Sunday, 11 December 2011

How to safeguard kids against injuries on Playgrounds

Playgrounds are meant for kids to play in a natural surrounding.  They provide the ideal setting for the overall physical growth of a child.  Playgrounds also offer the much needed fresh air along with different physical exercises for the kids.  The children too get a lot of friends playing with one another.  It is seen that these playgrounds are almost overflowing with kids and their parents during school vacations.  Playgrounds provide the kids to venture into new games and objects which enhances about the physical development.

The main concern for the parents, while taking their kids to these playgrounds, is that of injury.  It is absolutely essential to see that the kids playing on the ground are subject to the lowest injury risk.  It is estimated that about 20,000 kids per year are treated with injuries caused while playing on the play equipments.

Taking the above factors into consideration, it is necessary that some steps be taken to make these playgrounds safe from injury.  The following precautions can be taken –

·        Supervision – Most of the injuries on playgrounds happen due to neglect of parents.  The children playing should be supervised by the parents.  Always try to keep a close watch on your kid.  These kids are highly energized when playing on the play equipments and at times cannot gauge the distance or are unknown of the potential risk they are taking while doing a certain activity.  As such, adult supervision is an important aspect during playtime.  Always try to choose a playground where there is enough space for you to observe your child play from a distance.
·        Surface of the Playground – Always see to it that the surface of the playground, particularly the play area is safe for the children.  Asphalt or concrete surfaces are highly unsafe.  Also, sometimes, Grass or soil surface may become wet and slippery due to bad weather, making them risk-prone to injury.  At times debris, rocks and tree stumps are seen lying on the surface.  These could hinder a child’s play and kids could easily trip and fall on these hurdles.  An ideal surface should be made of safety-tested rubber or any other material which can act as a cushion for kids who fall.  On the other hand, even loosely filled materials such as wood chips, mulch or sand could be used.  The best play area surface on the playground should be one which can withstand all weather conditions.  For this, the ideal surface can be Rubber Mulch surface, wood Mulch surface, Artificial Grass surfacing or Rubber safety tiles.  These surfaces keep the area injury free as well as are attractive for the children.  Also these surfaces are virtually maintenance free.
·        Design of play Area – It is often seen that children of all age-groups play in a particular area of the playground.  This can be a cause of injury as elder kids may trip and fall on younger ones.  Also, disturbance in their play activities may result in frustration and anger which may lead to quarrelling. 
The play area and its design should suit kids of various age groups.  For this, separate play area can be designed for different groups i.e. for toddlers and infants, for 2-5 year kids and 5-12 year children.  As such, the children can get the space they want and can enjoy their activities.  
·        Design of Equipment – There should be certain guidelines for the design and materials used in the playing equipment.  Guardrails and protective barriers can be used on platforms or other elevated surfaces.  Proper protective material should be applied wherever there is a risk of injury like seesaws or swings.  Also the surfaces of the play area should always be of soft-rubber material to cushion the fall.  Some of the ideal equipment designs could be –
o       Swings should be limited to 2 per bay.
o       Climbing net should have proper openings so as not to trap a kid’s body.
o       The distance between the play structures should be at least 9 feet apart.
o       The distance between two swings should be 24 inches apart.
o       Play structures should be checked periodically for nails or other pointy objects which could harm a child.
·        Maintenance of Play Structure – Periodic maintenance of the play structures is a must.  An ill-maintained playground can invite a number of problems and increase the risk of accidents.  Proper care should be taken to see that the metal equipments do not rust, prompt repair should be followed for broken equipment, and wooden play structures should not be cracking or splintering.  Also the accident zones should be properly maintained.
·        Teaching kids – There are certain rules that are to be followed when you are at the playground with the kid.  These rules or safety precautions should be taught to the kids and children by the parents.  This may include not to push or interfere while on play structures like swings, slides, see-saws or jungle gyms., use the equipment with care, don’t use equipments which are slippery or wet, leave the bikes and play scooter away from the equipment, to check that the play equipments are not turning hot due to sun rays, especially in summer season, wear sunscreen lotion while playing outside.

Taking all the above precautions and complying by the factors may make a playground an injury-free zone for the kids to enjoy.

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