The playground: a universal source of fun for children. It’s also a place to burn calories, make new friends, and develop skills like how to judge risks and make decisions. A good playground challenges and engages children but is also designed to keep them safe. One of the best ways to lower the chances of serious injuries is to make sure there is safe surfacing under and around the equipment.
Safe surfacing on playgrounds falls into two categories: loose materials such as wood chips, sand, or pea gravel OR permanent rubber-like materials. If a child falls, these softer materials absorb energy, making injury less likely. Hard surfaces such as grass, dirt, rocks, asphalt, or concrete do not absorb as much energy, meaning the child is more likely to be injured in a fall.
Whether you’re at home or out at a public playground, remember to check the surfacing first.
Is it the right type? Surfacing should be either loose materials such as wood chips, sand, or pea gravel OR permanent rubber-like materials. Permanent rubber-like surfacing and engineered wood fibers are the only surfaces that meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Is there enough coverage? Surfacing should extend 6 feet out from all edges of playground equipment. Swings and slides need more coverage depending on how tall they are, so check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to see exactly how much coverage your playground needs.
Is it in good condition? If surfacing is loose materials, check heavily-used areas like under swings and at the end of slides to make sure 12 inches of material is in place. Check permanent rubber-like surfacing for worn spots or holes.
If not, make another choice. If you didn’t say yes to these three questions, let the organization that oversees the playground know that the playground needs attention and find a new place to play until the playground meets guidelines.
Prevent Child Injury is a national group of organizations and individuals, including researchers, health professionals, educators, and child advocates, working together to prevent injuries to children and adolescents in the U.S. Prevent Child Injury promotes coordinated communication to the public about prevention of child injury, which is the leading cause of death of our nation’s youth. To become a member of Prevent Child Injury or for more information and resources on this and other child injury topics, please visit www.preventchildinjury.org.
Resources on Playground Safety