April 26-30, 2010 is National Playground Safety Week, sponsored by the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). Now I have to admit to a little skepticism (ok, a lot) about this at first. I firmly believe in parks, public playgrounds, and kids playing. I think they need more!
But the mission of the NPPS is to …”help the public create, renovate, and maintain safe and developmentally appropriate play environments for children by providing professional, well-researched, highly informative, practical and user-friendly services, and programs…” Sounds more like a public policy statement than like supporting kids having fun. They also certify “outdoor play inspectors,” which sounded like playground police to me, and are an advisory group for the National Playground Safety Standards.
I’m more of a “free-range kids” advocate, personally. Although my kids are still young and we live in the country, so there’s no where for them to ride the subway to anyway. But I would totally let them walk to school if it wasn’t 17.6 miles away without any sidewalks and all the roads are 55 mph. I think some of these fancy, expensive playground systems are nice, but a lot of communities can’t afford them.
But the startling fact is that, according to the NPPS website, “between 2001-2008 an average of 218,851 preschool and elementary school children received emergency department care for injuries that occur on playground equipment.” This includes 40 deaths, with an average age of 6 and a mean age of 4 years old. According to their research, 67% (!) of these accidents involve falls or equipment failure. That might not seem like a lot compared to the millions of kids in this country, but it does mean that a lot of these are preventable–and even one is too many!
Look at this old playground picture I found…
Ok, I see the problem now. Because if this guy falls…
Based on these statistics and other research, the National Program for Playground Safety advocates that:
- Adults actively supervise the children in the play environment.
- Adults choose appropriate developmental equipment for the play environment.
- Adults provide safe surfacing both in the public use areas and at home for playground equipment.
- Adults insure that all equipment and surfacing located in the play areas be maintained on a regular basis.
So, inspectors aside, this list of recommendations just doesn’t seem that bad to me. Especially if it saves even one 4 yr old from dying. So, if you’re a parent or a care provider of children, check out the S.A.F.E. tips at the NPPS website:
They’ve also got some grant information available if you know someone working on a playground project or think your community could use some help in this area (a majority definitely could!). We need to keep play in kids lives, but we also need to keep play safe. I’m sure we can all do a little bit to help out.
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