Taking a stroll to the park is a great way for parents and children to get a breath of fresh air and some light exercise. A trip to the playground can be a fun-filled outdoor activity when parents and children remember the importance of staying safe.
Safety in public playgrounds and parks
Playground safety tips for parents to keep in mind
- A playground should have landing surfaces that are soft and deep enough to absorb the impact of a child's fall. Good surfaces use materials such as wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel or shredded rubber. Grass and soil are not safe because weather changes can make the surfaces harder.
- Inspect playground equipment for any sharp objects and rusty surfaces that may be unsafe for a child to touch.
- Raised structures such as slides and or climbing equipment should have handrails and barriers to protect a child from falling.
- Teach your child not to pick up or play with any garbage from the ground and to tell whichever adult is with them if they find any broken glass or syringes.
- Supervise your child while they playing to monitor any risky or dangerous behaviour.
- Ensure your child is on the proper equipment for their age group. In general, if a child cannot reach a piece of equipment, they should not play on it.
- Remove any drawstrings, scarves or other items that could get stuck or caught in playground equipment. Make sure your child's clothing and footwear are secure to minimize the risk of injury.
- Avoid going down the slide with a young child or toddler. It is actually safer for a child to slide down on their own.
- Be familiar with first aid in case your child gets hurt.
- Use child-friendly playground safety tips to help your child learn about staying safe.
- Always wash your hands and your child's hands after playing in the playground, especially after playing in the sandbox. You could also use hand sanitizer. Handwashing is important because the sandbox could contain feces (poo) of animals that were there at night. Your child could get sick if they consume the feces, for example by putting their hand in their mouth or touching food and then eating it right away.
Playground safety rules that children should learn and understand
- Remind your child that the playground is a public space that they must share with other children.
- Teach your child to remain patient while waiting for their turn.
- Your child should play safely and treat others how they would like to be treated.
- Tell your child to stay away from moving swings and swinging handlebars.
- Remind your child to hold onto any railings.
- Teach your child to always slide down feet first and keep their hands near to their bodies.
Staying safe on backyard play equipment
Most backyard playground systems include slides, swings and climbing frames. Remember to have a deep, soft surface under any equipment to absorb some of the impact of any falls. Sand or wood chips are the safest options; grass and soil are less safe because they can become hard surfaces over time.
Safety around splash pads and wading pools
When water is involved - whether it is a splash pad, fountain or kiddie pool - there is always a drowning risk. Always stay in sight and within reach of children, especially those aged under five. Children in this age group are attracted to water but are not old enough to understand the risks involved or the limits of their own abilities.
Safety tips around water
- Teach your child to walk, not run. Surfaces are slippery and can easily lead to falls.
- Have your child wear proper waterproof shoes.
- Report and/or repair any broken or damaged equipment as soon as possible.
- Check playground equipment for any sharp or dangerous surfaces.
- Teach children playground safety rules and safe behaviour.
- Avoid going down the slide with your toddler - it is safer for them to slide down alone.
- Remove any clothing that could get stuck in the playground equipment, including bicycle helmets.
- A child should always be supervised, whether they are at a public playground or splash pad or in your own backyard.
- Always wash hands after leaving the playground.
Elizabeth Berger, BA, MD, FRCPC, FAAP, MHPE