Children of all ages tend to enjoy playing on playgrounds, climbing, swinging, and jumping around on the rugged and colorful equipment. Even babies can enjoy the exhilaration of swinging on equipment designed especially for them.
Although the physical activity on playgrounds can provide youngsters with important opportunities for active play and exercise, it's imperative for them to play with safety in mind. Adult supervision during playtime will ensure that babies and children remain safe while using playground equipment.
Older Playground Dangers
Playground designs have changed significantly over the years. Older playgrounds may feature equipment or designs that are not safe for children. For example, trampolines can present hazards due to the uncontrolled bouncing that could occur. Swinging gates can result in pinched fingers. Climbing ropes that are not attached to a structure at both ends can be dangerous for children due to entanglement. Heavy metal animal swings can also produce painful bumps for children. Additionally, the layout of an older playground can present dangers. For example, if slides deposit children into a congested play area, injuries could occur from collisions. Assess any playground you visit for outdated equipment and dangerous layouts, and do not allow your children to play in these areas to prevent injuries.
New Designs and Surfaces
Current playgrounds feature equipment designed for safe enjoyment by children. For example, materials on slides, platforms, and steps should be coated to prevent burns from sun exposure. Metal surfaces should be galvanized to prevent rust from developing. If structures include wood, the wood should be a type that naturally resists rotting and insects to minimize exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. Hardware on equipment should be smooth to prevent injuries and entanglements.
The surfaces beneath playground equipment must be adequate to prevent injuries from falls. Recycled rubber mulch, wood mulch, and pea gravel are examples of acceptable playground surfaces. Grass and dirt would not provide adequate protection if children fall from equipment. Municipalities must maintain surfaces to ensure that the amount of loose fill remains adequate to absorb the shock of falls.
Generally, a playground should have different equipment that is appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers, or grade-schoolers. If a playground has equipment for children of all ages, the layout of the equipment must provide separate areas of play for the children of different ages for optimal safety. A toddler playground might feature ramps, swings with bucket seats, and climbing equipment that is less than 32 inches high. A preschool playground could have equipment such as merry-go-rounds, rung ladders, and spring rockers. Playgrounds designed for older children might feature equipment like fulcrum seesaws, slides, and vertical sliding poles. Ensure that your children use equipment that is designed for their age, and supervise children playing on playgrounds at all times.
Excessive sun exposure can be dangerous for children playing on playgrounds. The Skin Cancer Foundation warns that one sunburn that produces blisters during childhood can make someone more than twice as likely to develop melanoma later in life. A playground that provides shade for children playing is beneficial to protect children from the sun's burning rays. The shade could be in the form of large trees growing over the play area. Man-made shelters and awnings can also stretch over a playground to provide shade.
Bees and Wasps
Some types of bees and wasps will build nests in hollow tubes, a common design element in children's playgrounds. It's possible to prevent this nesting activity by sealing the ends of hollow tubes. Before allowing your children to play on playground equipment, survey the equipment to note whether hollow tubes exist and to determine whether bees have built nests. If you find nests, do not allow your children to use the equipment. You might also report your discovery to the local municipality responsible for maintaining the playground to enable them to remove the nests.