How Safe Is Your School’s Playground?

Your Hazelwood Fire Department recommends: Better Supervision is Key to Reducing Injuries

The playground is the ultimate symbol of the joys of childhood.  But even though playgrounds are designed for children, adults are the key to a safe, fun experience.

Each year, more than 80,000 children visit the emergency room for playground injuries attributed to inadequate supervision. With children back in school, it’s important for parents to know who is keeping their child safe on the playground.

“Parents usually get to know the teacher in the classroom or childcare center but may have no idea who supervises their child outdoors,” says

Playground Supervision

Donna Thompson, director of the National Program for Playground Safety. “The quality of supervision varies widely, and parents need to know how their school measures up.”

Here are a few tips for parents concerned about keeping their children safe on the playground:

Ask Questions

The first question to ask is who supervises children on the playground.  The second and more important question is, “How are they trained?”

Playground supervision is not just watching children as they play.  Preventing playground injuries requires knowledge of the hazards and behaviors that can cause harm to a child.  Active intervention is needed to prevent a child from being injured.

“Playground supervisors should be unobtrusive, but they must constantly monitor what’s going on,” says Thompson.  “Supervisors have to be trained to identify situations where kids can get hurt and to know how to respond.”

Parents should also ask how many supervisors are on the playground.  While there is no set standard, ratios of up to one adult per 40 children have been found legally acceptable.  Good playground supervision is not just about having the right number of adults on the playground.  One well-trained supervisor will do more to protect kids than a half dozen adults who are talking in a corner of the schoolyard.

Go Out For Recess

Parents should visit their child during recess and see supervisors in action.  A good supervisor will move throughout the playground or maintain a position where he or she can clearly see all areas.  The eyes are the most important tools for a playground supervisor, and they should constantly be scanning the area for unsafe behaviors.

How a supervisor deals with those behaviors is key to creating a playground environment that is safe, but still fun. A quick one-on-one interaction is the best way to redirect a child?s activity or remind them of a safety rule.

Parents should also take a look at the playground itself.  Is the equipment in good repair? Is there trash in the area that might be harmful to children? Is there a barrier between the playground and streets or parking lots to prevent children from wandering into the path of a vehicle?

Take Action

If the playground isn?t as safe as it should be, parents should go to the principal or director and ask for changes.  Citing specific examples helps the administrator understand exactly what the concerns are and how to address them.

Parents should also be prepared to help.  A group of adults and children can work together to clean up a playground or perform simple repairs.  Training materials for playground supervisors can be purchased by individuals or a parent organization and donated to the school.  Safe playground games can be given to the school to offer alternatives to more dangerous play that can occur when there is nothing for children to do.

“We’ll never be able to prevent every single playground injury,” says Thompson, “but vigilant adults can create an environment of fun that keeps kids out of the emergency room.”

© City of Hazelwood

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