When kids hit the playground for active fun, it’s important to ensure that their playtime stays safe and enjoyable. When you understand the potential hazards and safety issues that often exist in children’s play areas, your careful supervision and monitoring of the area can help ensure that your child stays safe and uninjured.
The ground surface of a children’s play area must meet minimum requirements to absorb the impact of children jumping or falling from equipment. Various surfaces might include wood chips, sand, gravel or an engineered material such as shredded tires, according to a checklist published by the Early Childhood Education Linkage System. The depth of the surface depends on the material and the height of the equipment. A play area surface should never contain less than 9 inches of loose fill or less than 6 inches of an engineered material, according to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission website. Verify that a play area meets these minimums by contacting the local government area responsible for maintaining the playground.
Design and Flow
The design and flow of a play area should provide safety for the children using the equipment, according to the Kids Health website. Elevated surfaces need guardrails and barriers to prevent falls. Structures over 30 inches off the ground need a minimum of 9 feet between structures. Playgrounds should locate equipment that moves, such as swings and seesaws, in areas separated from the rest of the equipment to avoid accidents. Check for potential entrapment points in equipment where a child’s head or other body part could become caught -- openings should be less than 3 1/2 inches or more than 9 inches, states the Kids Health site.
Play areas need age-appropriate designs, separated for children of different ages, according to a report published by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education. Playgrounds should have divided play areas for children less than 23 months old, children between 2 and 5 years of age and children between 5 and 12 years of age. If playgrounds do not have separate play areas, accidents and collisions may occur as children of different sizes and skill levels move about actively.
A children’s play area needs continual maintenance to ensure that it remains safe and free of hazards, warns the Delaware Institute for Excellent in Early Childhood website. Scan the area to ensure it’s free of trash, such as broken glass or cigarette butts. Wood structures may splinter over time without proper maintenance. Insects can build hives or nests within equipment or surface materials. Structures break over time and with use. Perform a careful examination of the play area to ensure that it’s in safe condition before you allow your child to play.
- Early Childhood Education Linkage System: Safety Checklist for Active Play Areas
- Consumer Protection Safety Commission: Public Playground Safety Handbook
- Kids Health: Playground Safety
- National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation
- Delaware Institute for Excellent in Early Childhood: Common Safety Hazards
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