articles and blog

On snowy days or in the Summer heat playgrounds are a great attraction

Omaha is in the top 5 cities for the number of playgrounds per resident*

I recommend 60 minutes of exercise each day for children and playgrounds offer a great source of fresh air and exercise. Playgrounds are not without danger, however. Each year over 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries sustained on playgrounds. Almost half of all playground accidents result in an emergency room visit.

Keep playground visits safe - and fun.

If you follow a few guidelines, playgrounds can be a fun, safe place to play. 

1. Actively supervise children on playgrounds.

Watch your children as they play. Kids may not always be able to gauge distances or understand the danger of an activity. Older kids like to test their limits on the playground. Don’t be distracted by cell phones or conversation with others.

2. Check playground surfaces.

Falls are responsible for 75% of all playground-related injuries. Look for playgrounds with impact-absorbing surfaces such as rubber, synthetic turf, sand, pea gravel, wood chips or mulch. If your child falls, the landing will be more cushioned than on asphalt, concrete, grass or dirt.

If you are constructing a play area at home, install at least 9 inches of soft surface material to cushion falls.

3. Look for hazards on the ground

Inspect the playground for hazards such as rusted or broken equipment. The playground should be free of standing water, debris, rocks, tree roots, etc. which may cause a trip or fall. There should be no dangerous materials like broken glass, rough wood or sharp metal.

Check sandboxes for debris such as sharp sticks or broken glass. Inspect the sand to be sure it is free of bugs. Sand should be covered overnight to protect it from animals, such as cats.

Check the environment’s effects on equipment: wet equipment can be slippery, hot equipment can burn.

4. Use age-appropriate playground equipment

Children under 5 play differently than older kids. Try to have a separate area where older children will not unintentionally injure a smaller child. Babies learning to walk should stick to smooth, easy-to-walk-on surfaces. If your baby has good head control and can sit up with support (usually around 9 months old) you can try the bucket shaped baby swings.

5. Check safety equipment

Guardrails and protective barriers should be in place for raised surfaces such as platforms. Check equipment with moving parts – like seesaws and merry-go-rounds for areas with could pinch a child’s fingers or hand.

6. Dress appropriately for the playground

Remove jewelry, purses, backpacks, scarves or clothing with drawstrings that can get caught on playground equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.

Remember to wear sunscreen – even on cloudy or snowy days to protect against sunburn. During the cold weather limit time outdoors when the temperature and wind chill is low.

7. Act safely, play safely

Teach children that pushing, shoving or crowding while on the playground can be dangerous. STress these things for safe play:

  • Slide feet first
  • Don’t climb or stand on guardrails or swings
  • Children should be taught to stand back from swings or seesaws when others are on them 
  • Only one child should ride per seat on a swing or seesaw
  • Be sure other children are not in the way if jumping off a piece of equipment 
  • When jumping, land on both feet with knees slightly bent

8. Climbing equipment needs special precautions

Climbing equipment is responsible for the highest rates of injuries. Teach your children when playing on climbing equipment:

  • Use both hands on railings as you climb.
  • Stay well behind another child in front of you.
  • If you are climbing down – beware of children climbing up.

Preschoolers lack the upper body strength to climb higher than 5 feet. School aged children should only climb up to 7 feet safely.

Do not allow children to attach ropes, pet leashes or other lines to equipment. These are a strangulation hazard.

9. Walk, don’t run

If you and your child are in a splash park, be especially certain not to run. These parks are frequently without a cushioned surface. Water will make the ground especially slick. Be sure your child wears water shoes or footwear with non-skid soles to help with traction.

10. Inspect indoor playground condition

Indoor playgrounds can be found in some fast food restaurants as well as indoor play establishments. Before your children dive in, check for torn netting which may allow a child to climb onto the outside portions of the equipment and fall onto a hard surface. Look for torn or frayed rope or cargo webbing. These can be tripping hazards as well as entangling your child.

Ball pools can be fun. Ensure your child checks to be sure he doesn’t fall onto another child partially covered by the balls. If the ball pool is at the base of a slide or jump, do not allow your child to linger at the base of the equipment.

Imagination, exercise and fresh air

Playing on a playground is one of the real joys of childhood. I hope your children have many happy memories of outdoor play - and your encouragement. Enjoy!


*SOURCE: Cities with the largest number of park playgrounds per 10,000 residents in the United States in 2014

Stephanie Neuhaus, MD

Methodist Physicians Clinic Hawthorne Court

Dr. Neuhaus answers your questions about child health and parenting. She enjoys being a pediatrician because it allows her the opportunity to help people every day. Dr. Neuhaus is always open and honest with her patients and she is excited to watch them as they learn and grow. She strives to build lasting relationships with her patients and their families. Dr. Neuhaus, a mother herself, believes in always listening to patients' moms. They know when something is wrong with their child and d ...

Learn more about this expert

Categories: development, health-notes,