UH News

Playing Safe at the Playground

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Greater Cleveland remind parents to be on alert while on playgrounds

Cleveland, OH – Spring has finally arrived here in Cleveland, and with the warm weather parents and kids are spending more time outdoors. A trip to the neighborhood playground or an afternoon spent on backyard play equipment are fun activities that both parents and kids enjoy. While the risks and dangers associated with activities like swimming or riding a bike might seem more obvious, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Greater Cleveland remind parents to not let their guard down when kids are playing on the playground. Active supervision and some simple safety precautions can help ensure kids remain healthy and safe.

Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and under are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with playground equipment, according to the Center of Disease and Prevention. While falls account for 80 percent of playground injuries, most fatalities are caused by strangulation and tend to occur on home playgrounds, not on public property.

“Nothing can take the place of active supervision, but we do need to make sure our kids are playing in safe environments in the first place,” says Mandy Thomas, Coordinator of Safe Kids Greater Cleveland at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. “Parents and caregivers are responsible for making sure playgrounds are safe and appropriate for their kids.”

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Safe Kids Greater Cleveland recommend parents and caregivers focus on these areas to make the playground experience a safe one:

  • Fall Surfacing—safe surfacing should be present beneath all playground equipment and in the surrounding “fall zones.” Grass and soil are not good playground surfaces. The ground should be covered with energy-absorbing materials, like shredded rubber, wood chips or sand, extending at least six feet in all directions, except for slides and swings which need a wider fall zone. The surfacing won’t prevent falls, but it can prevent injuries or reduce their severity.
  • Age appropriate design and play—separate playground equipment should be available for children ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12. Don’t let your younger kid play on the equipment designed for older kids. Remove hood and neck drawstrings from children’s clothing and outerwear, as they can pose a risk for strangulation on playground equipment. Don’t let kids wear helmets, necklaces, purses or scarves on the playground.
  • Equipment maintenance—make sure playground equipment is well-maintained. This means free of rust and broken wood, which could cause splinters, or protruding nuts, bolts, or nails, which could cause lacerations. Check to be sure there are no foreign objects are on the playground. Objects like glass, bottle caps, needles, and trash increase the risk of injury.
  • If you notice any problems with the equipment, fall surface or maintenance of your public playground, please contact your city to alert them of the issue.

While checking the safety of the playground is very important, active supervision is the most effective way to protect kids from injuries. Parents and caregivers need to keep kids in sight and in reach on the playground. “Simply being in the same place as your child isn’t necessarily supervising,” says Thomas. “Kids on a playground need your undivided attention.”

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