Natalie Kocsis once said “The world is a playground, and life is pushing my swing.” To young children a the playground is their universe, a kingdom where they can rule solo or within a group. As parents, my husband and I love taking my children to playgrounds because it is free fun. A couple of months ago, I took my kids to a new playground and realized my children played very differently with me than they did with their father. When their dad takes them to the park their love to explore and try the play equipment often encourages their independence. Their imagination overwhelms them while they experience social exploration and new adventures on their own. On the other hand, with me, they want me to be an active participant and not just an observer. During this particular time at the park, something about my presence hindered their independence a little, and in some ways could have hindered their safety as well. As a result of my experience, below I list parenting tips that will help children be safer on the playground.
According to the National Program for Playground Safety “Each year over 200,000 children are injured on America’s playgrounds* (source)
1. No Lap sliding
My girls no longer wanted to stay in the 2-5 year old playground section; instead, they wanted to ride the tall slides designated for older children. The only problem is they would not go down the slide without me. Indulging my children by putting them on my lap to slide down, unbeknownst to me, could have broken their legs. I remember sliding down and feeling my daughter’s rubber shoe-soles get caught on the slide, I quickly grabbed her legs and held her feet in the palm of my hands to keep her safe, which was the last time I gave them a ride on my lap while sliding. The experience was frightening and could have ended a lot worse. Then I found an article, which confirmed my fears: riding on slides while holding your child in your lap can be dangerous and break or fracture his or her legs according to Dr. Edward Holt, an orthopedic surgeon who has treated many of these preventable injuries. In “A Surprising Risk for Toddlers on Playground Slides,” he shares the dangers and encourages parents to stop lap sliding.
2. Use Age Appropriate Play Equipment
My kids, like most, want to do what the “big kid’s” are doing. However, for their safety children should be encouraged to play on equipment for their age group so we as parents don’t need to hover over them and can give them the autonomy they need. Many areas in our adult world are not kid friendly so taking our child to a playground right for them is important. The playground should be a free zone for them to enjoy without being told “No” or “Don’t” a lot.
3. Don’t Use Wet Play Equipment and Dress Appropriately
Rain is sometimes unavoidable, but even if it is drizzling it is safer to take your child off of the play equipment. Water can increase a child’s injuries and make surfaces slippery and unsafe. Children should also wear clothing that does not contain draw-strings, which can get caught in equipment. Tennis shoes should be checked to make sure their shoe strings are always tied.
4. Always keep an eye on your child/children
In addition to looking at obvious external dangers when I arrive I have to remind myself while watching my children on the playground, this is not the time to multi-task or read a book. This is especially important for parents of elementary-age children to remember. We should keep our eyes on our kids at all times. (Yes, as a parent I realize this is easier said than done, but it is the safest way for them to play).
- Kid’s Health “Playground Safety“
- Publications by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Dr. Holt’s video explanation regarding slide safety
*Reader response: Are their any tips you would add?