I have a very active five-year old daughter named Isabel who has recently started playschool. Whereas before, she would bring home flowers, weeds, colorful pebbles, and discarded catalogs she thought were “too pretty to throw away”, lately she’s been presenting me with scrapes, cuts, and dirt she got from her school playground.
I realize that a playground is expected to have its share of rough and tumble scenarios, but you can’t blame me for being over-anxious about Isabel getting hurt, especially with alarming playground-related accident statistics of nearly 70 percent yearly. This has led my husband John and me to do a checklist on how to keep her safe while in the playground, whether it is in school, at the park, or anywhere outdoors:
1. No playground equipment is broken or requires maintenance
Thankfully, Isabel’s preschool has a plastic and rubber playground set-up with no rough edges and surfaces where clothes can get snagged on or metal surfaces that could get too hot in the sun. However, we did notice that the red plastic slide has a section that is no longer smooth and can collapse any day; perhaps owing to years of kids playing on it. We have alerted the school staff about it and they have promised to replace the slide soon.
The playground at our community park is an altogether different matter; it is an old-fashioned one with metal swings and slides that have peeling paint, and a lopsided carousel that nevertheless fascinates Isabel and her little playmates to no end. Our neighbors have already started a fund raising campaign to provide a makeover for the park playground so our kids can safely enjoy it at any time.
2. All playground surfaces are safe to sit, walk, jump, or fall on
Interlocking rubber mats ensure that Isabel and her schoolmates are adequately cushioned when they fall or romp around, and for this we are grateful. In an outdoor playground set-up, all surfaces should be safe to sit on (with nothing protruding or sharp that can injure; no peeling paint or wood splinters), walk, jump, or run around (no roots, stones, or soft spots in the ground to stumble over), and definitely proper provisions in case kids fall down. Rubber mats are a good idea, although surrounding each playground equipment with a loose fill of sand, wood chips, or mulch does the trick as well.
3. The weather is just right for playing outdoors
Metal playground equipment can smolder under a scorching sun, and heavy rains and snowfall can make them slippery or frozen. Spring and fall are definitely the best seasons for outdoor playgrounds. On summer days that aren’t too hot (not the kind that converts metal swing seats and slide surfaces into barbecue grills, at any rate!), we first check if the surfaces don’t burn before allowing Isabel to play on them.
4. Clothes and hairstyle are appropriate for outdoor playing
Our daughter has reached that stage where she won’t allow a pair of scissors anywhere near her hair (I blame Rapunzel). She also likes wearing her pink Barbie tutu everywhere! We had to gently but firmly explain to her that she needs to tie her hair back and wear pants and a shirt before she can go to the playground. Getting her hair or frilly clothes caught on a spinning carousel or a swing is not something we’d like to happen. Thankfully, she now has a separate store of clothes just to play in, and they’re mostly made of stretchy comfortable fabric with no ornamentation.
5. Adult supervision: a must at all times
This is hands-down the most important playground safety tip for us. Leaving a child, especially one at near-toddler age, unsupervised in a playground is a big no-no! Accidents can happen, even in playgrounds that meet the strictest safety standards. At Isabel’s school, there is always a teacher or qualified custodian to watch over them when parents are not available. This ensures that our kids are safe not only from possible playground-related accidents, but also from predators and unsavory characters lurking near the area.
About the Author
Kristen Swope is a proud WAHM who does freelance writing about everything from swimming pools to home lighting. Her husband and their five-year old daughter fondly refer to her as the Playground Police.
Photo: flickr.com/photos/epsos/3534172926/Filed under Parenting Advice, Parenting Information | Comment (0)