Keep Kids Safe at the Playground

Playing helps your child develop emotionally, intellectually, socially and physically. Whether on a playset in your backyard or in a public park, kids need to be safe while having a great time! National Playground Safety Week, observed April 25-29, is not only centered around preventing injuries while on the playground but also raising awareness about how to keep playgrounds safe. The potential for injury on a playground could be as serious as the benefits of safe playtime, so here are some playground safety tips to keep your child’s playtime fun and injury free.

     1. Provide Adult Supervision

The most effective and important way to avoid injuries on the playground is to actively supervise kids using the playground equipment. Be sure to check playgrounds where your children play to look for hazards, such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. If any hazards are found, be sure to report them to the school, park authority or city council. Do not allow children to use the equipment until it is safe. Check playground equipment in the summertime to make sure it is not hot, especially metal slides, handrails and steps. Contact burns on hot playground equipment can happen within seconds.

     2. Teach Your Children Playground Safety

Another key part of playground safety is that kids must know how to be safe and act responsibly at the playground. Kids should know to never push or roughhouse while on jungle gyms, slides, seesaws, swings and other equipment. They should be using the equipment properly by sliding feet-first, not climbing outside guardrails and not standing on swings.

     3. Ensure Your Child is Dressed Appropriately

Make sure to have children dress appropriately for the playground by removing necklaces, scarves and clothing with drawstrings that can get caught on equipment, as these are strangulation hazards. Even helmets can be dangerous on a playground because they can get caught in gaps that are otherwise safe for a child’s head to pass through. They make a child’s head bigger and thus may allow them to get stuck and suffer from suffocation or strangulation. Helmets should be saved for bike riding and other wheeled sports, unless a child needs to wear a helmet for a medical purpose (i.e., seizure precautions).

     4. Choose an Appropriate Play Area

Choosing the appropriate play area based on a child’s age and development is also very important. Young children play differently than older children; therefore, it is important to have a separate play area for children under five. For children who are learning to walk, the play area should have a smooth and easy walking surface. More playgrounds are now designed as inclusive. An inclusive playground is a universally designed, sensory-rich area that enables children of all abilities to play, learn and grow together. Inclusive playgrounds also allow adults of varying ages and abilities to actively engage with children in their care.

     5. Look for Safe Ground

Ensure there is safe surfacing beneath and surrounding playground equipment. Avoid playgrounds with non-impact absorbing surfaces, such as asphalt, concrete, grass, dirt or gravel. The recommended surface materials include sand, pea gravel, wood chips, mulch and shredded rubber. Rubber mats, synthetic turf and other artificial materials are also safe surfaces and require less maintenance. The surfacing should be at least 12 inches deep and extend at least six feet in all directions around stationary equipment. Depending on the height of the equipment, surfacing may need to extend farther than six feet. For swings, make sure that the surfacing extends, in the back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar. For example, if the top of the swing set is 10 feet high, the surfacing should extend 20 feet.

Children need to be safe and happy while playing. Encourage kids to get outside and play. Let them enjoy the outdoors, their friends, and their caregivers’ company and attention. Celebrate Playground Safety Week by going outside and practicing safe play.

The National Recreation and Park Association offers the industry-leading certification program in playground safety, the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) certification program. The CPSI certification program provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements and risk management methods.

NDRPA Home Page – North Dakota Recreation & Park Association

Certified Playground Safety Inspector Certification Program, CPSI | Certification | National Recreation and Park Association (nrpa.org)

The North Dakota Recreation and Parks Association (NDRPA) in tentatively scheduling their next course for March 21-23, 2023, in Bismarck.

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