Outside play is an excellent way for children to expand their physical, mental and social development. Gross and fine motor skills are boosted as children climb up ladders and across monkey bars, use their legs to pump the swings higher and play in the sand box with shovels and pails. The fresh air and vitamin D that the outside provides has proven beneficial to mood and mental health. As children navigate playground equipment, they learn to negotiate and compromise with other children, further boosting their social skills.
While the benefits of outdoor play are becoming more evident, so is the need for equipment to be safe and reliable. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook provides guidelines for playground safety in parks, schools, childcare facilities, residential play areas and any other area of public use. When selecting a site for installation, the CPSC recommends taking into consideration the following factors: travel patterns of children to and from the playground, nearby accessible hazards such as roads with traffic, sun exposure, and slope and drainage.
Once equipment is installed, key safety tips include the following:
- Shading: Did you know five or more sunburns double the risk of developing skin cancer over the course of a lifetime? The best defense is shade either by way of natural trees or shade structures.
- Supervision: Parents, teachers and other caregivers should understand the basics of playground safety, read any posted signs, beware of any equipment needing reparation and assist where needed to ensure safe play is taking place.
- Age appropriateness: Playground equipment is designed for a certain age range, typically for toddlers six to twenty-three months of age, preschoolers two to five years old and elementary school children five to twelve years of age. Caregivers should check that playground equipment is designed for the children’s age group to minimize the risk of accident and injury.
- Surfacing: The installation of shock absorbing surfacing greatly reduces the likelihood of falls resulting in serious head injury. Recommended surfacing includes any material tested to ASTM F1292, including unitary surfaces, engineered wood fiber, pea gravel, sand, shredded/recycled rubber mulch, wood mulch (not CCA-treated) and wood chips.
In addition to CPSC safety guidelines, The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) provides the following recommendations:
- Make sure guardrails are in good working condition to help prevent falls.
- Look out for objects in the play area that could trip your child, like tree stumps or rocks.
Another way to ensure playground equipment is safe is to check that materials are compliant with ASTM playground safety standards. Pro Playgrounds offers playground safety inspection and consulting services to make sure that your existing or proposed playground will meet or exceed all safety requirements, keeping your children safe and protecting your organization against litigation. Learn more about our inspection services here.