It’s no secret that home playground equipment can pose serious dangers to children.
I find it incredible when witnessing parents lecturing their children for putting themselves in danger… when it’s the parents’ responsibility to create a safe place for kids to play in.
At least that’s my opinion.
In the United States alone, tens of thousands of children are treated in hospitals for injuries originating from playground equipment. And that is without counting those that treat themselves at home.
Seeing your children having fun in the backyard without a care in the world is one of the blessings in life. So I’m sure any parent would want to create a safe and conducive environment that keeps the potential of injuries at the bare minimum.
Here are some tips to do so.
1) Buy playground equipment taking into account the child’s age and weight
Throw away that philosophy of buying clothing 1 size bigger when it comes to equipment.
This is a totally different animal altogether.
If a child cannot safely use the equipment at the moment, don’t even think about him being able to do so in 6 months.
Accidents don’t wait for us to grow up.
Billion-dollar corporations pour a huge amount of money into research and testing on their products. If they mention that a particular item is meant for kids in a certain age group, please don’t think that you know better.
It’s your children’s life and childhood on the line. Make sure he or she is at the appropriate age the toys and equipment are meant for.
Also check that products have a ASTM F 1148 label.
2) Choose an appropriate area
If you are an outdoor person, you’d know that the spot where you set up the tent is the most critical factor in how well it holds up.
You must approach setting up the equipment with the same level of care.
The selected site should be at least 7 feet away from electrical cables and 6 feet away from walls.
It must also not be on low ground where water ponding will occur. At the same time, the ground has to be level to prevent any falls due to balance disorientation.
Read up the manufacturer’s installation instructions when assembling equipment together. Don’t forget to set anchors.
If there are more than one equipment to set up, ensure that they are at least 12 feet apart.
3) Soft landing
There is always the potential of falls when playing outdoors. And in some areas, the potential of falls happening can be more predictable.
Identifying these areas will depend on your judgment.
Then setup a soft landing in these areas.
Commonly used material for fall zones include:
- synthetic mats
Don’t forget to inspect it’s condition every fortnight.
4) Height of equipment
The height of the play equipment will heavily depend on the age of the child.
A slide for example, that is meant for pre-school children should never exceed 4 feet.
The hazard is not just about falling. It is also about strangling as well.
When an equipment is too tall, children can strangle when their head gets caught in openings since their feet cannot reach the ground.
For this reason, openings should either be less than three and a half inches so that a child cannot get through, or more than 9 inches so that one can fall completely through without getting caught in it.
5) Safe apparel
You don’t need to demand your kids to wear a Kevlar helmet when playing outside. But what you can do is being mindful of the following:
- No oversized clothing
- No necklaces and chains on the neck
- No drawstrings on outer wear
- No sandals
- Wear shoes that protect the toes and keep them together
- If long-sleeves are worn, ensure that the sleeves are not too loose
The gist of everything is to be mindful of clothing and accessories that can get caught on playground equipment. And also take extra care in protecting fingers and toes as they are the most vulnerable to injuries at play.
Once you install the equipment, it is a good idea to conduct an orientation and demonstration on how to use it safely.
A lot of times children learn best with a visual lesson. Conducting an oral lecture alone might not be ideal.
You can double it up by announcing your rules for playing and warn them against stepping over line.
To round this up, remember that children usually don’t know any better. They are not expected to anyway. So don’t lay the expectation of being safe solely on their shoulders.
It is our job as parents to create a safe environment in the backyard or any other places at home for the kids to play safely.