many new playgrounds that are child-safe. These facilities include rubberized mats,
rubberized tips on the equipment and other safeguards.
whether or not your community has any of these, and lobby to get them installed if it does
not. Look for these safeguards wherever your child plays.
The best way to be safe is to make sure there is always an adult
supervising activities on all playgrounds.
Many adults who take children to the park allow them to play on all
the playground equipment accessible to them. However, because of the lack of signs
indicating the age-appropriateness of the playground equipment, these adults may
unknowingly put young children at risk for injury, according to a recent report by the
National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS).
"We need to make adults aware that our playgrounds are not
safe," Dr. Donna Thompson, NPPS program director, told Reuters Health. Each year,
over 200,000 children in the United States are injured severely enough to go to hospital
emergency rooms, she said.
The NPPS analyzed over 3,000 playgrounds in child-care centers, schools, and parks in the
US, rating them in four categories: supervision, age appropriateness, fall surfacing, and
equipment maintenance (SAFE).
The findings were disappointing, Thompson remarked. One major concern was the lack of
adult supervision. "Adults are not going to playgrounds with children as much as they
should, or they are not paying attention to the children playing," Thompson said.
Adult supervision was observed in 93% of child-care center playgrounds in contrast to 74%
of school playgrounds.
Most playground equipment--59%--was "age segregated" according to guidelines
published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. However, "only 35% (of park
playgrounds) have clear separation of equipment for ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12," the
authors note. This is in contrast to approximately 60% of child-care and school
playgrounds, both of which "tend to have age-appropriate equipment." Yet,
"only 6% of all playgrounds had signage which indicated the age appropriateness of
equipment," the findings indicate.
For example, a 2- to 5-year-old child should not be allowed to play on horizontal ladders,
Thompson explained. The large handgrip required may make a smaller child more likely to
fall. Also, the height of the equipment may be too great for the child who "can't
adjust to fall in the correct manner," she described. Proper signage is needed so
that adults "can direct children to proper equipment," she added.
The investigators found it "encouraging" that US playgrounds use "safe
surfacing materials." However, they were disturbed to note that in many areas the
surface is not the correct depth or not in the correct zone. This "increases the
probability that a child could be injured on the playground in over half of the
playgrounds nationwide," they comment.
Playground equipment made out of plastic seemed the easiest to maintain, according to the
survey. In contrast, 37% of the metal equipment showed signs of rust, and 39% of the
wooden equipment had splinters.
Of the five regions evaluated, the highest ratings for playground safety were earned by
Southwest and Northwest states, including Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington. Most
of the individual states scored within the B to C range, but notable exceptions included
Arizona with a B+, and Florida and Michigan, which were rated D-.
"While it is encouraging that basic (playground) safety guidelines and standards as
measured in this national survey have been met," the researchers conclude,
"...there is still much more that adults can do to ensure SAFE playgrounds."
NPPS has partnered with 3M NexCare First Aid Products to produce signs in several cities
that will indicate the age-appropriateness of playground equipment. In addition,
individuals who observe playgrounds that fall short in terms of safety should notify the
proper authority, Thompson suggests. "If it's a child-care center, talk to the
director. If it's a school, talk to the principal. If it's a park, talk to the supervisor
or park director," she encouraged. But don't let the child play in the area until the
problem is resolved, she advised.