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Playing It S.A.F.E. on the Playground

by Ronald A. Rowe | August 6th, 2014 | Elementary, Safety

p0908 013According to the National Program for Playground Safety, almost 220,000 children are injured on playgrounds each year.  That’s about 600 playground-related injuries each and every day in the United States of America.  That does not include every scraped elbow or bruised knee.  That total includes only injuries significant enough to require emergency room care.  While many of the injuries involved preschool children, elementary schoolers suffered their fair share as well.  Forty-six percent of the injured were elementary age and the average age of all children reporting injuries was six.

The most common playground injury came from falling off the various pieces of playground equipment.  Climbers and swings were the most likely culprits with slides not too far behind.  More than a third of the children treated for playground-related injuries suffered bone fractures.  Contusions, abrasions, lacerations, strains, and sprains were also reported in significant numbers.

Tips for creating a safe playground environment have been covered here in the past.  But once the setup has been established there are still things that you can do to help ensure the safety of your children at the playground.  To protect your children from potential injuries on the playground, the National Program for Playground Safety recommends you remember S.A.F.E.:

Supervision – Be sure that your children are properly supervised.  That means putting down the cell phone and keeping an eye on the action.

Age-Appropriate – Make sure that your children are limiting their play to equipment that is appropriate to their age and abilities.

Fall Surfacing – There isn’t much you can personally do about the fall surfacing at the local playground except chose the playground with a safety surface.  The modern, spongy surfaces are a great upgrade from the dirt and concrete unpinning of parks of days gone by.

Equipment – Make sure the equipment is in good condition.  Again, that may be beyond your control but you can steer your children away from any pieces of equipment that you see are in need of repair.

Beyond the helpful acronym of S.A.F.E., the organization offers several other tips.  You should check to make sure that no strings or ropes are present.  Deaths from playground injuries are thankfully uncommon, but when they do occur the #1 cause is hanging or other asphyxiations.   Strings and ropes should be checked carefully for security before proceeding.

Also check to make sure the equipment is not too hot.  Metal equipment in the hot summer sun can get hot enough to cause burns.  Children should not wear bike helmets when playing on playground equipment.  See the above comments about asphyxiation.  Bicycle helmets can easily get caught and may cause strangulation.

Finally, as with all other outdoor summer activities, children should wear appropriate clothing (including proper footwear) and be protected from the sun.

With all that said, a trip to the playground can still be a safe and relaxing summertime activity.  Just go into it armed with foreknowledge about the potential risks.  A few minutes of inspection and preparation will go a long way toward a safe and happy day at the park.

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