Physical activity is extremely important to the well-being of children. Regular outdoor play helps build strong bones and muscles, improves cardiopulmonary strength, controls weight and reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety among children and adolescents. According to The World Health Organization, it is recommended for children aged between 5 and 17 years to participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Playgrounds are a great option to ensure physical activity for children, along with some fresh air. It also gives them the opportunity to use up their vast reserves of energy and socialize with others of their own age.
Although playgrounds are a great source of fun, they are also places where children are likely to get injured. However, most playground injuries tend to be just minor scrapes and cuts, which is an integral part of the growing anyway. But there also runs the risk of children suffering more serious injuries. According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 200,000 children aged 14 years and younger are treated by emergency departments across the US for playground-related injuries. And over 20,000 of these children are treated for traumatic brain injury. These statistics do not mean that you don’t allow your children to challenge themselves on the playground. It only means that all play should be under adult supervision and you need to choose a playground that ensures safety.
Here are some things to keep in mind while checking out the safety of a playground.
The Correct Surfacing: Almost 80% of all playground injuries are caused due to falling. This makes it imperative for you to ensure that there is enough shock-absorbing material used in the playground surfaces, such as wood chips, gravel, sand, mulch, or shredded rubber, according to PlaygroundExperts.com. It is recommended that there should be at least 12 inches of shock-absorbing material around playground equipment. Playgrounds that only have concrete, dirt, asphalt, or grassy surfaces are unable to absorb the impact of a fall and should be avoided.
Age Appropriate Equipment: Playground equipment is designed specifically for children of different age groups. When, children try to use equipment not meant for them, it can lead to injuries. The straps and rails of the equipment may not be able to secure a child who is lighter and smaller than the age group the equipment is designed for. It is important that you look for signs indicating the recommended age for using the equipment. Some playgrounds also have distinct play areas for children of different age groups.
Dress to Play: Before going to the playground, ensure that your child is dressed in clothes that keep them comfortable and safe. It is important that the clothes not have loose or flowing parts that run the risk of getting caught in the playground equipment. Children should also not wear anything around their necks, such as sweatshirts with drawstrings, bike helmets, and necklaces, as these could lead to a risk of strangulation. It is also best to avoid wearing sandals and flip flops, as they are not designed to protect the feet from injury. Instead, closed-toe shoes, with the laces tightly tied, should be chosen.
Beware of Sun Exposure: According to the National Program for Playground Safety, of all the playgrounds surveyed, only 3% had full shade protection, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., whereas there was partial shade in 30% of the playgrounds. The remaining playgrounds were completely exposed to the rays of the sun during the said period. It is advisable to limit sun exposure during times when the sun is shining the strongest. Playing in shaded areas at this time is advisable to avoid the harmful effect of exposure to UV rays, as well as the risk of overheating among children. In case the equipment is too hot to touch, do not allow your child to play on it since it can lead to burns.
Playgrounds are a great place for children to grow and develop multiple skills. The key is to ensure that they stay safe while having fun.