Kids run on unbelievable stores of energy. They love to run and play outside, thus the invention of the playground. Playgrounds are supposed to be a fun way for kids to get exercise, but they also present plenty of ways for kids to get hurt. If you run a daycare that has a playground, it’s important to make sure that the structures are as safe as possible—the kids’ parents are relying on you to keep their little ones out of harm’s way, and their concerns about outdoor play time aren’t unfounded. According to kidshealth.org, more than 200,000 children per year are taken to the ER because they got hurt on a playground. That number seems really big and scary, but we’ve put together seven playground safety tips to reduce the chances of bumps, bruises, cuts, and even broken bones.
Check the playground.
It’s important to do a sweep of the playground prior to letting kids loose on it. There might be trash on the ground that could cut tiny fingers if a child picked it up. By doing a quick walk-around to evaluate the playground, you can remove the danger before a child discovers it. Also, be aware of things protruding from the ground that could trip a child and send them flying—tree trunks or limbs are common culprits.
Consider the surface of the playground.
The playground’s surface has to be appropriate and safe for children. Hard surfaces, such as concrete or asphalt, are not safe for kids. If someone falls, the surface has to provide a soft landing so that the child won’t get hurt. Even grass or dirt is too hard. Some of the best surfaces for playgrounds are sand, mulch, shredded rubber, rubber mats, or synthetic turf. Take stock of how kid-friendly your ground surface is, and consider making a change if it’s not up to scratch.
Keep playground equipment in good repair.
Make sure that you do a regular check of the play equipment to see what requires maintenance. If any wood has started to chip or splinter, make sure it’s repaired ASAP and don’t let kids play around it. Same goes for rusted pieces of metal equipment, or anything that’s broken for that matter. Be sure to hire someone reputable to do the repairs to your play equipment.
Regular upkeep goes a long way to making a playground safer. Also, if your playground has a sandbox, be sure to cover it at night to ensure that animals don’t make themselves at home there and create lots of germs.
Provide age-appropriate equipment.
A two-year-old shouldn’t be playing on equipment intended for an eight-year-old. To keep the kids safe, separate the playground into different sections based on age groups. Ideally, there would be three different sections—one for children aged 0-2, one for children aged 2-5, and another for kids aged 5-12. Each section should have toys or play structures that are suited to the intended group of children. Keep in mind that it’s important to minimize opportunities for tiny humans to get trapped or pinched by play equipment.
An extra note is that if there are any pieces of the playground that move, such as a see-saw, make sure that there’s plenty of room around the structure and that these components are in the right “section” of the playground.
Don’t allow roughhousing.
Lay down the ground rules. Make sure that the kids know that any pushing, shoving, kicking, etc. will not be tolerated, and be good on your word. Have a system for disciplining unruly behavior.
Make sure everyone’s dressed to play.
If there are any children wearing clothing that could get caught in play equipment, like long necklaces, scarves, or purses, ask them to let you hold their accessories while they play. Anything with a long string or strap can get snagged on the playground.
Make sure that you have adequate assistance while the children are playing on the playground. It takes lots of eyes to be sure that the kids aren’t getting into mischief! All of the supervisors have to be attentive and aware of what’s going on. You might have to swoop in and save a child at a moment’s notice, and the closer you’re watching the faster your reaction time will be.
Let’s face it—if there’s trouble to be found, chances are a kid will find it. By eliminating the potential sources of trouble before they cause problems, you reduce the chances that a child will get hurt. Nobody wants the kids to cry—everyone’s happier when there are no tears, right?
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