How to keep your kids safe on the playground

ABC 33/40 News Investigates: Playground safety (

If you have young kids, you’d rather have them spend time at the park or school playground instead of playing video games.

But each year, nearly a quarter of a million kids wind up in hospital emergency rooms for broken bones, cuts, bruises and sprains that they got while playing on public playgrounds.

ABC 33/40 News Investigates found out which playground equipment is linked to the most injuries, and we'll show you how to keep your kids safe.

Keep a close eye on your kids

Rachel Edwards helped her 2-year-old daughter Penelope climb a large metal caterpillar at Homewood Park. Rachel has three kids, ages 2, 5 and 7. She likes to give them plenty of freedom at the playground—but not too much.

“If they’re doing something that looks dangerous, we might go over and be a little closer,” Edwards said. “If they’re doing OK, we’ll step back. But if they need a little assistance to keep them safe, we’ll step in.”

Adult supervision is critical to keeping children safe on the playground. But kids will be kids and accidents can happen.

Three types of playground equipment linked to the most injuries

According to the federal government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission, here are the three types of playground equipment linked to the most injuries:

  • Monkey bars or playground gyms
  • Swings
  • Slides

Most injuries are due to kids falling—not the equipment itself.

Karla Crosswhite is a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

“Falls are the No. 1 risk for children on playgrounds,” Crosswhite told ABC 33/40 News Investigates. “They fall off the swings. They fall off the slides. They fall off the monkey bars.”

Soft landings needed

The safest playgrounds have nine to 12 inches of mulch, sand or another soft surface to break falls and reduce the chance of serious injury.

Be sure the playground equipment your child plays on is age-appropriate

One of the most important ways to keep your kids safe is to make sure they play on age-appropriate playground equipment.

  • Overhead rings or monkey bars are built for kids ages five to 12.
  • Belted swings are for kids five and older. Swings with full bucket seats are for kids six months to four years old — and they require adult assistance.
  • Children five and younger need to stick to slides that have tall sides and low inclines.

Carole Pugh is keeping a close watch on her four-and-a-half-year-old grandson, Michael, and two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Evelyn.

“I would look around and only let them on the things that are age-appropriate,” Pugh said. “I would not let them on things they couldn’t handle.”

Here’s some more advice to keep your kids safe

  • Make sure your children’s clothing doesn’t have any drawstrings since they can catch on slides and other equipment.
  • Never attach ropes, pet leashes or strings to playground equipment. Children can trip over them or even be strangled by them.

Check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s most recent report on playground safety here.

You can learn more about age-appropriate playground equipment here.

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