
Also, make sure:
- Play equipment is made of durable materials
- Surface materials are intact
- The site has proper drainage
- No more than two swings are placed in one structure
If you notice any hazardous playground equipment, notify authorities immediately. At home, make sure your playground is off-limits until necessary repairs are made. Here are safety guidelines to keep in mind with each piece of equipment:
- Swings: Swings are the most common source of injury. Make sure swings are made of rubber or plastic, not wood or metal. Kids should always sit on the swing, hold on tightly and never sit with another person. They should completely stop the swing before getting off and not jump from the swing.
- Seesaws: Children who share a seesaw should be around the same size. They should hold on tight, always face each other and keep their feet to the sides. Because of the safety risks, young children should not use seesaws.
- Slides: Kids should not climb up the sides of slides, and instead take their time climbing the ladder. Children should always slide feet-first and take turns instead of sliding together.
- Climbers: Climbers are the most challenging pieces of equipment on the playground and can be dangerous for young children who have not yet developed the strength or skills to climb. Adult supervision is very important for younger kids on climbers. Kids should never race on climbing equipment or climb in groups.
With Superior Play Systems, parents and playground owners can feel more at ease, because they'll know each piece of playground equipment was designed with ultimate safety in mind. All of our playsets and equipment are built to meet strict safety standards and are constructed with the highest-quality materials. For example, our Playground One® playsets use:
- The best materials: All Playground One® playsets are made from 100 percent Pacific Cedar. The CPSC recommends cedar for playsets because it is naturally rot- and insect-resistant, and it does not get hot like metal. With our playsets, there is no need to worry about weak spots or toxic chemicals.
- Highest-quality construction: Heavy-duty steel hardware and multi-beam joint connections make our playsets last for many years.
- Tough testing: All of our equipment is tested by engineers, safety experts and designers to make sure each piece of equipment is outstanding regarding both safety and fun.
- No-pinch swings: Our heavy rubber-dipped chains prevent pinching and burns.
- Gotcha Grips: Our unique Gotcha Grips process ensures every single ladder rung, bar and handrail are made to help keep little hands and feet from slipping. Each piece is composed of galvanized steel rods which are dimpled and powder-coated for better gripping.
- Reinforced slides: Double-wall slides reduce the risk of injury because they do not require exterior reinforcements like bolts, which could get caught on strings or clothing.
How to Teach Kids About Playground Safety
Young children may not understand the importance of playground safety, and older children may be more reluctant to follow the rules. That's why it's important to supervise children whether you are at home or a public playground. Nevertheless, it is still a good idea to teach your child safety tips and instill self-care and care for others. You do not need to scare your child but create awareness of playground risks. Here are some safety reminders to share with your child:
- Dress appropriately and do not wear anything that could get caught on equipment like necklaces, scarves or drawstrings.
- Do not push or shove on play equipment as that could lead to an injury.
- Always use equipment properly.
- Check to make sure other children are not in the way before swinging or jumping off equipment.
- Leave bikes and bags away from equipment to prevent tripping.
- Never use wet or slippery playground equipment.
- Make sure metal playground equipment is not too hot before playing on it in the summertime.
- Always bend knees and land on both feet when jumping off equipment, and try to climb down instead.
- Only play in age-appropriate areas.
- Be aware of other children at all times.
- Do not stand too close to swings or slides when they are in use.
- Always wash hands after playing at the playground.
- Do not play with garbage or debris found at the playground.
- Share playground equipment with others.
- Treat others with respect.
- Always hold onto any railings.
- Keep shoes on at all times when outdoors.
How to Choose a Safe Site for Your Playground
Are you considering installing a playset in your backyard? Or are you excited to add a commercial playground to your business? Before you purchase playground equipment, make sure you've picked out a safe spot for your playground first. When selecting the best location for your playground, the CPSC recommends considering the following factors:
- Nearby hazards: Are there roads, lakes or cliffs near the potential playground site? If so, make sure to set up a boundary to keep kids inside the playground, like a fence.
- Sun exposure: Consider if the site experiences intense sun exposure because this could make equipment too hot to play on. If possible, plan to place the playground in shaded areas and avoid using bare metal equipment.
- Drainage: Make sure the ground around your playground properly drains so water does not collect under play equipment. Also, consider if steep slopes surround the location because that could cause loose-fill to wash away.
- Accessibility: If you are designing a commercial playground, location, equipment and surfacing should ensure that children of all developmental abilities can enjoy the playground.
- Separation of play areas: Use landscaping and pathways to keep play areas for young children separate from play areas for older children.
- Equipment placement: Consider the purpose of each piece of equipment and place equipment accordingly. For example, make sure slide exits are not placed in a congested area. Popular heavily-used equipment should be spread around the playground to ensure it does not get too crowded in one area.
- Visibility: The playground should be laid out so caretakers and parents can easily view their children, and vision barriers should be eliminated or kept to a minimum. Caregivers should be able to play with young children while keeping an eye on older children at the same time.
Create a Safe Playground Today
Playgrounds are important parts of childhood. Most adults look fondly back at the days of swinging and sliding in the sunshine and fresh air. Safety does not have to ruin a fun day of play. Fortunately, Superior Play Systems makes safety easy.
At Superior Play Systems, safety is a priority because we understand that anything less is unacceptable. Children deserve to enjoy every moment of playtime with a sense of security. Likewise, parents deserve peace of mind knowing their children are playing on the highest-quality safest equipment around. Whether you are interested in our Playground One® playsets, or our classic playset combos, you can expect only the best.
Our popular Classic Playcenter Combo 2 for example, combines hours of fun with unique safety features. Kids can climb the rock wall, soar down the wave slide, take a break in the shade under the vinyl roof, or twirl in the tire swing. They can even pretend they are navigating a big wooden ship with the steering wheel for hours of amusement. They'll build strength and coordination skills, plus form great memories they can cherish forever.
Because our equipment uses durable rust-resistant hardware, vinyl-dipped swing chains, and all-natural premium cedar, children can enjoy a playset that is sturdy, durable and protects them against pinching and heat. The Classic Playcenter Combo 2 takes tradition to the next level.
For more than two decades, Superior Play Systems has worked to become the safest playground equipment distributor in Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Each piece of our equipment has safety built into it, and it is our priority to deliver quality equipment customers can depend on.