A playground is meant to be a safe haven, a place where kids can run free, secure in the knowledge that they are in a safe and friendly environment. Sadly, this is not always the case, as there are more than 200,000 playground-related injuries admitted by the ER ever year. Parents must take the necessary precautions to ensure that the areas where their children play are truly safe.
Kids fall, trip, and tumble, and there’s nothing we can do to prevent that. What we can do is ensure that the surface they fall on will absorb the impact from the fall, and reduce their injuries. Playgrounds of old were all floored with concrete, grass, and the like. These are not acceptable. Rubber mulch is the preferred flooring for optimum playground safety. Made from recycled rubber, the mulch has an extra measure of shock absorbency, helping to cushion falls from any height. Playsafer rubber mulch can be obtained in the form of rubber mulch chips or rubber bond, a solid surface. A good accessory is rubber wearmats, to be placed in areas of high impact.
It goes without saying that a playground surface should not be littered, with special care taken that there are no dangerous materials about, such as glass, metal, and the like. The cushioned surface of the playground should extend an average of six feet past the playground equipment, to safeguard against jumps. It is also important that if the surface is a loose material, there is adequate depth to the cushioning.
Design and Layout
In large playgrounds, equipment designed for different aged children should be separated so that younger children don’t play on objects that are too advanced for them, and may become dangerous. Swings, seesaws, and other equipment with moving parts should have plenty of space to walk around them, and should be placed in separate areas. They should also be checked that they don’t have small crevices where little fingers could easily get crushed. Tot swings with full buckets should be hung separately from regular swings.
Kids should always be accompanied by a responsible adult at the playground. It is easy for adults to get distracted while chatting with one another, or by another child. It is important to stay focused on your child, because accidents can happen in an instant. Older kids like to test their limits on the playground. They can be given a measure of freedom, but it is important to keep them in close view.
Even with many safety precautions in place, injuries happen. It’s important to keep cool in a time of emergency, and administer first aid. It is also vital that another adult keep track of the other children while one is being treated, so that the situation does not get out of hand. With the knowledge that a play area is truly safe, adults can have peace of mind while their children have fun.
Rita Mann is a mother and educator who has seen enough playground injuries to understand that they must be prevented. She recommends rubber mulch as a number one pick in flooring for optimum playground safety.