Playing it Safe On the Playground

By Nicole Germany

The monkey bars were calling my name, and as my dad watched my two brothers, I climbed up the tall, metal tower. Five minutes later my arm was broken and my dad was in trouble for not watching me.

Every year in the United States over 200,000 children are admitted to the emergency room for playground-related injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 75 percent of injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds, with most occurring at a place of recreation or school. The CDC also concluded that children between the ages of 5 and 9 had higher rates of emergency room visits for playground-related injuries than any other age group. But, with just the right education, injuries can decrease significantly.

Each playground can be different from the type of equipment, to the material of the fall surfaces, but a there are few things to keep in mind when visiting any playground.

All eyes and ears

Supervision is the most significant role in reducing injuries. By pledging to be alert and attentive at the playground, you’re greatly reducing the chance of encountering problems.

Inspect playground surfaces and equipment

Steer clear of any playgrounds with hard fall surfaces and look more for playgrounds made of rubber, mulch or sand. Aside from fall surfaces, playground equipment should also be examined to avoid things such as broken equipment pieces, objects that could break off and be swallowed, and any types of ropes that may cause danger.

Guide children to appropriate play areas

Most parks have separate areas that cater to different ages — babies, toddlers, preschoolers and so on. Keeping kids in the right area and ensuring little ones don’t wander off onto high platforms can protect them from potential dangerous equipment injuries.

Be aware of weather conditions

Weather can change quickly and it can effect equipment by making it slick from rain and even at times cause second-degree burns on hot summer days. Stay up-to-date on weather conditions before heading to the playground, and always be aware of worsening conditions.

Appropriate clothing

Children should wear closed-toe shoes, and try to avoid shoes with long shoelaces that they could trip over. Long pants and T-shirts can help cover skin to protect from bug bites and scrapes, and you should tie long hair back so it doesn’t get caught in the equipment. Also, be sure to dress your children in weather-appropriate clothing before heading to the playground, such as warm jackets on cold days and rain boots if it has been rainy.

Safety First

• The National Program for Playground Safety estimated that 70 percent of playground injuries are related to children falling to the ground, while 10 percent involve falls onto equipment.

• Swings, monkey bars and climbing equipment have the highest number of injuries for children ages 5–9.

• It’s estimated that 40 percent of playground injuries are associated with a lack of supervision.

• After falls, the next leading cause of injuries on playgrounds is related to breakage, tipover, design and assembly of equipment.

Local Play Areas

Trinity United Methodist Church Playground
4000 NW 53rd Ave., Gainesville, FL

Built as a fully wheelchair accessible playground, the park is designed to allow people of all abilities access to swings, instruments like bongo drums and a spinning ship’s wheel.

Depot Park
200 Southeast Depot Ave., Gainesville, FL

Designed to evoke the creativity in everyone, Depot Park has a play area and a splash zone with waterfalls and hidden fossils.

Hal Brady Rec Center
14300 NW 146th terrace, Alachua, FL

With brand new equipment, Hal Brady Rec Center features swings, slides and a merry go-round. The park also offers a splash area, a skate park and is right next to the rec center and ball fields.

Tioga Town Center Playground
105 SW 128th St., Newberry, FL

Lined with unique, miniature houses, Tioga Town Center playground has slides, swings and a sandbox.

Albert “Ray” Massey Westside Playground
1001 NW 34th St., Gainesville, FL

Situated on the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue, Albert “Ray” Massey Westside Playground is in a great location for the whole family. Aside from the playground you can find the Gainesville Community pool, lit basketball and tennis courts, and an exercise trail.