It is the unfortunate truth that every two and a half minutes or so, a child is admitted to the emergency room for a playground or schoolyard-related injury. In fact, according to a study performed by the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) emergency rooms treat more than 20,000 children under 14 years-old every year for playground-related brain injuries.
We understand that these statistics are shocking. However, that doesn’t mean that you should keep your kids off of playgrounds forever. It isn’t fair to keep your child in a hermetically sealed plastic bubble their whole lives. So, what is a concerned parent to do? How can you keep your kids safe while still allowing them the freedom to play and explore? Well, there are a few things you can do, on your own, to help prevent traumatic playground injuries.
Prevent Playground Injuries and Always Inspect Your Local Playground
While yes, it is the city or park owner’s job to inspect and perform repairs on public playgrounds, it never hurts to investigate on your own. Doing so can help provide you with peace of mind while also alleviating some of the workload for whoever is managing the playground. To perform your personal inspection, visit the park, and complete a visible inspection, keeping a close eye out for the following:
- Identify and make a note of old, unsafe, or otherwise outdated playground equipment. For example, monkey bars account for a considerable number of annual playground injuries and really shouldn’t be in them at all anymore.
- Check the equipment for signs of damage and other hazards like splinters, loose bolts, and sharp edges.
- Pick up any animal waste and trash you find around the playground.
- Make sure that the surfaces under play structures provide proper cushioning for where your child falls and jumps.
Teach Your Kids the Tenets of Safe Play
Nobody intentionally teaches their children to play rough or otherwise dangerously. It’s something they just do on their own and without prompt. However, you can do a lot of good by teaching your children what constitutes safe play. Here’s what that means:
- Play Nicely: The first, and most important, tenant of safe play is to play nicely. Teach your children to play without being mean, violent, or hurtful. Discourage horseplay, pushing, shoving, wrestling, and other violent and dangerous behavior. Instead, teach your children to share, take turns, and how to better get along with their peers.
- Wear Proper Shoes: On the playground, children should always wear proper footwear. Types of shoes that should be avoided on the playground include sandals, flip-flops, and boots. Instead, your children should wear things like tennis shoes, with properly tied laces and fasteners.
- Dress Appropriately: Besides footwear, there are some types of clothing that your children should avoid wearing on the playground. Remove necklaces, purses, scarves, and any garment with drawstrings from your child’s playground wardrobe.
- Supervise: Adult supervision on the playground is probably the second-most important tenet of safe play. Children should always be supervised by a competent and vigilant adult whenever on the playground.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Public Fuss About Playground Safety
Inspecting the playground and teaching your kids how to play safe is essential, but sometimes far from adequate at preventing playground injuries. Sometimes, you have to make a public fuss about the lack of safe playgrounds in your area. Some things you can do to help make a fuss and to raise playground safety awareness include:
- Talk to the local newspaper about playground safety
- Officially complain to local public officials
- Invite a local celebrity to participate in a playground safety presentation
- Challenge your local school to an injury-free week on the playground
- Report anything unsafe to someone who has the authority to do something about it
In conclusion, there are several things you can do to help improve playground safety in your home town. From inspecting the playgrounds and teaching your children about safe play, to making a public fuss about the lack of safety precautions taken at your local playgrounds, you have the power to help reduce the number of children admitted to the hospital with a playground-related injury.