Public playgrounds are a great place for children to blow off some steam while developing their social skills. However, unlike your backyard, public spaces aren’t necessarily as safe a you’d like them to be, and that level of safety can change from day to day.
While it might be tempting to keep your kids in the controlled environment of your backyard, the educational benefits of playing in public around strangers as well as friends are invaluable. Here are a few important steps to take to make sure that your public playground is a safe place for your children, and those of your neighbors.
What to Do on Your First Visit
1. Check the playground surface
Don’t settle for inferior playground surfaces. Kids will fall down and fall off of outdoor swings and play equipment occasionally, and playground surfaces need to be designed to deal with this safely. Hard surfaces like concrete, blacktop, or packed dirt are very dangerous, and can result in serious injuries every time a child falls down. Surfaces under and around play equipment should be at least 12 inches deep and composed of loose material like wood chips, pea gravel, shredded rubber, or sand. This allows kids to use swings, monkey bars, and climbing equipment without a high risk of suffering from abrasions or even broken bones if they fall.
2. Look for design problems
Many older playgrounds suffer from safety issues related to unsafe design. Look for poorly designed guardrails, gaps, or climbing nets that could trap a child’s head, arms, or other body parts. Also ensure that all high points are protected by guardrails to prevent falls, and that free standing play equipment is spaced far apart from other structures.
Something particularly important that often gets overlooked is checking for pinch points. Make sure that the joints of moving parts such as hinges on see-saws don’t have any spaces that could catch a finger or hand.
What to Do on Every Visit
1. Check for damage
No matter how well the playground was designed, damaged equipment can pose an enormous hazard. Damaged wood, metal, or plastic can expose sharp edges, and also impair the structural integrity of the equipment. Always be on the lookout for new signs of wear or breakage.
2. Clear away debris
Walk around the entire play area and clear away any debris left by children or careless adults since your last visit. This could include tripping hazards such as rocks and branches, broken glass or bottles, or toys that were abandoned in unsafe areas, such as in front of a swing or under the monkey bars.
Remember to Teach Safe Play Habits
The most critical part of keeping your kids safe is to also teach them how to control their own environment to minimize risks for themselves. That includes showing them how to identify potential problems, and coaching them to alert an adult to help them deal with those issues.
Of course, no playground can ever be 100% safe. Because of this, parents should always supervise their children, and keep them within their line of site. This is so that they can intervene when their children engage in unsafe play, as well as to be at hand if any injuries do occur. Swinging Monkey strives to make the safest web and fabric swings on the market.