Playground Safety

By Vanessa Rasmussen, © 2004, All rights reserved.

Each year more than 200,000 children are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipments. Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment can provide your child with fun, fresh air, and exercise, but can also pose some safety hazards. Faulty equipment, improper surfaces, and careless behavior are just a few of the dangers that cause children on playgrounds to get fatally injured.

You can make the playground a place that's entertaining and safe for your children by checking equipment for potential hazards and following some simple safety guidelines. In addition, teaching your kids how to play safely is important: if they know the rules of the playground, it's less likely they'll become injured.

  • Always have an adult supervise the child on playground trips. Watch young children using playground equipment to prevent shoving, pushing, or fighting.
  • One of the biggest causes of injury on playgrounds is that the equipment is not age appropriate for the child using it. Toddlers should not be permitted to play on regular sized equipment but should be allowed to play on equipment designed for their age and size.
  • Most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground. Many backyard play-sets are placed on dirt or grass- surfaces that do not adequately protect children when they fall. The surface under playground equipment should be energy absorbent, such as rubber, sand, sawdust (12 inches deep), wood chips, or bark. Existing concrete, cement, or wood should be covered with these materials.
  • The playground surface should be free of standing water and debris that could cause a child to trip and fall, such as rocks, tree stumps, and tree roots.
  • Swing seats should be made of something soft like rubber or canvas, not wood or metal.
  • Make sure that protective surfacing is installed at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  • Another danger on playgrounds is outdated, unsafe equipment. Broken swings, rusted metal slides with jagged edges and unpadded solid ground can cause serious injuries. When choosing a playground for your child, look for newer ones with updated safer equipment. Never let your child play on broken or faulty equipment.
  • Climbing areas should be no taller than the recommended maximum height for each age group.
  • Swings, seesaws, and other equipment with moving parts should be located in an area that is separate from the rest of the playground. Don't let children walk or run in front of moving swings or seesaws.
  • Cap all screws and bolts. Check periodically for loose nuts and bolts and broken, rusty, or sharp parts. Check for objects that stick out on equipment and could cut a child or cause clothing to become entangled.
  • Don't attach or let the children attach ropes, clotheslines, jump ropes or pet leashes to playground equipment as it can cause strangulation.
  • Make sure your child is wearing sunscreen and that it is applied correctly to avoid getting severely sunburned.

Copyright 2001, 2004. All rights reserved. Any reproduction of this article in whole or in part without written or verbal permission is strictly prohibited. For information about reprinting this article, contact the copyright owner: Vanessa Rasmussen, Ph.D, Starting a Day Care Center,