Serious injuries can occur on the playground or using playground equipment, injuries from falls are the leading cause of emergency room visits for children. Children need different types of playground equipment depending on their age and stage of development.
Children between 5 and 9 year olds are most commonly injured on public playgrounds, likely because they are physically able to play at greater heights, but also lack a sense of danger.
- Encourage clients to take the Playground Safety Yes Test on MyHealth.Alberta.ca
- Advise your clients to let their child play on equipment that they can reach on their own.
- Safe playground equipment is age appropriate, in good condition, and free of hazards that may cause strangulation, entrapment, falls, or other injuries.
- Safe playground surfaces include soft ground surface such as wood chips, rubber surfacing, sand and pea gravel, shredded rubber, as well as unitary manufactured materials like pour-in-place. Grass and dirt are NOT safe playground surfaces.
- Encourage children to use playground equipment that fits their age and stage of development.
- Children at the playground need to be dressed for safe play (e.g., appropriate footwear while playing, long hair should be tied back, no helmets, or clothes with drawstrings, scarves, or loose clothing. Share the Clothing Safety Info Sheet from MyHealth.Alberta.ca.
- Advise clients to actively supervise their child while playing.
Child safety experts recommend matching your level of supervision with the potential risk your child is facing, something they call “stages of vigilant care.”
- Open observation: the “starting stage”: you play alongside and are non-intrusive in your child’s activities.
- Focused attention: you spot warning signs and risk escalates. At this point, you check in with your child, talk, and reflect on how to manage the risk. Once that happens, you can return to the “open observation” approach.
- Active intervention: there’s an immediate change needed to reduce risk. You intervene using language to empower and prompt your child to return to safety.
As a health provider you may be aware that helmets protect against head injuries from falls experienced while cycling, ice skating, skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, and inline skating. But helmets should not be worn at the playground. Wearing a helmet on the playground can result in strangulation. Spaces in equipment are sized so that a child’s head cannot get trapped; however, the sizing is based on head size without a helmet. If a child’s body slips through a space in the equipment but his head gets stuck he can strangle.