Playgrounds play an important role in a child’s physical and social development. It gives them the chance to let loose in a fun and unstructured way with other kids that very few environments can match.
When kids are so absorbed in this way it’s easy for them to be oblivious to the potential dangers around them. Playgrounds are, of course, constructed with safety at the forefront but there are always things that can happen that can’t be anticipated. Whether it’s children’s behaviours on the apparatus or wear and tear on equipment – there are many things that can inadvertently cause harm.
We thought we’d discuss the importance of playground safety by highlighting some of the things that you should be aware of and look out for with your children’s wellbeing in mind.
Talking to kids about appropriate behaviours
The first place to start is with your kids themselves. While some mishaps that happen in the playground environment can be attributed to equipment, many are the result of child play and behaviour.
Taking time to talk with your kids about things to do and not do can definitely go a long way and you might be surprised how well they follow these rules having understood the consequences. Things to discuss can include:
- No pushing each other on the playground
- No climbing outside the handrails/the exterior of a playground
- Waiting for playgrounds to dry after the rain
- Slide feet first down slides
- No standing on seesaws, swings or any other equipment not designed for it
- Being sure they know how to jump and fall (bending at the knees) etc
- Reading the playground rules signs together first before playing.
They may seem incredibly obvious and simple tips but you have to remember that kids won’t always see it that way so a chat about playing safe, never hurts.
Clothes are important
Clothes are such an everyday part of life and not naturally something you’d associate with being dangerous in the context of a playground. In most situations, they aren’t but in the random movement and action of child’s play, they definitely can be.
Some of the things to be aware of are:
- Hoodies with loose drawstrings that can easily get snagged in equipment
- Necklaces that could potentially get caught creating a choking hazard
- School bags or toy handbags with straps
- Bike helmets, again with loose straps that could get caught creating recoil
- Loose fitted clothing where excess material may get caught or create a tripping hazard.
What’s good about this step is it can easily be done before you’ve stepped foot out the door giving you one less thing to worry about from the outset.
Make sure the playground is age-appropriate
Playgrounds come in all shapes and sizes and are made for different types of kids and different environments. The suitability of a playground for your child is, therefore, an extremely important factor to consider.
A lot of playgrounds these days, have the recommended age range clearly stated on a playground rules sign making the job a little easier. Many, however, do not which makes it a little more challenging to figure out.
In these cases, the first things to look out for are the general size of the playing equipment vs the size of your child. Is your child able to easily get around the playground unaided? Will your child be able to land safely from the highest platform that’s able to be jumped from?
Another thing you can look at is the general age of the other kids playing on the playground. Seeing how comfortably and easily other kids can play on it is a good way of determining if it’s age-appropriate for yours. It’s also important to consider who your kids might be casually bumping up against while playing. If the other kids are all a bit bigger and older, then it might not be suitable, or it might be a case of just waiting a bit when there’s less of a crowd.
Checking the playground for hazards
Another good thing to do before the kids start playing on a playground is to do a quick check for the usual and unexpected hazards. This should be done, not just for new playgrounds you’re visiting but for your local/regular ones as playground environments can change quickly between visits.
Worn-out equipment is one thing you can check, quickly and easily. Playgrounds get a lot of use right throughout the year and even the most robust pieces of equipment can suffer from wear and tear. Easy things to look out for can include:
- Seats on swings and seesaws
- Bolts and hinges that connect pieces of equipment them together
- Sharp edges around surfaces where contact is frequent
- Stability of handrails and the grip/traction on platforms
- Splinters on wooden playgrounds
- Padding around landing areas
- Temperature of slides on a hot day etc.
It’s also good to check for potential gaps in between equipment where kids may get themselves stuck. Getting stuck in gaps can be extremely distressing for a child (and the parents alike) so it’s a good one to be sure of. Once you know what things to look out for, it won’t take you long and the kids will quickly be able to get busy with the playing.
Keep your eyes on them at all times
Last but not least, our final bit of advice is possibly the most obvious but equally most important one of them all. Keeping your eyes on your kids while they play is crucial for making sure they stay safe while playing. This is especially important when kids are young just starting out on their adventures but also as they get older and start to play more adventurously.
But it’s also not just a matter of keeping your eyes on them but whether the playground design allows your kids to be seen at all times. Many modern playgrounds use techniques and materials like view-friendly tensile mesh safety netting so that kids can be seen no matter where they are. This is less common in older playgrounds so you’ll have to look out for the blindspots and know where to look first should your kids disappear from view.
With your eyes on your kids you’ll be better placed to discourage bad behaviour, prevent mishaps and respond to any accidents in a quick and timely way.
Playground safety keeps playgrounds fun!
As you can see, there are some easy steps to follow to keep playgrounds safe and fun. From good behaviour and appropriate clothing to hazard awareness – you’ll be doing your bit to make sure your kids get all the good things and none of the bad when it comes to their playground experiences.