Kids love to play on the playground and there are a lot of benefits to outdoor play. Playgrounds are an opportunity for kids to get fresh air, sunshine, exercise and make new friends. Marie Crew agrees. She’s the director of Alabama Safe Kids at Children’s of Alabama. “Alabama has a high obesity rate, so we want the children to be active. We want kids playing at least 60 minutes a day,” she said.
It’s important that parents do their part to ensure their child’s time on the playground is fun and injury-free. Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in hospital emergency departments for playground- related injuries. Many of these accidents are preventable with the proper supervision.
“That’s the big thing. We want parents to be with their children,” Crew said. “Parents should check the playground to be sure it’s in good repair. We want parents to put their phones down and interact with their children.”
Children should never play on a playground unsupervised. Young children can’t always judge distances properly and can’t foresee dangerous situations while older children like to test their limits. It’s important for an adult to be there to help keep them safe.
In addition to supervision, before children play on a playground, an adult should always check it for safety. Make sure the playground equipment is in good shape. If it has instructions on it, be sure to read them. Many playgrounds indicate the recommended age range for children. Toddlers should be on a separate playground with special equipment that is lower to the ground.
Crew said a proper playground surface is important as well. “It’s best to have a soft, spongy surface that can cushion falls. Shredded tires, pea gravel and and mulch are options as well,” she said. Concrete, asphalt, grass and packed earth surfaces are not safe.
Modern playgrounds are often made of plastic instead of metal, which can get too hot. Even still, Crew recommends parents think about the heat of the day and check the equipment before their child plays on it to make sure it isn’t too hot.
Children love for their parents to engage with them when they’re playing on the playground. A good recommendation is for the adult to be close by, encouraging and watching their child while they play. Play is an important part of kids physical, social, intellectual and emotional development. By taking a few extra precautions, they can learn and grow through play while being more likely to stay safe and injury-free.