Playgrounds and playground injuries
Playing in playgrounds is great for your child’s physical, social and thinking development.
Most playground injuries are minor – cuts, bruises and a few tears are the most likely dramas. But every now and then falls from playground equipment can lead to more serious injuries.
The most common playground injuries are fractures and dislocations. These injuries happen when children fall from equipment like trampolines, monkey bars, slides, swings 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!
All playgrounds must comply with AS 4685:2017. This is the Australian Standard for the design, installation, maintenance and operation of playgrounds and playground equipment.
Playground safety: supervision and skills
The best way to help your child avoid bumps and bruises in playgrounds is to actively supervise your child at play.
By staying close to your child, especially when they’re trying something new or complicated, you can help keep playground visits safe and give your child the confidence to develop movement skills.
It’s also important to choose activities and equipment that suit your child’s skills and abilities. These guidelines can help when you’re deciding what equipment is best for your child:
- If your child is younger than 3 years, try to stick to playground equipment less than 1 m in height.
- If your child is 3-5 years, try to stick to playground equipment less than 1.5 m in height.
- If your child is older than 5 years, try to stick to equipment that is no higher than 2 m off the ground.
If you give your child plenty of opportunities to play and practise, they’ll keep developing the skills they need for safely using and enjoying monkey bars, climbing frames, swings, slides and trampolines. For example, once your child can climb confidently, they could try climbing a short ladder with your support.
As part of supervising your child, why not play with them? This can be great fun for both of you.
Safe playground equipment and environments
To keep children safe and avoid injury at playgrounds, it’s a good idea to check the safety of the playground equipment and environment:
- Buckle your child into swings if buckles are available. Your child will be less likely to fall out.
- Avoid playing in overcrowded areas. Try to find equipment that’s free, or wait until it’s being used by only a few children.
- Make sure your child doesn’t wear clothing or hats with cords that could get caught in equipment and lead to strangulation.
- Check that the equipment is in good condition.
- Check the temperature of playground equipment like metal slides, poles, barriers and surfaces. Materials like metal, rubber and artificial turf can heat up in the sun and become hot enough to burn.
- Make sure the playground’s environment has no obvious safety hazards, like sharp sticks.
- Look for a safe ground surface in your playground. The equipment should be set in a thick layer of material like organic mulch or soft rubber flooring, which will cushion falls. If hard surfaces are exposed or mulch levels are too low, report it to your local council.
- Look for a playground that has shadecloth over some or all of the equipment or at least some shade nearby. Remember to be sun safe.
- Look for a playground with a fence around it. This will help to stop young children from running onto nearby roads, into bodies of water or towards other hazards. It also makes it easier if you’re looking after several children at once.
If you’re setting up home play equipment, look for equipment that complies with the relevant Australian standard. For example, AS/NZS 8124 covers swings, slides and other similar equipment. This article’s tips for checking the safety of play equipment and environments apply to homes as well as to playgrounds.