Keeping Safe at the Playground

Now that summer has arrived, you and your family may be heading to the back yard or playground for the first time in months. Before letting your little ones climb and play on any play equipment, be sure to check the following:
Swings, seesaws, and jungle gyms should have a cushioned surface - such as sand, mulch, or rubber mats - beneath them. Children can seriously harm themselves by falling on concrete or blacktop; for instance, a direct fall on the head - even from the height of just one foot - can be fatal.
Check the surfaces of wooden structures - like forts, pirate ships, and tire climbers - to make sure they are smooth and splinter-free. Check the seats of wooden sandboxes, too!
Check for rusted or exposed bolts, sharp edges, and points on metal and plastic (e.g. Little Tikes and Step Two) playground equipment. Cover these surfaces on your backyard equipment with protective rubber; report them to maintenance personnel for public play equipment.
Be sure swings are made of soft, flexible material. Insist that you child sit in the middle of the seat and hold on with both hands. Don't allow two children to share the same swing. Teach you child never to walk in front of or behind a swing while another child is on it. Toddlers in belted "baby swings" should be pushed by adults or older children, not younger children, and should never be left unattended.
Make sure your child uses the ladder on the sliding boards, instead of climbing up the sliding surfaces. Teach your little one to move away from the bottom of the slide as soon as he reaches it. On warm, sunny days, check that the sliding surface isn't too hot before letting your child play on it.
Don't let children under four play on climbing equipment that is taller than they are (such as a jungle gym) without close supervision.
Children three years and older should ride a see-saw only with children of comparable age and weight. Children under three don't have the arm and leg coordination for see-sawing, and should not ride.
Shoes or sandals with closed toes should be worn on outdoor play equipment at all times, unlike indoor equipment where the rule is "socks only".
Children under five should play on equipment separately from older children.

Adapted from Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This book is available from the AAP at (800) 433-9016 for $19.95 plus shipping/handling.

© 1997 by Orthodox Family Life and the original author(s).
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