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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Friday, April 11, 2014

Safe Play, Fun Play: Public Playground Safety Guide

Freestanding bell panel
Accessibility gives kids the precious and practical right to play and dream all-the-way.

More than being a grandiose stage and a subtle social space, a playground is your children’s first battleground. With every step up and climb down, they get to know that life is not all rosy, as sometimes, a misstep or a sudden jump can turn bloody.­ As kids get a taste and feel of the scorching sun, the gusty winds, the nerve-wrenching snowfall, and a possibly great fall, parents ought to don their “playground supervision” hat on.

While a good number of parents argue that back in their younger years, playgrounds do not have to pass through a stringent safety measuring stick, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there are more than 200,000 playground-related cases among children that resulted to an emergency. The most common cause of these unfortunate incidences is from falling, which accounts for 44% of playground equipment-related accidents in the span of the year 2001 to 2008. This recent study also identified that poor design, assembly, and maintenance were the factors that led 23% of young children to an accident. This number might not be too steep, you might think. The real danger of overlooking safety during playtime might also bring forth trauma to young children who are injured or have witnessed a playmate’s accident. The challenge now lies on parents, teachers, and caregivers as we revisit and refocus our quest for the play that is fun and safe in one.

Who Says Safe Play Is Not Fun?
Risk is part of life, and there is no doubt with that; but to take a risk means to learn how to be safe, than be sorry, firsthand. Kids need not be restricted when they explore the world that is unsure, and unsafe. Instead adults must think of creative ways to make them learn and earn life lessons while enjoying their childhood.

Playground safety is advocating the idea of graduated challenge to empower kids. Since children are wired to act on impulse and give in to whatever they feel at the moment, parents must inject lessons in a creative and visual manner to get their kid’s attention and open them to a longer list of options. Tantrum is a testament to children’s inability to protect themselves. How many times did your kids indulge in taking dangerous turns, running tirelessly without looking at a busy street, and placing a metal object inside a socket?

The challenge in marrying safe play and fun play must not be seen as unimaginable. With the aid of playground equipment that are built to cater to kids of all ages, this vision is off to make your children’s playtime a better time for discovery, socialization, emotional saw sharpening, and critical thinking. Here are some tips coupled with tiny and funny twists that may help you and your kids in getting a fun and safe play:

The Age Gauge
Play Fun Tip:
The next time you are in a busy playground, gather kids in a circle before they start playing.  Let them line up according to their shirt color first. This would give a lighter meaning to lining up –a typical turn off for kid. After they wiggle and giggle, ask them to line up according to their height.

This would pretty much tell you what age range the group has. Ask the kids to get to know other kids. This is a good way to introduce mutual respect without forcing it on your children. Keep in mind that there are three age groups that playground equipment are designed for –toddlers (6 months- 2 years old), preschool (2 to 5 years old) and school-age (5-12 years old). You and your kids can even name the specified areas so that they can somehow call it their own. For kids who are in between the said ages, allow them to try out the new equipment so that they can personally figure out if they are ready for a more challenging play space.

Ground Round
Play Fun Tip:
Stretching is a great way to jumpstart your kids’ playtime and fitness while toning your own muscles, too. More than that, you can check your playground’s surface safety. Make sure that all surfaces of playgrounds are ready to prevent your child from severe injuries, should they fall or hit their heads while playing. Worn out surfaces are usually found on the area under the swing or on the area where kids land when they slide. This also teaches your children the difference between a safe ground and a possibly hazardous ground.

When you stretch, lend it a bit more story. If you’re outdoors, ask them to reach for the blue sky or that cloud they particularly love. When you’re indoors, ask them to give their best stretch and see who can touch the ceiling or the floor. You may also take advantage of the equipment you see around like poles, balance bars and inclined spaces. This may also be the best time to check the bolts, chains, ropes and other vital parts that would spell “safe” playground equipment. Indeed, this is a fun way for children to get fit.

The Access Prince and Princess
Play Fun Tip:
Due to the steady increase of children with special needs, playgrounds are mandated to allow inclusion. Truth be told, kids with autism are often bullied, but this must not stop them from going out and about. Instead, turn to a playground and let them grow and go. Inject a twist in the spaces designed for them by letting them see these playground equipment as special spaces. After all, extra caution is needed when playing with them. A good number of these kids are challenged when it comes to their motor skills and the way they perceive and process information, so they are also prone to injuries. Tell your kids that since they are special on their own right – and that they are heroes and heroines that are living their stories. This is a gentle yet powerful way to open your kids to a world that goes beyond their world as they learn acceptance and respect. This is best done in a themed playground that sets the mood for some creative time.

For parents and teachers with kids that have autism, you may want to give accessible playgrounds a good try. Playground builders have dedicated their efforts to give your children the right to play without having to worry much about how they are going to fare. A wide range of safe playgrounds for handicapped kids have equipment that allow them shoot some hoops and gain company as they meet and greet other kids. Immersing your kids in inclusion, empowers them and that as young as they are, they can make it big, if they think big.  

Touch the Color + Tic-Tac-Toe
Play Fun Tip:
Playgrounds also shape the mental muscles of kids. They get to learn strategies, verify their hunches, and put themselves to tests that their classroom time can’t readily give them.The addition of tic-tac-toe panels and the themed vibrant colors are not placed in playgrounds just the sake of aesthetics. Did you know that your children’s spatial skills can be ignited by simply playing tic-tac-toe? This game may seem to be no-brainer, but it is proven to challenge your kids to create solutions that require serious strategic thinking and perhaps, a hefty dose of negotiating with an opponent.

For those who are not into the spatial skills arena, parents could ask their kids to touch a particular color that can be seen in the playground equipment. Add a little variety by introducing shapes in your color game. Once again, you hit two birds with one stone –an hour of play meets an hour of creative and critical learning.

Sing, Swing a Song
Play Fun Tip:
One of the challenges that a swing has is that kids have a hard time in letting it go, literally and figuratively. After all, who could resist a natural, happy high, right? To lessen the likelihood having to go through the terrifying tantrums tales of kids who want to ride the swing all at once, pick a little song that kids know by heart. As soon as one kid starts swinging, the group will start singing. As the song ends, the kid must let the swing go. On top of managing kids’ temper, kids get to practice their vocal prowess, diction and enunciation, effortlessly. If your kids are learning a different language, you may want to let them learn a song in that language so they can give it a good, fun go, too.

Slide Pride Ride
Play Fun Tip:
The height of a slide is a critical part in a playground. It is not advisable to put your child in your lap and go down the slide with him/her. A number of playground injuries in slide are caused by this supposed “adult supervision” practice.

3-Panel Rope Aztec Climber
Kids are meant to play. Let them go, glow and grow while at it.
Since height is usually quite a lot to chew, guide your child in climbing his pride ride. Pretend that the slide is a mountain or a castle and that his/her mission is to conquer that mountain or get to the top of the castle. This not only calms the nerve of your child, all the more, this encourages kids to let their imagination run freely. As a toddler goes down the swing for instance, hold his/her hand and guide him/her as s/he goes down. The feeling of accomplishing something on his/her own will earn your child that sense of pride and a boost in self-esteem. Once you see him/her ready and steady, give him/her the chance to conquer the slide ride on his/her own. Of course, gently remind him/her to put his/her hands on his/her side and land with feet first. Never tolerate a kid who slides with his/her head first as it may not only cause a bump. In worse cases, brain injury are likely to happen with this position since the impact of his/her weight is far greater compared to sliding with his/her feet first.

Simon Says + Seesaw
Play Fun Tip:
Get kids to pick their partner that is closest to their size, height, and age by playing the good old game of Simon Says. It is best to ride the seesaw as a pair (unless of course, if it can house four kids at a time) who has the closest physique so that the weight is distributed better. Popularly known as teeter-totter, a seesaw must be installed with a tire to add cushioning for protection. Fulcrum seesaws are best for school-age kids. Pre-schoolers are sure to enjoy a seesaw with a spring-center device that will give them more balance and support. As kids ride the seesaw, remind them to face each other. You may also encourage them to see the seesaw as a mirror. They can imitate each other as long as they put their hands on the handle at all times. Kids waiting for their turn can gather at a safe distance since injuries might be met when kids climb up or down the seesaw while it is still in motion or when kids play chase or pass under it. So as not to appear like a police, make use of the phrase “Simon Says”.

Call and Climb
Play Fun Tip:
How could you roll around with this most challenging equipment while still having fun? Gather kids and group them together to make sure that it won’t get too cramped once they’re up the climber. The key to this game is to tap group dynamics. Since this is built for older kids, you can get their creative and strategic juices flowing by letting them think of the best way to climb up and down. Set a time, say 10 minutes, and let them think of ways to solve a simple challenge. This also allows them to be responsible for others, as this is a team task.

Sun Climber I CG
A playground is a child’s first battleground and social ground, too.
Cooperation plus hand and feet coordination are the winning takeaway of kids who go up and down climbers. Remind the kids that should they jump, they must do a bit of calculation so as not to hit the equipment and that no one will collide with them. If your commercial playground has a number of climbers, start with the easiest one, gauge the kids and let them get to the next level if they successfully downed their first climbing challenge. It is important to double check the area under the climber as it should have surfaces that will minimize the impact injuries should there be any.

Lose a Turn, Win a Friend
Play Fun Tip:
Playing usually gets physical and personal. As kids interact, they are bound to react. More often than not, all kids want to go first and get to the top fastest, or go down without experiencing a tough time. In short, playgrounds pave the way for enabling your kids as they develop their skills without them realizing it. This is perhaps one tough turf, but parents can take inspiration from drawing a dice, with a corresponding “playtime badge” that goes with it. For instance, “one” means “go to a slide and bring a friend”, “two” would be “go down the slide that is painted in your favorite color” and so on. Get a dice that has a “lose a turn” face, when a child gets this, the child picks a random child and spend some time at a bench as they enjoy a round of bubbles. This subtly shows children that losing a turn is not a bad thing, after all.

Now that you've seen a good number of creative sparks in playground safety speak, it’s your turn to share your own playtime safety tactics. We’d love to help you craft worthwhile play that is all-fun, and all-safe.

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