More than 200,000 children across the U.S. go to emergency departments each year for injuries associated with playground equipment. The majority of these injuries are caused by a fall from the structure to the ground. Here are some tips for playground safety to help keep your child out of harm’s way.  

  1. Every playground should have at least 12 inches of mulch, wood chips, sand, pea gravel or mats made of safety–tested rubber. This can help lessen the impact when the child falls and help prevent injury.
  2. Check to ensure that the protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet beyond the structure in all directions. For swings, the surface should extend twice the height of the suspended bar in both directions.
  3. Any structures more than 30 inches high should be at least 9 feet apart from each other.
  4. Protruding bolt heads and open “S” hooks can lead to dangerous injuries. Check to make sure that there are not any on the structure along with sharp edges.
  5. Any spaces such as guard rails that could trap children should be less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches apart.
  6. Try to stay away from tripping hazards such as exposed concrete footings or tree stumps.
  7. Any elevated surface should have guardrails on both sides to prevent falling.
  8. Check that the equipment is in good condition. If it is not maintained properly there is a higher risk of injury.
  9. Always supervise your children on the playground to make sure they’re safe.
  10. If the playground has a net, make sure the perimeter of the opening is less than 17 inches or more than 28 inches. Holes within these dimensions can cause strangulation if a child’s head is caught. 

Get more information on playground safety from Safe Kids Worldwide


Sally Wilson, RN, BSN, was the Education, Prevention, and Outreach Coordinator for the Division of Trauma and Burns at Children’s National.

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