Summer Safety: Hidden Playground Dangers

By contrast, state-of-the-art, safe playgrounds, like the one built by the nonprofit group KaBoom! at Latin American Montessori Bilingual school in Washington, DC, are designed not just for what adults think kids will do, but for what kids really will do.

The same rules apply to home playgrounds.

In fact, more children get hurt on home playgrounds than public playgrounds, because park and recreation departments hear about proper safety practices, whereas parents often don't.

Playground equipment is often attached using 's' hooks. If you can slide a dime between the opening, it is too wide -- another entanglement hazard. Kids clothing -- a neckline or a hood -- can get stuck on this open s-hook and strangle them.

Web Extra: The Rest of the 'Dirty Dozen' Playground Dangers

The National Playground Safety Institute developed a list of 12 "Dirty Dozen" hazards that parents should look out for. I've covered a few so far in my report, but here are the rest.

Improper Protective Surfacing

As we already said, improper protective surfacing can be a big hazard for kids. The following are unacceptable surfaces as determined by the NPSI:

Packed Earth

Acceptable surfaces:

Engineered Wood Fiber
Wood Chips
Sand / Pea Gravel
Synthetic / Rubber Tiles
Shredded Rubber
Poured-in-Place Rubber

Trip Hazards

According to the NPSI, tripping hazards are "created by play structure components or items on the playground."

Some examples include:

Exposed Concrete Footings
Abrupt Changes in Surface Elevation
Tree Roots
Tree Stumps

Lack of Supervision

One of the best ways to keep your kids safe is to make sure somebody is keeping an eye on them.

"Young children are constantly challenging their own abilities, often not being able to recognize potential hazards," the NPSI said. "It is estimated that over 40 percent of all playground injuries are directly related to lack of supervision."

Age-Inappropriate Activities

Safe play equipment is different for a 3-year-old than a 12-year-old. The NPSI recommends separating play areas for preschoolers (age 2 to 5) from school-age kids (age 5 to 12).

Sharp Edges

Give the playground equipment a look before your kid goes nuts on it. Keep an eye out for sharp edges or points that could cut skin.

Equipment Not Recommended for Public Playgrounds

Sometimes it's just a matter of playing on the wrong equipment. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends the following equipment not be used on playgrounds:

Heavy swings such as animal figure swings
Multiple occupancy/glider-type Swings
Free-swinging ropes that may fray or form a loop
Swinging exercise rings and trapeze bars

Web Resources

For more ways to help keep your kids safe, check out the links below.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety: Playground Safety (PDF)

CPSC: Voluntary Safety Standards

CPSC: Playground Safety Checklist

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