MAKE PLAYGROUNDS SAFE
National Network for Child Care's Connections
Polly Spedding, M.S.
Senior Extension Associate
Human Development and Family Studies
Cornell Cooperative Extension
It's summer! Time for children to spend more time on the playground.
Time to think about steps to take to prevent playground injuries.
According to a 1989 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control
(CDC), children in day care centers are most likely to have accidents
during warmer weather. Also, many injuries occur when children
are on the playground. CDC researchers found that the peak season
for injuries at day care centers was summer. Peak hours for injuries
were 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and the peak day for injuries was
Monday. Among preschoolers, infants had the lowest rate of injuries,
and two-year-olds had the highest.
Almost half of all the injuries recorded in the study occurred
on the playground. Close to three-fourths of these playground
injuries were caused by falls. The study covered 5,300 children
who attended 71 day care centers in Atlanta, Georgia. The overall
injury rate was fewer than two injuries (1.77) per 100,000 child-hours
in day care. This is not a high rate. But any injury to a child
is a cause for concern.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)
suggests that centers establish basic safety guidelines to reduce
the chance that a child will be injured. Listed below is an adapted
version of their recommendations. A detailed list of recommendations
is also provided in "Caring for Our Children," which
is referenced at the end of the article.
- Make sure all play areas are protected from streets and traffic.
- Check the outdoor environment for poisonous plants and remove
- Check the play area daily. Keep the area clear of glass,
litter, and large, loose rocks.
- Check play equipment at least once each week. Look for sharp
edges, rough surfaces, and loose or broken parts. Replace or
repair damaged equipment. Avoid poisonous wood preservatives.
Check that surfaces are painted with lead-free paint.
- Replace the ground under the equipment with a soft, loose,
resilient material, such as wood chips or loose sand. (Cement,
asphalt, and hard-packed or frozen soil or sand can be dangerous
play surfaces.) Provide the number of inches recommended by the
manufacturer. This may be as much as 9-12 inches, depending on
the material used. Sand and other loose materials should be raked
often to keep them soft.
- Carefully consider what equipment is suitable for different
age groups. Supervise children closely at all times to prevent
misuse of the equipment.
- Teach children how to play safely. Involve them in making
rules for playground behavior, and enforce the rules consistently.
Praise children for using the playground appropriately. Remove
a misbehaving child from play and explain how his or her actions
could hurt someone.
Summer weather also requires some special safety guidelines.
- Guard against dehydration and heatstroke. Make sure children
have access to beverages before and after vigorous play and at
least every three hours during the day.
- Provide shaded play areas on the playground. If there is
no natural shade, make your own by using well-secured tents or
- Ask parents to authorize the use of sunscreen lotion or to
send hats, sun visors, and other protective clothing.
- Swimming pools, wading pools, streams, etc., present additional
hazards. Children can drown in less than an inch of water. Provide
constant adult supervision when children are near water. Teach
children basic water safety rules.
- Cover sandboxes when not in use to discourage neighborhood
pets from using them as litterboxes.
A few precautions will help ensure a fun and safe summer for
the children in your care.
American Public Health Association/American Academy of Pediatrics.
(1992). *Caring for Our Children. National Health And Safety Performance
Standards: Guidelines For Out-Of-Home Child Care Programs*. Elk
Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics. This publication
is also available through the American Public Health Association,
Injuries at day-care centers. (1989, October 18). *Education Week*,
Kendrick, A.S., Kaufmann, R., & Messenger, K.P. (Eds.). (1988).
*Healthy Young Children: A Manual for Programs*. Washington, D.C.:
National Association for the Education of Young Children.
National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Part of CYFERNET, the
National Extension Service
Children Youth and Family Educational Research Network. Permission
is granted to reproduce
these materials in whole or in part for educational purposes only
(not for profit beyond the cost of
reproduction) provided that the author and Network receive acknowledgment
and this notice is
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child
Care - NNCC. Spedding, P. (1993). Make playgrounds safe. In Todd,
C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 2(5), pp. 5-6.
Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension
FORMAT AVAILABLE:: Internet
Level 3 - National Peer Review
DOCUMENT SIZE:: 19K or 3 pages
ENTRY DATE:: February 1996