If you’ve taken your toddler to a playground recently—especially if it’s your first time to a playground in a while—you may have noticed that playground equipment has changed dramatically in recent years.
Gone are the swings, slides, monkey bars, and teeter-totters, and in their place is a selection of sleek, supposedly safer equipment that is designed to protect children, increase sensory stimulation, and reduce the risk of injury.
Why is this necessary? Because it turns out playgrounds are dangerous places for kids.
According to the most recent figures, about 200,000 children under the age of 14 are injured in playground injuries every year. Between 15 and 45 percent of these are severe, including fractures, concussions, internal injuries, dislocations, and amputations. Between 2001 and 2008, there were 40 fatalities on playgrounds.
What’s the most dangerous equipment on public playgrounds? Anything kids can climb, followed closely by swings (home swings are a major source of injury). According to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), most injuries involve either falling or equipment failure. Overall:
- 67 percent of injuries are due to falls or equipment failure
- 7 percent are due to collisions with other children or equipment
- 7 percent are caused by entrapment
- 8 percent are caused by non-equipment-related hazards
- 11 percent have other causes
To reduce the injury rate, the NPPS launched the S.A.F.E. program, which relies on:
- Age-appropriate equipment
- Fall-safe surfacing that can soften falls
- Equipment that is well-maintained
For children aged 6-23 months, the safest playgrounds should have plenty of places to crawl and play on the ground and no hard surfaces or opportunities for unstable toddlers to fall. After age 2, the safest playgrounds have areas to crawl, low-to-the-ground platforms with ramps and multiple access points, and play tables.
As a parent, there are a few things you can do to ensure the safety of your child on playground equipment. Upon arrival, take a good look around to make sure you see no broken equipment, splintered wood, or rusted metal. Don’t allow your children to play on equipment that is wet or too hot, as these conditions can create potential hazards. Contain your children to their age appropriate area—toddlers can easily be injured if they play on equipment meant for older children. And above all, supervision at all times is key to keeping your child safe.
Reviewed by Dr. Eva Benmeleh, September 2020
- About 200,000 children under the age of 14 are injured in playground injuries every year.
- Roughly 67 percent of injuries on playgrounds are due to falls or equipment failure.
- Supervision is key to keeping your child safe.