Playgrounds and playground safety
Children get so much good out of playing in playgrounds. Outdoor play is great for their physical, social and thinking development.
Most playground injuries are minor – cuts, bruises and a few tears are the most likely dramas at playgrounds. But every now and then falls from playground equipment can also lead to injuries.
The most common playground injuries are fractures and dislocations. These injuries happen when children fall from equipment such as climbing frames, monkey bars and slides.
Children are most often injured falling from monkey bars, mostly because monkey bars are high up. But children also hurt themselves falling from slides, swings, trampolines and climbing frames.
Preschoolers and primary school-age children are most likely to hurt themselves, because they’re still developing physical coordination, muscle strength – and the judgment they need to work out whether jumping from the monkey bars is a good idea!
Most injuries in the playground aren’t very serious, and fatal incidents are rare. All playground equipment must, as a minimum, comply with AS 4685:2014, the Australian safety standard for playground equipment and surfacing.
Having fun and staying safe in playgrounds
The best way to avoid bumps and bruises in playgrounds is for you to actively supervise your child at play.
By staying close to your child, especially when she’s trying more complicated activities, you help keep playground visits safe and give your child the confidence to develop movement and social skills.
And as part of supervising your child, why not get into playing with him? This can be great fun for both of you.
Injury prevention and playground safety: tips
These tips can help you keep your child safe and avoid injuries in parks and playgrounds:
- Buckle your child into the swings – she’s far less likely to fall out.
- Gradually introduce your child to activities on monkey bars, climbing frames, swings and slides. For example, start with equipment that’s close to the ground and activities that your child is comfortable with.
- Look for a safe ground surface in your playground. The equipment should be set in a thick layer of certified organic mulch or soft rubber flooring (about 300 mm deep is recommended). If hard surfaces are exposed or mulch levels are too low, report it to your local council so they can fix it.
- Look for a playground with a fence around it. This will help to stop young children from escaping on to the road. It also makes it much easier if you’re looking after several children at once.
- If your child is under three years, try to stick to playground equipment less than 1 m in height.
- If your child is aged 3-5 years, try to stick to playground equipment less than 1.5 m in height. For example, you could look for small slides and rockers.
- Even if your child is older than five years, encourage him to stick to equipment that is no higher than 2 m off the ground.
Although playgrounds are popular places for your child to play outdoors, they aren’t the only option. You can read our article on outdoor play
to learn more about the many ways your child can play outside.
Safety on trampolines
Trampolines are great fun and kids love them. But they’re also a common source of preventable backyard injuries. Hundreds of Australian children are taken to hospital every year for trampoline-related injuries such as cuts, sprains and fractures.
Some basic safety tips can go a long way:
- Always supervise your child when she’s using a trampoline. Younger children are more prone to serious injury. Keep toddlers away while the trampoline is in use.
- Wait until your child is older than six years before getting a trampoline.
- Always use safety padding to cover the frame and springs. Even better, look for a trampoline with a safety net installed around the sides.
- Check regularly that the mat and net don’t have holes, and that springs are intact and securely attached at both ends. Check that that frame isn’t bent and that the leg braces are locked.
- Create a safe, clear area of 2.5 m around the trampoline with a soft surface, such as grass, just in case your child does fall. Or you could set the trampoline in a pit in the ground. Make sure the area around and underneath the trampoline is free from hazards like fences or garden furniture.
- Make sure there’s plenty of clear space above the trampoline, so there’s no risk of kids jumping up into trees or wires.
Trampoline safety rules for kids
Teach children the following guidelines for safe trampoline use:
- Jump in the centre of the mat.
- Only one child on at a time.
Jump with bare feet (no shoes).
- Only use the trampoline when the mat is dry.
- Avoid somersaults, because these can cause neck and spinal injuries.