700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Fewer Ouchies and More Fun – 5 Tips for Playground Safety

Sep 17, 2019
Playground Safety

For many families, the neighborhood playground is a great place for both kids and adults to have fun, explore and get some exercise. Unfortunately, more than 213,000 kids younger than 18 years are treated in US hospital emergency departments for playground-related injuries every year. Most injuries are the result of a fall and the most common types of injuries are broken bones, bruises, cuts and sprains.

One thing playground designers have done to help keep injuries to a minimum is to design playgrounds based on age. You may know a bucket swing is for babies (6 months and older) and toddlers, but did you know there are age guidelines for all playground equipment?

Some playgrounds are only intended for some age groups. For example, a playground at a preschool is likely built exclusively for preschool aged kids. A playground at an elementary or middle school is built for grade school aged kids. But, what about the city or neighborhood park?

Larger playgrounds may have separate sections for different age groups, along with signs designating the areas for toddlers, preschoolers or grade-school kids. These guidelines are put in place to match the size, strength, coordination and abilities of typically-developing children in these age groups. When children play on age-appropriate equipment, they’re less likely to get hurt and more likely to have fun. If age guidelines are not posted at the playground, here’s a handy chart listing appropriate equipment for each age group.

Before you go, here are a few tips to help make the playground adventure safer for everyone:

  • Check age guidelines. Make sure play equipment is appropriate for your child’s age and ability. Follow the chart and listen to your gut instinct.
  • Single rider: Encourage children to follow the one-rider rule. One person on a slide, swing or other equipment at a time. Parents and caregivers can model this behavior too. An adult riding a slide or swing with a toddler in their lap can lead to serious injuries for both of them. 
  • Safe surfacing: Avoid playground equipment sitting over concrete, blacktop or grass. Play equipment should have wood chips, rubber surfacing or sand under and around it. Fix (or report to the park manager) places where children might trip, such as tree roots, rocks and uneven concrete.
  • Equipment condition: Stay away from equipment with rust, cracks, rotten areas and loose or missing parts. In warm weather, play equipment can get hot enough to cause burns. Touch the surface first before allowing children to play.
  • No strings attached. Remove bike helmets, clothing with drawstrings and necklaces. Do not allow children to add strings, ropes or pet leashes to playground equipment. These could lead to strangulation or entrapment.

As always when playing outside, remember to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water. For more information on playground safety from the Center for Injury Research and Policy, click here.

Age-appropriate playground equipment

Featured Expert

Laura Dattner
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

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