With school out this month, a chorus of “I’m bored” will be heard throughout our city as kids try to find activities to fill their days. For many parents and grandparents, the playground is nothing short of a lifesaver. Yet, increasingly, many area playgrounds are posing safety concerns.
The National Program for Playground Safety reports that each year, “200,000 children are treated for injuries sustained from unsafe playgrounds, and approximately 15 children are killed as a result of those injuries.”
The organization’s goal is to improve the safety and quality of parks, schools and other recreation areas across all 50 states. It’s initiative, called National Playground Safety Week 2011, takes place each spring to bring awareness to the many safety hazards that disheveled playgrounds cause. Unfortunately, New York is not one of the states participating in this initiative, but the organization hopes that will change.
Annette Suarez hopes so, too. She says her 2-year-old daughter, Kayla, was playing at a playground inside Marine Park in Brooklyn when she tripped over a protruding corner of a play-mat while running to the swing set. Kayla fell directly on her face and knocked her two front teeth backwards.
“It was horrifying,” says Suarez. “She was screaming and there was blood everywhere. The dentist was able to save her two front baby teeth, but she is afraid to go back to the playground. And frankly, so am I!”
Suarez says the play-mats were not properly adhered and looked as though they came unglued, possibly due to winter weather.
In addition, she says at least five other play-mats were tripping accidents just waiting to happen, but she hadn’t noticed them until it was too late.
Play-mats can also become incredibly hot — long before summer officially starts.
The Indian Road Playground at Inwood Hill Park in the Bronx has play-mats that are heat traps. Parents who go there have reported that a child burned his hands on the mats when the temperature was just 66 degrees.
Moms and dads have become so enraged over the playground’s safety conditions, they created a Facebook page to alert other parents, grandparents, and caretakers.
Besides play-mats, there are a few primary safety hazards that parents should look out for when taking their kids to the playground. The National Program for Playground Safety created a checklist of things to be sure of to create a safe environment at playgrounds:
Adult presence is needed to watch for potential hazards, observe, intercede and facilitate play when necessary. Strings on clothing or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if they get caught on equipment.
All children should play on age-appropriate equipment. Preschoolers, ages 2 to 5, and children ages 5 to 12 are developmentally different and need different equipment located in separate areas to keep the playground safe and fun for all.
• Fall surfacing
Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls, and what a child falls on can make a difference. Acceptable surfaces include loose-fill materials, such as hardwood wooden fiber; shredded rubber; sand; pea gravel; and synthetic surfaces, such as rubber tiles and mats; and synthetic poured surfaces.
Playground surfaces should not be concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop, packed dirt, or rocks.
• Equipment management
Check to make sure the equipment is anchored safely in the ground, all equipment pieces are in good-working order, S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, and there are no exposed footings, etc. Thoroughly inspect your child’s playground before allowing your child to roam freely.
For more tips on safety on the playground, check out playgroundsafety.org.
Danielle Sullivan, a Brooklyn-born mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years, and was recently honored with a Gold award for her health column by the Parenting Publications of America. Danielle also writes for Babble.