Remember safety at playground

Published 1:52 pm Wednesday, April 30, 2003

By By BILL CRIST - Publisher
Kids love the playground. The slides, swings, ladders and other kids make for a sensory overload of good fun, with the occasional scraped knee or elbow. With spring upon us, playgrounds are popular spots, filled with kids of all ages enjoying a variety of activities.
It seems like every group and organization has a week set aside in its honor, and safe playgrounds are no exception. Last week was National Playground Safety Week, an event established in 1995 with the creation of the National Program for Playground Safety. Each year the program undertakes different projects designed to help ensure that playgrounds remain fun places by removing dangerous equipment and situations.
Some items addressed by the group include the surface of the playgrounds, checking for worn out or broken equipment and this year, the removal of potentially dangerous animal swings.
During a 40-year span, over 10,000 of the swings were installed on playgrounds across the country. The animals, which can weigh up to 80 pounds, are dangerous for a couple of reasons. Their weight makes them a missile if they strike a child, which has been the cause of at least two deaths and countless injuries. They are also designed in such a way that it is easy to fall off the swing.
Dragonland Playground at Dogwood Hills has several traditional swings, including at least two designed for younger children. There are no animal swings at the park. The same is true at Fort Crawford Park in East Brewton.
And while that's good news for parents from here that are planning to take their children out for an afternoon of fun, there are still many dangers on the playground. By being aware of them, and teaching our children lessons about safety, we can cut down on the number of injuries.
According to statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year, over 205,000 preschool and elementary-aged children receive emergency room care for injuries that occurred on playground equipment. Over three-quarters of those injuries happened on public playgrounds. What many people may find surprising, is that a higher percentage of the injuries involve girls, 55 percent to 45 percent that involve boys. Those of us with active daughters at home, though, may not find those numbers so unusual.
Since summer is right around the corner, parents with children who will be visiting playgrounds this year should take some steps to help make sure a day of fun at the park stays fun. Some general guidelines for parents to follow is to make sure that adult supervision is present, to steer children toward age-appropriate equipment, to make sure the surface of the playground is safe for falls and to make sure that the equipment is safe.
The most important of those, is the first. Having adults at the playground who can quickly check over the surroundings and make sure children are not playing on unsafe equipment is vital to cutting down on accidents and injuries.
One more tip is to make five specific rules for your children, for the playground. By limiting the number, children are more likely to be able to remember and follow them. Make them specific enough so that the child can understand each of them.
This is the time of year when kids look forward to going to the park for a good time. By their nature, kids are going to get some bumps and bruises as they climb, slide and swing. That's to be expected and usually won't result in any lasting damage. Parents, and the communities they live in, must take care to make sure that a skinned knee is the only injury a child leaves the playground with.
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