Keep kids safe at the playground

The Canadian Paediatric Society has a number of tips for parents about how to keep your children from getting injured at the park



My son loves to play outside but I’m concerned that our local playground is not safe. What do I need to know?

Playgrounds are places where children can run, jump, climb, slide and socialize with other children. Outdoor play encourages children to be active and healthy.

Adults and caregivers need to ensure that children are safe in the playground. Most playground injuries occur when children fall from the equipment. This can also happen as a result of equipment that isn’t regularly maintained.

When choosing a playground

  • Make sure the structures are right for your child’s age and stage of development.
  • Make sure your child can reach and climb the equipment on his own.

Look for proper surfaces

  • Good playground surfaces are soft and composed of sand, wood chips and synthetic materials—such as shredded rubber. These materials will help absorb a child’s fall.
  • The fill should be deep and loose; for preschool equipment, it should be at least 15 cm (6 inches) deep and at least 30 cm (12 inches) deep for full-sized equipment.
  • Grass, dirt, asphalt or concrete are not safe surfaces for playground equipment.
  • Check that the equipment has strong handrails and barriers to help prevent falls.
  • Equipment should be firmly anchored in the ground.
  • Make sure that there is no garbage, glass or animal droppings on or around the equipment.
  • Swings should be made of a soft material like plastic, not wood or metal.

Before your child uses a playground

  • Check your child’s clothing. Make sure that there are no drawstrings or other cords that can become trapped in equipment.
  • Use a neck warmer instead of a scarf and mitten clips instead of a cord during the winter months.
  • Take off bicycle helmets. A child’s head can get caught in spaces between narrow openings and become stuck when the helmet is too big to be pulled back through.
  • Put away skipping ropes while using the playground equipment.

Supervise your child

  • Stay close to your child. An adult should be present at all times to supervise children younger than 5 years of age.
  • Teach your child to use the equipment safely and correctly.
  • Sensitize your child to be aware of other children and to take turns on playground equipment. Communities should ensure that their local public playgrounds meet provincial standards. You can do this by:
  • Having a certified expert inspect the playground to look for hazards and prioritize any changes that should be made.
  • Making sure the changes are made so that the playground is safe.
  • Keeping the playground equipment, surfaces and grounds clean.
  • Reporting injuries to the playground operator, such as the municipality, school, or child care facility.

If you are concerned about the safety of your local playground, contact the individuals who operate it. Check the blue pages of your phone book for local contact information.

The Canadian Standards Association creates standards for play spaces and equipment. Purchase a copy of the current standards at www.csa.ca or by calling (800) 463-6727.

Contact your local or provincial injury prevention centre, your nearest children’s hospital, or Parachute for safety checklists that will help you check for basic playground hazards.

Some communities have non-traditional outdoor play spaces instead of playground equipment. Some examples include community flower or vegetable gardens, and sand or water play areas. These play areas are less expensive to develop, and can be designed to enhance a child’s development without the risk of falls. Visit www.evergreen.ca to see examples of alternative playgrounds.

Dr. Denis Leduc is a general paediatrician in the Montreal area. He is a Past President of the Canadian Paediatric Society. For more information on your child's growth and development, visit www.caringforkids.cps.ca or www.soinsdenosenfants.cps.ca, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ caringforkids.cps.ca and on Twitter @CaringforKids or @soinsenfants.

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