Patient Education

Healthclicks Newsletters

For Your Child

October 2013

Play It Safe on the Playground

Whatever your child imagines, a playground can be: a pirate ship, a fort, a medieval castle. Playgrounds are perfect places to exercise your child’s mind and body. A few precautions can help keep these areas of adventure and activity safe.

Injury statistics

Too many U.S. children suffer injuries on playgrounds every year. The latest statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reveal that more than 600,000 children were injured in 2012. The most common reason: falls. They account for more than 40 percent of playground mishaps. Many of these injuries occur on monkey bars, swings, and slides.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 most often need emergency care for playground injuries. Besides the occasional scrape or bruise, more serious injuries frequently include fractures, concussions, and sprains. Burns are another potential playground risk. Even though many slides and other equipment are no longer made of metal, plastic and rubber surfaces can still become too hot for a child’s delicate skin.

Home playgrounds may be especially hazardous. In a recent study in the journal Injury Prevention, researchers compared 13 years of injury data for home and public playgrounds. They found younger children were more often injured on home play sets. What’s more, those injuries tended to be more severe. Why? Homeowners may not always follow proper playground construction, including installing soft landing surfaces.

Playtime tips

Not all playground injuries can be prevented. But you can limit these accidents. Experts, such as the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and the CPSC, recommend the following safety measures:

  • Always inspect a playground before allowing your child to play. Look for any sharp edges, protruding bolts, or loose hand grips. If possible, remove any tripping hazards, such as tree roots or rocks.

  • Pick playgrounds that are age appropriate.

  • Choose a playground with a soft landing surface surrounding it. Good ground cover choices include mulch, wood chips, and pea gravel.

  • Check the temperature of all equipment. Touch it to make sure it isn’t too hot for your child’s skin.

  • Dress your child appropriately. Shoes are a must. To avoid snags, don’t let your child wear jewelry or clothing with drawstrings or hoods.  

  • Make sure that the playground is regularly maintained. Call your local park district or other responsible party if problems persist.

  • Teach your child proper playground etiquette. For instance, always slide down feet first. Never share the slide with another child. And always use handrails.

  • Watch your child at all times.

If you have a home playground or want to build one, keep these additional precautions in mind.

  • Place a rubber safety mat or shock-absorbing material, such as mulch or sand, beneath and at least six feet around the play set. Grass doesn’t adequately soften falls.

  • Eliminate open spaces that can trap children. Make sure they are either smaller than 3.5 inches or bigger than 9 inches.

  • Periodically inspect the landing surface and equipment. Make any repairs as necessary.

Click here to learn more home safety tips.


Online Resources

CDC – Playground Injuries: Fact Sheet

National Safety Council 

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

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