Playground equipment is important to the children in a school or community. The equipment activities promote upper body strength, balance, hand-eye coordination and large and small motor skills. While these are important benefits, they are only valuable if children are monitored while playing and if they are taught the importance of using the equipment correctly so that no injuries occur. According to the National Safety Council, over 200,000 kids make a trip to the emergency room each year due to playground related injuries.
The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) has an easy checklist, known as S.A.F.E., which parents can refer to before heading out the door:
• Supervision is present while strings are not: An adult is near to monitor and facilitate safe play. Also, make sure no strings are hanging from children’s clothing. These could accidentally be caught in playground equipment.
• All children play on age-appropriate equipment: Tots on bigger kid’s equipment may not be able to reach, climb, or jump safely. Smaller places and spaces on preschool age equipment can cause trouble for older, bigger kids. Remember, kids age two to five are developmentally different than children five to 12 and require separate playgrounds.
• Falls to surface are cushioned: Hard asphalt, dirt, grass or concrete is unacceptable for landing. Well-designed playgrounds include landing surfaces made of sand, wood chips, gravel, or rubber mats.
• Equipment is safe and in good working order: Equipment must be anchored safely in the ground, moving pieces in safe working order, S-hooks -- especially on swings -- are tightly closed, and bolts or other sharp pieces are not protruding.
Playgrounds mean fresh air, friends, and exercise for our children. As parents, we can remember that smaller children may not have the strength or coordination to guard against every fall and older kids may push the limits of unsafe play. With this in mind, we can ensure that broken or faulty equipment, improper landing surfaces, or careless behavior never ruins the fun at the playground.
National Safety Council, web. 15, Aug. 2011.