Play it safe

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 23rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Little junior loves to meet his friends at the local park playground, but Mom worries about him getting hurt while he’s there. Turns out the best solution is to not forget play dates at the jungle gym, but for Mom to tag along. Occupational therapy researchers at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia say adult supervision can significantly reduce playground injuries in children.

Playground accidents are the leading cause of childhood injuries, with most occurring on play equipment at home. Nearly half those injuries are due to improper use of equipment and lack of adult supervision. Exuberant children often unwittingly put themselves in danger, so having an adult nearby to monitor activities is a good way to cut down on bumps and bruises. Adults can also keep an eye out for hazards such as splintering wooden stair steps, rickety slides or fraying swing ropes. Careful design of jungle gyms at home can reduce falls and collision with play equipment.

Despite the dangers, experts agree that free playtime is essential for a child’s proper development, both physically and emotionally. Social skills learned when playing with a peer group are just as important as the kinetic exercise a playground invites. Rather than being a hovering mother hen, parents should observe their children playing from a distance and only intervene when necessary. Parents can even become Certified Playground Safety Inspectors through the National Playground Safety Institute, a group that promotes safe children’s public play areas.