Playground Safety and Learning
Posted on August 30, 2017 by CHS
Playgrounds are a place where adventure happens. Children can pretend to be superheroes, pirates, famous athletes, or characters from books. As they play, children practice physical development skills such as running, climbing, balancing, jumping, throwing and kicking balls, or swinging. Playgrounds are also a place where children are more likely to take risks.
Taking risks is not always a bad thing. When we take risks we learn about our own abilities and limitations. We learn to trust ourselves and feel confident about what we can do. These experiences build character and resilience. Adults can support children as they challenge themselves through play. For example, an adult can stand next to a climbing structure and be available to a child who is climbing for the first time.
Parents need to decide what the balance between safety and risk-taking is for their child. Keep in mind that each child is equipped with his or her own unique abilities, and what may be safe for one child may not be safe for another. Visiting playgrounds also gives parents the opportunity to teach their child about personal safety.
Personal safety involves developing the following skills:
- Understanding the difference between safe, risky, and unsafe.
- Being able to identify potentially dangerous situations.
- Paying attention to things that are happening around you.
- Remaining calm in an emergency and knowing to call 9-1-1.
- Identifying and responding appropriately to strangers.
- Knowing where to go for help (police or fire station, school, public library, or a responsible neighbor’s house).
Include children in your safety check of a playground. This will give you the opportunity to talk about dangerous items or situations and how to handle them. Explain to them that adults are there to keep them safe, but it is also important for them learn to keep themselves safe too.
Use the resources at the end of this blog to write out a safety checklist with children before visiting a playground. Check online for information about the playground before you visit and remember to dress children appropriately. Children should wear tennis shoes and avoid clothing with strings that can easily be caught on play equipment.
Before visiting the playground, clearly state your expectations to children. Explain the reason for the expectations, as this helps develop their sense of personal safety. Below are ideas of behavior expectations to discuss with your child before going to a playground.
- I expect you to stay where you can see and hear me, because that means I can see and hear you. This means that if there is an emergency, we can help each other.
- I expect you to use the playground equipment correctly. When we get there show me the correct way to swing, slide, and climb. Or if it is a child’s first time on a playground: When we get there I will show you the correct way to swing, slide, and climb. Once I see you know how to use the equipment you can play.
- If you see something or someone that is not safe come get me.
- If I call your name come to me right away. It is my job to keep you safe, but I need your help. If I see something that is not safe, then I will call your name.
- Play and talk with other children the way you want them to play and talk with you. If you tell someone “stop” and they do not listen, then come get me and I will help.
Safety Check and Inspection of the Playground Area and Equipment:
- Do you have a phone with you for emergencies? If not, check to see where the nearest help is for emergencies (grocery store, etc.).
- Did you pack a bag with a small first aid kit, sunscreen, bottled water, snacks, and a blanket?
- Is the playground in a safe area (no major streets, or has a surrounding fence in good repair)?
- Do you see any adults by themselves, or groups of unsupervised teenagers on the playground?
- Are there any stray dogs or other animals visible?
- Are the playground surfaces soft in case children fall (grass, sand, or rubber)?
- Are there any puddles of water on the ground?
- Is the area clear of hazardous trash, animal droppings, and other dangerous materials?
- Is the equipment appropriate for the size, age, and ability level of your child?
- Is the equipment in good repair (no rust, broken pieces, nails, or splinters)?
- Is the equipment slippery from water, or too hot from the sun?
- Is there any piece of equipment that obstructs your view of children?
For more detailed information on playground safety, visit the websites listed below. The resources below will provide you with checklists and more information about how to talk to children about safety. If you are a child care provider, the websites at the end of the list may be helpful for your business. Have fun and be safe!
References and Resources
- Children’s Safety Network: https://www.childrenssafetynetwork.org/injury-topics/playground-safety
- National Program for Playground Safety: http://playgroundsafety.org/
- Playground Safety for Parents by KidsHealth in English: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/playground.html
- Playground Safety for Parents by KidsHealth® in Spanish: http://kidshealth.org/es/parents/playground-esp.html?WT.ac=ctg#catoutdoor-esp
- Playground Safety Tips by Safe Kids Worldwide: https://www.safekids.org/tip/playground-safety-tips
- “Protect the Ones You Love, Child Injuries are Preventable” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/playground/index.html
- Public Playground Safety Handbook by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: https://www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/325.pdf
- Safety on the Playground by the American Academy of Pediatrics in English: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-play/Pages/Safety-on-the-Playground.aspx
- Safety on the Playground by the American Academy of Pediatrics in Spanish: https://www.healthychildren.org/spanish/safety-prevention/at-play/paginas/safety-on-the-playground.aspx
- Playground Equipment and Inspection for Child Care Providers: http://cfoc.nrckids.org/StandardView/playground
- Playground Resources for Child Care Providers: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/facilities/article/resources-safe-playgrounds
- Kidpower® is a paid program for teaching children personal safety skills, but they have a free community membership available which allows you to access handouts, coloring books, and resources in multiple languages: https://www.kidpower.org/