When municipalities fund playgrounds for their parks, community centers, or recreation areas they become major attractions for children and their parents. Playgrounds can be just plain fun but can also mean exercise, fresh air, time with friends, and sunshine for kids of all ages. Curvy, colorful and ultramodern playgrounds are becoming the expected norm. Plain old slides and swings just don’t cut it anymore when trying to trying to get kids off the video games to play outdoors. Modern playground equipment is designed to engage kids, to make them want to get out and play,
So, it’s important to make sure that all equipment and surfaces are properly planned out and constructed so that fun is not also dangerous. Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in hospital ERs for playground-related injuries. It’s imperative that playgrounds are designed and installed by knowledgeable professionals.
Surfaces on Playgrounds
A proper playground surface is one of the most important factors in reducing the severity of injuries that occur when kids fall from equipment. The surface under the playground equipment should be soft enough and thick enough to soften the impact of a child’s fall.
Different Playground Equipment for Different Age Groups
Playground equipment should be designed mainly for two different age groups:
- 2- to 5-year-olds (preschoolers), and
- 5- to 12-year-olds (school-age kids).
To be safe, playground play areas for younger children should be separated from those designed for older kids with signs that clearly designate each area to prevent confusion and avoid injuries.
The first step is to determine the layout of the equipment. Make sure that your choices meet all the safety requirements for playground use zones.
Younger children shouldn’t play on equipment designed for older kids because the equipment sizes and proportions won’t be right for small kids, and this can lead to injury. Likewise, older kids shouldn’t play on equipment designed for younger ones. Ultimately, it’s the parents or supervisors job to keep small children off equipment meant for the older kids but, proper planning helps with this effort. Here are some things to check for to ensure the equipment is designed and spaced to be safe:
Some Safety Measures:
- Guardrails and protective barriers should be in place for elevated surfaces, including platforms and ramps.
- Play structures more than 30 inches high should be spaced at least 9 feet apart.
- Swings, seesaws, and other equipment with moving parts should be in a separate area from the rest of the playground.
- Swings should be limited to two per bay and should be made of soft material such as rubber or plastic, not wood or metal.
- Toddler swings with full bucket seats should have their own bay.
- Swings should be spaced at least 24 inches apart and 30 inches between a swing and the support frame.
- Be sure there are no spaces that could trap a child’s head, arm, or any other body part. All openings on equipment (for example, rungs on a ladder or bars on a guardrail) should measure less than 3½ inches or they should be wider than 9 inches.
- Climbing nets should have openings that are either too small to allow a child’s body through or large enough to prevent entrapment of the head. Net perimeters which are 17-18 inches pose entrapment hazards.
It’s critical, when installing a playground, to incorporate protective features into the design. Playground rubber matting is a good component when considering a playground installation. There are numerous benefits inherent to playground rubber matting and creating a protected rubber play area is a smart choice for playgrounds.
A lot of injuries are caused by falls and happen often on park and school playgrounds. Surprisingly, lots of playgrounds have asphalt or concrete surfacing. These are unacceptable surfaces because they’re very rough and hard and have no shock absorbing properties. Children can sustain injuries from falls onto concrete and asphalt that can end up being life-threatening. Sometimes grass and turf are used in playgrounds, but their shock absorbing qualities are minimal. Grass surfaces can tend to be very susceptible to wear and tear from both the physical activities of the kids and basic environmental conditions.
What’s important to remember is that when it comes to children, it is imperative to consider their well-being above all else, especially when they are at play. With the risk of injury always present, a playground area needs to be safe.