Spring is on the way—I promise—and it is a great time to review some outdoor playground safety tips! Whether you are a child care provider, or a parent wanting to know more about how to assess the playground safety at your child’s program, as the weather starts to clear, now is the time to check outdoor playgrounds for safety.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Playground surface: In a public playground, such as in a group center, there must be at least 9 inches of mulch or other appropriately soft surfacing beneath equipment that is higher than 4 feet.
- Fall zones: There must be at least a 4 foot fall zone on all sides of any swings. Pull the swing out as far it will go to see that there is a minimum of four feet in front of that point. That way if a child jumps off of a swing he/she would not hit anything or fall into an unsafe area.
- Protrusions & Entanglements: Are there places on swings or elsewhere that children could get caught, or is there any equipment jutting out that they could run into?
- Entrapment openings: Are there gaps of 4 to 9 inches in railings, climbing equipment, fences or anything else accessible to children? Small children can get their limbs caught in these!
- Spacing of equipment: Ensure that playground equipment is adequately spaced so that there are no hazards, such as climbers being placed too close to swings.
- Developmentally Appropriate: Is the playground equipment and outdoor areas developmentally appropriate for the age of children using them?
- General Hazards: Look carefully for any pinching, crushing, sharp edge, or tripping hazards on playground equipment and outdoor toys.
- Guardrails: Are there safety rails on all of the climbing equipment to keep children from falling?
- Maintenance: Is the outdoor playground in disrepair, dirty, or in need of updating?
- Supervision is Key: Children should be carefully supervised at all times when outdoors. Are there an adequate number of adults per child?
These are only a few thoughts, offered by one of SFTA’s own, Anna Ramirez, who works with providers on this issue. Have more ideas? Share! And have fun at the playground!