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 also lead to more serious injuries.

The most common playground injuries are fractures and dislocations. These injuries happen when children fall from equipment like climbing frames, monkey bars and slides.

Children are most often injured falling from climbing play equipment like monkey bars, mostly because these types of equipment are high up. But children also hurt themselves falling from slides, swings and trampolines.

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.

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 she’s trying something new or complicated, you can help keep playground visits safe and give your child the confidence to develop movement and social 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 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.
  • If your child is older than five years, encourage him to stick to equipment that is no higher than 2 m off the ground.

If you give your child lots of opportunities to play and practice, she’ll keep developing the skills she needs for using and enjoying monkey bars, climbing frames, swings and slides. For example, once your child can climb confidently, she could try climbing a short ladder with your support.

As part of supervising your child, why not play with him? This can be great fun for both of you.

Safe playground equipment and environment

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.
  • Check the temperature of playground equipment like metal slides, poles, barriers and surfaces. Playgrounds can heat up in the sun and become hot enough to burn.
  • Look for a safe ground surface in your playground. The equipment should be set in a thick layer of material like organic mulch, which will cushion falls. It could also be soft rubber flooring. If hard surfaces are exposed or mulch levels are too low, report it to your local council.
  • Look for a playground with a fence around it. This will help to stop young children from running on to the road. It also makes it much easier if you’re looking after several children at once.

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 or watch our video on outdoor play to get easy ideas for playing outside.