Is Your Child's Playground Safe?

Check your child's favorite playground for these common hazards.
Swings

Each year more than 200,000 children are injured on playgrounds in the United States, according to the National Program for Playground Safety in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The good news: You can help your child play it safe. Follow these guidelines to help keep your little one safe and sound.

Make sure surfaces are safe.

Nearly 70 percent of playground injuries are from falls to the surface. But the right playground surface can help protect your child by cushioning his landing. Best bets: Sand, pea gravel, mulch, and rubber mats and tiles. (The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that these surfaces be at least 12 inches deep.) The most dangerous ground coverings include concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop, packed dirt, and rocks.

Keeping Kids Safe

Check your child's clothing.

A hooded sweatshirt with a drawstring may seem harmless enough off of the playground, but the string can cause strangulation if it gets caught on a piece of equipment. For that reason, the experts at the National Safe Kids Campaign suggest removing all hood and neck drawstrings from your kids' outerwear.

Look for safe playground equipment.

All playground equipment -- slides, seesaws, swings -- should be securely anchored to the ground. Also check that S-hooks are completely closed and that no nails or bolts are sticking out. Beware of any sharp pieces that can cut a child or openings that could trap a little one's head or body. All openings should be less than 3.5 inches or greater than 9 inches.

Assessing the Risks

Seek out age-appropriate equipment.

Preschoolers and school-age kids need different types of play equipment. Look for a playground that provides separate areas for older and younger kids.

Go for guardrails.

Playground equipment that has raised platforms or ramps -- the top platform of a slide, for example -- should have guardrails to help prevents falls.

What to Watch for

See if the slide's safe.

Look for a slide with these characteristics: A steepness of no more than 50 degrees, rounded or curved edges to prevent cuts, and an exit area of at least 11 inches that is 7 to 15 inches off the ground (the exit should let a child off into an uncongested area of the playground).

Spring-centered seesaws are best.

Traditional seesaws or "teeter-totters" require kids to cooperate with each other and coordinate their actions, which can be especially difficult for preschoolers. Many playgrounds are replacing their seesaws with newer spring-centered seesaws that won't crash one child to the ground if the other decides to hop off. If you have the option, encourage young kids to use a spring-centered seesaw.

Supervise your child.

A lack of supervision is associated with 40 percent of playground injuries, says the National Safe Kids Campaign. Lower your child's chances of getting hurt by watching him carefully as he enjoys a playground.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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