As the weather gets warmer, children naturally start flocking to the playground, and who can blame them? Those first few days out in the sun after a long winter are blissful! But parents and responsible adults should be aware of the risks that come with outdoor play, and how to minimise or manage them. Our latest article will be talking all things safety when it comes to outdoor play!
An important part of safety comes down simply to the way children are dressed. If their clothes and shoes are not weather and environment-appropriate, this increases the likelihood of risk for injury. For example, overheating or freezing are both very possible with outdoor play. In winter, children should be wrapped up warmly, with hats and gloves to protect against wind chill. Similarly, in summer they should be dressed in cool clothing that won’t put them at risk of overheating. Shoes should be sensible and comfortable. Clothes shouldn’t have drawstrings or ties that dangle or are too long, as these can get caught in equipment and present a choking hazard. It helps to have longer hair tied back, to also eliminate any risk of it getting caught in the equipment.
Children can often be a law unto themselves, so it’s necessary that they are supervised by responsible adults when they’re on the playground. Adults should be ensuring children are using play equipment as intended and playing with other children in a safe and responsible manner. Ensure that you are teaching children the rules of safe play – there shouldn’t be any pushing, shoving, racing unsafely, and so on. Adults should also ensure that they are teaching children how to responsibly use the equipment – waiting their turn, going feet first down slides, no standing up on equipment meant to be sat on, so on and so forth.
Adults responsible for children and the playgrounds they use should make regular maintenance and inspection their priority. This is the best way of identifying minor flaws that could turn into a bigger problem at a later stage, such as minor breaks in equipment, loose screws, faults in the flooring and so on. Children playing on damaged equipment or surfaces are at a higher risk of injury, and responsible adults should be vigilant in inspections to ensure nothing goes amiss.
Adequate safety surfacing is crucial when it comes to maintaining an acceptable level of safety on playgrounds. As experts in this field, PlaySmart have some recommendations you should look for when ensuring the safety of your surface.
Firstly, ask yourself: Is the surface impact absorbent? In high-risk areas like playgrounds, there is a good chance children will fall or trip, and potentially injure themselves in the process. One way of attempting to avoid a more serious injury is to avoid harsher surfacing with low absorbency – for example, tarmac, concrete or gravel. Instead, opt for surfaces with proven high absorbency, such as sand, mulch or rubber, for example. It creates a softer landing and therefore should lower the risk for a more serious injury.
Equally as important, check the critical fall height measurement (the maximum distance of a fall from the highest piece of equipment on a playground to the floor). It is vital to ensure that safety surfaces are installed at the correct depth in order to provide a sufficient amount of protection against falls from high surfaces.
One of the surfacing industry’s unwritten rules is that if the price seems too good to be true, it usually is! The old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ has a lot of truth when it comes to safety surfacing, and cutting a lot of costs isn’t something recommendable when safety is at stake. Cheaper safety surfacing is made from less reliable and resilient materials, meaning it doesn’t provide the adequate level of protection that more sturdy surfaces do. It’s important to weigh up the costs of investing in new surfacing against how long the surface will last – whilst there is an upfront cost to take into account, there are a few options out there that will stand the test of time with the right maintenance.
There is a lot more that goes into playing safely, but we hope our top five tips have started you off on the right track! If you’d like to know more, why not get in touch through the contact form on our website? As always, we’d love to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to contact us if there’s anything we can help with!