Parents have been teeter-tottering over to me to ask about the safety of their neighborhood park or school playground. They want to know whether or not added precautions need to be taken. Let me swing into this one and provide a few playground safety tips.

Almost 200,000 children are injured annually on playgrounds, usually after a fall. More than 21,000 children age 14 and under are treated for a traumatic brain injury after a playground accident each year.

The most common reasons for injuries include a lack of adequate protective surfacing, falls off slides and climbing equipment higher than six feet. Other reasons include swings being too close together and puncture wounds and lacerations from hooks and nails that stick out of playground equipment.

If you want to reduce the incidence of playground injuries, consider doing the following:

  • Supervise your child during trips to the playground.
  • Make sure swings are made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic, or canvas.
  • Sand, mulch, wood chips or rubberized matting should be under all playground equipment.
  • Make sure children can’t reach any moving parts that can pinch or trap a body part.
  • Vertical and horizontal spaces should be less than 3.5 inches wide or greater than 9 inches wide so heads do not get trapped.
  • Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent legs from being burned on a hot day. Plastic slides do not get as hot as metal but should still be checked.
  • Platforms higher than 30 inches above the ground should have guardrails or barriers to prevent falls. 

Teach your children some safety tips: never to walk in front of or behind a swing when someone else is on it; never climb up the sliding surface but use the ladder; and move away from the bottom of the slide so they don’t collide with the next child coming down. And of course, don’t allow children under age 4 to climb equipment taller than they are without close supervision. 

Hopefully tips like this will slide down easily the next time you’re worried about your child getting injured on the playground.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.  You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and MyNBC 5, or visit the “First with Kids” video archives at www.UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.

Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont.

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