How can I tell whether the play structures and playgrounds my child uses are safe?
Use this checklist from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) to find out whether the playgrounds and play structures your child uses are up to par. Be sure to consider your neighborhood public playgrounds, your own play equipment or your neighbor's, and your preschool and school playgrounds.
- Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
- Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
- Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart.
- Check for dangerous hardware, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.
- Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
- Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
- Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
- Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
- Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
- Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they're safe.
What about drawstrings on clothing?
Drawstrings can strangle a child if they get caught on playground equipment. Your best bet is to simply remove them from clothing. Another option is to cut all ends just long enough to tie or sew a seam at the middle of the hood, collar, or waistband to keep either side from pulling out too long.
How can I learn more about playground safety and promote safe playgrounds?
- The National Program for Playground Safety takes an active role to prevent playground injuries.
- More about playground safety at this link from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Support National Playground Safety Week –the last full week in April.
- Playground safety publications from the CPSC.
- Kaboom! is a group that specializes in linking communities and corporations together to build much-needed, safe and accessible playgrounds for kids.
What about treated lumber used in playground equipment?
You should be aware that the treated lumber used in wooden play structures often contains arsenic, and can be dangerous to children. The arsenic is on the wood, and in the soil around the play structure. Kids are exposed to arsenic when they play on and around equipment treated with arsenic-containing preservatives and then put their hands in their mouths. You should thoroughly wash your child's hands with soap and water immediately after outdoor play, and especially before eating. Discourage kids from eating while on arsenic-treated playgrounds. Here's the latest from the CPSC on treated wood used in playground equipment. Find out even more about treated lumber and chromated copper arsenate (CCA) from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Are trampolines a good recreational activity for kids?
Trampolines can be very dangerous. They should never be used at home, in gym classes, or on the playground. They should only be used in supervised training programs for competitive sports under the supervision of a professional trained in trampoline safety.
- More trampoline safety tips from the AAOS.
How much do I really need to worry about the sun?
Protecting your children from the sun may reduce their chances of skin cancer in later life. The American Academy of Dermatology, estimates that 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun damage occurs before the age of 18. Sunscreen, along with protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses are the gear your kids need when they are heading outdoors.
The sun can be dangerous, especially for babies. Here's what you need to know to enjoy the outdoors safely with your child:
- Keep babies under 6 months old out of direct sunlight. They should not use sunscreen unless recommended by their doctor.
- Dress your baby in lightweight clothing that covers their body.
- Use wide brimmed hats to protect your baby's head and shade their face.
- Have your baby wear baby-sized sunglasses with UV protection.
- Use sun protection strategies even on cloudy days.
- Try to stay out of the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, because that's when the rays are strongest.
- Sunburns can be very dangerous for a baby. If your baby is under one year old and gets a sunburn, call your pediatrician—it could be an emergency. More on babies and sun protection from the AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics.
- Play It Safe in the Sun is a guide for parents from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and part of the Choose Your Cover Skin Cancer Prevention Campaign.
- For Kids:Mission: SunWise is an activity book for grades K-3 from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It's also available in Spanish.
- The EPA’s SunWise Progam has more resources for kids, schools and communities.
- For Teens: Tanning—this page talks about how tanning happens, the downsides of tanning, using sun smarts, and getting a trauma-free tan.
- YourChild: Sports Safety
- YourChild: Recreational Vehicle Safety
- YourChild: Sledding and Winter Sports Safety
- YourChild: Safety Out and About (Biking, Walking, Skating, Skateboarding and Scooters)
Written and compiled by Kyla Boyse, R.N. Reviewed by faculty and staff at the University of Michigan.
Updated May 2008
U-M Health System Related Sites: