school playground safety

Many of the school playground games that parents remember playing as kids are no longer allowed: dodge ball, tag, red rover and even activities like hanging upside down or sitting on top of the monkey bars, jumping off of swings and climbing up or sliding head first down the slide. We are in a new era where school playground safety concerns over child injuries from falls and collisions, fights and other problems have led to strict safety rules that eliminate some traditional childhood games and activities.

These changes have not come without reason. Between 2001 and 2008, 40 school aged children were killed while using playground equipment and an average of 218, 851 preschool and elementary children received emergency department care for injuries that occurred on playground equipment. About 15 percent of the injuries were classified as severe, with three percent requiring hospitalization.

Playground injury breakdown:

  • 67 percent were the result of falls or equipment failure
  • 8 percent were the result of hazards around but not related to the equipment
  • 7 percent were from collisions with other children or equipment
  • 7 percent were entrapments
  • 11 percent were from other factors

Peaceful Playgrounds program aims to reduce school playground injuries

An average school playground has more than 100 children running around, climbing, swinging and sliding during recess. With so many kids playing all at once, the risk for playground injuries and conflicts is high. School districts have chosen to mitigate these risks by banning certain behavior and games and replacing them with organized activities in designated spaces around the grass fields and blacktop. The national safety program, Peaceful Playgrounds, is being used more and more at schools around the country. Schools are being instructed to provide games such as four-square, jump ropes, basketball, tetherball, Frisbee golf, bean bag toss etc. to supplement playground equipment. The idea is that these choices will help spread kids out and keep them entertained and busy instead of standing in lines waiting to play, thereby helping to reduce problems on the playground. As part of the program, children are also being taught playground safety rules at the beginning of the school year that are then reviewed regularly throughout the year. The program also teaches children to resolve most conflicts without adult intervention, using the “walk, talk or rock” method: walk away from a dispute, talk it out, or settle it by playing “rock, paper, scissors.”

School playground safety rules

  • Never push or roughhouse on playground equipment.
  • If you plan to jump off of climbing equipment, first check that there are no other children in your way. Always land on both feet with your knees slightly bent.
  • Leave bikes, backpacks and other tripping hazards in a designated spot.
  • Never use wet equipment because moisture causes a slippery surface.
  • Don’t wear clothes with drawstrings at the playground as they can get caught on equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.

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