Preventing Injuries on the Playground

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    by Courtnay Epp

    Spring is in the air and many parents and children are taking advantage of the warmer weather by heading to their local playground. Structured playgrounds provide fun opportunities for children to play outside and when it comes to child development, playing is learning. However, kids can still get injured while having fun. According to the Injury Prevention Centre, each year 1,750 children aged five to 14 years are treated for playground injuries in emergency departments across Alberta and these injuries cost Albertans $25 million in 2013. The good news is, with a few simple precautions playground injuries can be avoided.

                So what puts children at risk for injuries on playgrounds? The facts are:

    • Children under five years of age are often hurt because they are still developing their balancing and climbing skills, putting them at higher risk for falls.

    • Children are more likely to lose their balance and fall because they are top heavy.

    • Risks and dangers are hard for young children to understand.

    • Close adult supervision is sometimes lacking.

    • Children may be using playgrounds not intended for their age, size, and stage of development.

     Since adult supervision plays an important role in preventing injuries, for children under five years of age, stand right beside them when they are climbing, riding in a swing, or playing on equipment above the ground. Your child should be easy to reach at all times as this can help prevent them from falling. If your child is between five and nine years of age, keep a close eye on them. Children this age like to take chances. Make sure your child uses equipment safely and always keep children off equipment that is higher than 1.5 meters (5 feet).

    In addition to proper supervision, parents and children can both play a role in preventing injuries by following these simple guidelines and playground safety rules:

    1. Never wear a helmet on playground equipment, and dress appropriately. There is a hidden hazard of strangulation if a helmet is worn while playing on playground equipment. Wear proper footwear to avoid slips, trips, and falls and have no loose scarves, strings or drawstrings on your child’s clothing.

    2. Play on age-appropriate equipment. Most playgrounds should have a sign identifying the intended age group for the equipment. Playgrounds often have equipment for children younger than five years of age, and for children from five to 12 years of age. Keep children off equipment that is not intended for them.

    3. Ensure the equipment and surfaces are safe. Watch out for sharp objects or spaces where your child’s head could get stuck. Playgrounds should have deep, soft surfaces as well as handrails and barriers to prevent falls. Choose a playground with sand, pea gravel, wood chips, rubber crumb, or soft rubber mats instead of one with a dirt or grass surface. These will help protect your child if he falls

    4. Ensure playground equipment and protective surfaces are free of hazards. Look for broken glass, garbage, sharp edges, and bolts that stick out.

    5. Wait your turn

    6. Slide down feet first.

    7. Don’t go up the slide ladder until the other person has gone down the slide.

    8. Hold on to railings.

    9. Sit down on swings and slides.

    10. Keep away from moving swings and the bottom of slides.

    For more information on how to prevent playground injuries visit www.injurypreventioncentre.ca or www.parachutecanada.org

    Courtnay Epp is a health promotion facilitator with Alberta Health Services Population Health. She can be reached by e-mail at  [email protected]

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