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A safe play environment for children

Playing outside should be a natural pastime for most kids. Making sure that their outside environment safe is key to keeping children healthy and injury-free.

Playground safety

The safety organisation The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) says around 40,000 children a year are injured in playgrounds and need hospital treatments.

Some playground accidents are falls, broken glass and dog bites rather than being related to the play equipment itself.

When it comes to falls, the proportion of equipment being used at the time was:

  • Swings 40%, which doesn't include children being hit by a swing
  • Climbers 23%
  • Slides 21%
  • Roundabouts 5%
  • See-saws 4%
  • Fireman’s poles 1%

Supervising your child at play is a big factor in reducing injury. Taking these playground precautions will also reduce risk:

  • Cover areas under and around the playground equipment with shock-absorbing material, such as sand, rubber, or mulch, nine to twelve inches deep.
  • Make sure swing seats are made of soft rubber, not hard wood.
  • Do not suspend more than two swing seats in the same section of the equipment's support structure. Most home playground injuries can be blamed on swings and increasingly on trampolines.
  • The equipment should have ladders with steps rather than rungs for easier access, or rungs with more than nine inches or less than three and a half inches of space between them, to prevent children from getting stuck.
  • Cover all protruding bolts.
  • Do not attach ropes or cords to the play set, which could become strangulation hazards.
  • Plastic play sets or climbing equipment should never be used indoors on wood or cement floors, even if they are carpeted. All climbing equipment should be outdoors on shock-absorbing surfaces to prevent head injuries.
  • Slides and platforms should be no higher than six feet for school-age children, or four feet for pre-schoolers.
  • Platforms, walkways, ramps and ladders should have adequate guardrails.

The Child Accident Prevention Trust offers this advice for the design of play areas:

  • Layout must ensure that activities in one area do not interfere with other areas
  • Areas for younger children must be clearly separated from those for older children
  • Paths must be safely sited clear of equipment areas
  • Clear sight lines throughout the play area make it easier to supervise children
  • Fencing play areas may be required if there are roads, rivers or ponds close by
  • Safe access for children with special needs should be considered
  • Lighting must be adequate for safety and supervision

Water safety

Around 400 children drown every year in the UK.

RoSPA says children under two are at particular risk and warns parents that even the shallowest of pools or ponds can be lethal if the child can't climb out.

Follow the Water Safety Code. The dangers of water include:

  • It is very cold
  • There may be hidden currents
  • It can be difficult to get out (steep slimy banks)
  • It can be deep
  • There may be hidden rubbish, eg shopping trolleys, broken glass
  • There are no lifeguards
  • It is difficult to estimate depth
  • It may be polluted and may make you ill.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 26, 2013

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