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School Playground: Safe or Not?

by Lori Sciame September 16th, 2013 | Elementary, Safety
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playgroundFor nine months of the year, elementary aged children spend most of their waking hours at school.  From the time they arrive in the morning, to when they leave in the late afternoon, the potential for unintentional injuries exists — especially on the school playground.  Knowing the potential hazards is the one way to protect your child. Read this post to find out the worst offenders on school grounds.

As shown by Safe Kids Worldwide, “playground injuries are the leading cause of injury to children in childcare and to children ages five to 14 in schools.”  The types of injuries experienced include falls, bruising, fractures, concussions, and even strangulation.  In most cases, these injuries do not have to happen.

Adult Supervision Key

First, every elementary school playground should have several adult supervisors.  This is because young children do not understand the ramifications of all of their actions.  For instance, a daredevil may try to walk on top of the monkey bars, or a group of friends may all want to go down the slide at the same time.  Ever-vigilant adults need to be on the lookout for such risky behaviors, and not be afraid to put a stop to them.

Safe Kids reports that not all schools have a playground supervisor.  In fact, they state that “a recent study found that children play without adult supervision more often on school playgrounds (32 percent of the time) than playgrounds in parks (22 percent) or childcare centers (five percent).”  This leads to negative consequences, as “lack of supervision is associated with 40 percent of playground injuries” (Safe Kids).

Follow the Action

Those hired to supervise children playing on the playground need to keep moving.  Kids stay in constant motion, so the potential for injury remains fluid.  The adults in charge need to keep up with this ever changing environment.  In addition, they may wish to use a whistle to quickly stop the action if a dangerous situation arises. One thing adult supervisors should not do: stand in one place and chat with each other, oblivious to what is going on around them!

Rules a Must

Rules can significantly increase school playground safety. Children must be taught how to behave while playing on and off stationary equipment.  In addition, if they are allowed to use racquets, bats, or other similar items, they should also be told how to behave while using them.  For instance, baseball bats can become swords in the imagination of an elementary aged child!

Instead of being negative, rules should be presented as positive.  As Catawba Schools suggest, say “do this,” instead of “don’t do this.”  However, if rules are broken, then consequences need to be enforced.

Regular Inspections of Equipment

On a visit to my child’s elementary school a few years ago, I noticed several safety hazards. Screws had become loose on a climbing apparatus, there was no mulch left under the swing set, and the merry-go-round wobbled. Of course I reported all of these problems to the principal.  Remember, every school should regularly inspect playground pieces.  If they do not, make some NOISE.

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