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How can I make sure that my child has a fun and safe experience in our backyard and at our neighborhood playground?

Adult supervision is always advised so that you can keep an eye out for potential hazards and be the referee if play gets a little out of hand. Make sure that your child is using age-appropriate equipment. Preschoolers (ages 2 – 5) and school-age children (ages 5 – 12) are developmentally different and should use equipment (hopefully in separate areas) designed for their age group to help ensure a good (and a safe) experience.

The majority of playground injuries are related to children falling to the ground from slides, swings, monkey bars and other equipment. Wood fiber or mulch, pea gravel, sand, poured-in-place rubber, rubber mats or rubber tiles are safer playground surfaces, while concrete, asphalt, black top, and packed dirt or rocks are much more hazardous.

Make sure the equipment, including home play structures, are anchored safely in the ground. You can also do a quick check to see if all equipment pieces are in good working order, S-hooks are entirely closed, bolts are not protruding, and there are no exposed footings. Equipment should be free of rust, splinters, and missing parts.

Strings on clothing, long necklaces, or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on equipment. Ropes used as part of playground equipment should be secured on both ends.

Check for hot surfaces on all playground equipment before your child starts to play on it. If shade structures do not protect the equipment from the sun, the surface can become extremely hot and can even cause burns on the skin. And never let your child go barefoot or wear open toe shoes.

Encourage the use of UVA and UVB protective clothing and sunglasses, suggest playing in shaded areas, and, of course, always use sunscreen. A heat index at or above 90˚F may pose a health risk. Always keep your child well hydrated.