A safe place to play
If you ask your child what he likes most about school, the answer you are likely to get is, “Recess!” It is important for kids to be active, get some fresh air, and release their pent up energy during and after the school day, and playgrounds are a great place to do so. However, faulty equipment, unsafe surfaces, and lack of appropriate supervision can result in injury. Each year, more than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-related injuries. Schools are addressing this by developing rules for safe outdoor play on and off the playground. There are also a few things that you should keep in mind and convey to any other caregivers of your child about play on and around the playground.
Tips for injury-free outdoor fun
- Know the school rules. Depending on the amount of outdoor space, the size of the student body, and staff limitations, your child’s school may limit the games students can play on the playground. Games like tag and unsupervised sports such as dodgeball are increasingly being banned due to injuries. Find out what your school’s playground rules are and explain them to your child. If your child wants to take a ball, jump rope, or other equipment to share with friends, be sure to check with the school first.
- Find out about supervision. Adequate supervision is the best way to reduce the number of injuries on the playground. The National Program for Playground Safety advises that children be supervised when playing on playground structures, whether these are located in your home, in the community, or at school. Adults in charge should be able to direct children to use playground equipment properly and respond to emergencies appropriately. Make sure your child is supervised on the playground at all times, at and outside of school.
- Know what is age appropriate. The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that playground equipment be separated for 2-5 year-olds and 5-12 year-olds. It is recommended that children be further separated according to age group: Pre K, grades K-2, grades 3-4, and grades 5-6. Most schools separate outdoor play times by grades. If you take child to the playground, make sure he is playing on equipment that he is able to use comfortably. Encourage your child to use equipment appropriately and to take turns. Beware of clothing that could get caught or that your child could trip over, such as untied shoelaces, hoods, or drawstrings..
- Keep an eye on the equipment. Before you let your child play on playground structures, check the equipment and its surrounding area to make sure that it is safe. Check the structure to make sure it is not damaged or broken. Look out for any objects that can cause injuries, such as broken glass, rocks, animal feces, or other debris. According to the National Program for Playground Safety, the surface of a play structure should be of loose or soft materials that will cushion a fall, such as wood chips or rubber.
Know how to respond. Even a fall of one foot can cause a broken bone or concussion. If your child is injured while playing on the playground, check him carefully for bruises. If you are not sure of the extent of your child’s injury, take him to the pediatrician or the emergency room. If you think your child may have a head or neck injury or if he appears to have a broken bone and you are afraid to move him, call for help.
For a playground safety checklist, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission at http://www.cpsc.gov
This information was compiled by Sunindia Bhalla, and reviewed by the Program Staff of The Children’s Trust.