It’s healthy for children to play on playgrounds. They develop strength, balance, and coordination. They learn to play in healthy ways with peers. And they learn to enjoy outdoor exercise.
Playgrounds also present risks, however. Over 200,000 children are hurt each year on playground equipment. Parents should be sure children play on age-appropriate equipment and in age-appropriate ways. They should supervise children and teach them rules to stay safe on the playground.
What parents can do
Supervise children at the playground. Make sure children play on equipment properly. Slides are meant to be used downward, feet-first. Jumping from high structures is dangerous. There should be no aggressive play. Stay on playground equipment designed for your age group. Know what to do if there is an emergency.
Teach your child how to use playground equipment. Show them what to do and what not to do. When you model good behavior for young children, they are more likely to listen and stay safe.
- As children grow older, they can hurt younger children. Teach empathy and perspective-taking so your older (and bigger) children don’t accidentally bump, push or collide with younger (and smaller) children they share the playground with.
- Allow your children to expand beyond the playground equipment itself. Are there grassy fields for ball play? Find ways to encourage new games like tag, scavenger hunts, capture the flag, or other games that are age appropriate as your child grows out of the slides, swings, bridges and climbing equipment. Some children may enjoy team sports like basketball or soccer.
- Appreciate the natural beauty of playground areas. Teach your children to observe and appreciate trees, flowers, birds, insects, and squirrels.
Test Yourself: Effective Supervision
Good Idea or Bad Idea?
Playground Safety Checklist
- Make sure surfaces around the playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of rubber or rubber-like materials.
- Check that the protective surface extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure the protective surface extends, in back and front, twice the height of the swingset.
- Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, are large enough for your child to easily pass through.
- Check for sharp points or edges in equipment, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.
- Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
- Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
- Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they're safe