LiveSmart: Play it Safe at the Playground this Summer!

[This article was written by Mark Osborn, M.D., Chief of Pediatrics for St. Peter’s Hospital, and a provider with St. Peter’s Health Center for Children.]

The happy sound of children laughing and shouting on playgrounds has been a welcome return to normal, as local and state parks have begun to relax restrictions put in place during the peak of the COVID pandemic.

The playground is a place where kids can have some fun and excitement, utilize their imagination, make friends, and enjoy the outdoors while getting some much-needed exercise – a major component in the fight against childhood obesity. And by following a few basic safety rules, you can ensure your trip to the playground is a fun one.

According to the New York State Department of Health, each day in New York state more than 16 children from birth to 14 years of age are treated at a hospital for an injury sustained from falling off playground equipment. An average of one child a day is injured severely enough to require hospitalization.

Adult supervision is the most important factor in preventing a good number of playground falls and injuries. Adults should instruct children in the proper use of equipment, and monitor and enforce playground rules.

Other guidelines for safe playground use include:

  • Look for playgrounds that have a surface made up of wood chips, mulch, shredded rubber, or rubberized mats to cushion falls.
  • Children should only play on age-appropriate equipment. Children under the age of two should not climb higher than 32 inches (about three feet), and children ages two to five should not climb higher than 60 inches (about five feet).
  • Children should not use slides until they can do so on their own. Young children should never go down a slide on the lap of an adult, as this puts the child at risk for breaking a leg.
  • Make sure children give a wide berth to the exits of slides and the area around swings to avoid collisions with other children using those items.
  • Children should be wearing sneakers or other well-fitting shoes with a sole that has a good grip – no flip flops.
  • While children should wear helmets while bike riding or playing sports, they should not wear helmets when climbing trees or playground equipment. A helmet may get stuck on a tree or piece of equipment and strangle a child.
  • Make sure the equipment is not wet, especially on climbing surfaces.

And of course, like any outdoor activity, make sure they have on their sunscreen and stay properly hydrated!

St. Peter’s Health Center for Children, 1092 Madison Avenue in Albany, offers a complete range of services for children from newborns to age 18. Services include well-child routine care, sick-child exams, school and camp physicals, sports physicals, immunizations, health maintenance and education, and access to other hospital services and referrals to specialists. Call 518-525-2445 for more information or an appointment.

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