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Parks and playgrounds are a great place for children to have fun and get some well needed exercise. However, it is important to consider the safety factors. When allowing your children to play in a new park or playground it is worth checking how safe it is based on the following points.
The playground equipment should be clean and well maintained. Metal should not be rusted, nor should wood be cracked and splintered. Make sure hardware such as bolts and hooks are secure with not sharp edges that could injure your child. Avoid playgrounds with broken or damaged equipment. If you see some damage, there are probably additional dangers you cannot see, and it is worth reporting to your local council or whoever maintains the park or playground.
If the playground or park has a sandbox, check for hazardous debris and bugs that could be within the sand. Parks and playgrounds should cover their sandboxes when not in use to avoid hazardous material making its way into the sandbox.
In terms of swing placement; there should be at least 30 inches between the swing and the support frame and 24 inches between each swing. There should only be 2 swings per bay in order for safe swings. Bucket seat tot swings should have their own bay; all swings should be made of short rubber or plastic, not metal or wood.
To ensure the park or playground as a whole is safe there should be a fence around it especially if it is close to a road or parking lot in order to prevent children from coming too close to traffic.
Surface materials should cover all areas, especially fall zones around the equipment. They should be soft and thick enough to soften a fall. Hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete are not safe. Neither are grasses or hard-packed earth. Loose materials such as wood chips, mulch, sand, shredded rubber, or pea gravel will cushion falls. Whatever surface material is used should be deep enough to provide a cushion. It is recommended that materials be at least twelve inches deep for equipment up to eight feet high. Surface mats made from rubber or rubber-like material is safe and allows access for people in wheelchairs.
Equipment with moving parts, such as swings and seesaws, should be located in a separate area. Play structures more than 30 inches high should be spaced at least 9 feet apart. All openings on equipment such as rungs and bars are ladders or guardrails should be less than 3½ inches wide or wider than 9 inches to prevent a child’s head, arm, or leg from being trapped.
The playground should be designed with spacing to allow you to see your child clearly while they are playing.
Play areas should be designed and designated for three age groups: school age children (5 to 12 year olds; pre-schoolers (2 to 5 year olds); and infants and toddlers. These areas should be separated to provide the greatest safety.
Every year, kids are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-related injuries, many of which could have been prevented with the proper supervision.
It is important that children of every age have adult supervision. Younger children need to be reminded to follow safe playground practices, and older children need to be reminded not to play on equipment designed for younger children or to take risks.
Rules for safe playground use should be taught and enforced.
Play is an important part of kids’ development – physical, social, intellectual, and emotional. Checking your neighbourhood park or playground for safety and teaching your children the proper rules for correct use of the equipment can help them have fun and remain safe.