Is My Preschool Playground Actually Safe?

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Michael J

Safety is always a concern when it comes to playgrounds, and it's important to check any playground your child will…

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Here is a startling statistic:

Every year, over 200,000 children are injured on playgrounds in America.

That’s a troubling number for parents, but those running child care and preschool programs should also be concerned. Whether you run a large preschool or a small home daycare, the children in your care every day can suffer one of those injuries.

The likelihood is that at some point, one of your toddlers or preschoolers will fall and get hurt on your preschool playground. That’s pretty much inevitable. However, the severity of the injury (and the legal ramifications if the parents were to sue you) can be minimized if you work to keep your child care playground safe and up to code.

In October 1995, the National Program for Playground Safety was created. This program was the first coordinated effort to address playground safety issues, and help prevent many needless injuries to our children. Since then, there have been more and more efforts, research and energy poured into this important topic.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has set forth a set of guidelines, which are now considered best practice for playground safety. Below is a playground safety checklist, especially geared toward child care and preschool playgrounds:

  1. Check the safety of your daycare or preschool playground regularly.
  2. Ensure that there is at least one foot of soft material under or around your playground equipment. Soft materials include mulch, sand, a specifically designed mat, or shredded tires.
  3. This soft ground cover must extend, in all directions, at least 6 feet from any playground equipment.
  4. For swing areas, the soft surface should be twice the height of the suspending bar, front and back.
  5. Replace or cover all protruding or otherwise unsafe hardware. Look for any sharp points or edges that could harm a child. Check to make sure there are no pinching or crushing hazards that could hurt a child’s fingers.
  6. Openings in the daycare playground equipment should be either less than 3.5 inches or greater than 9 inches. This prevents a child getting his or her head stuck.
  7. Ensure that there are no tripping hazards, such as rocks, large freestanding toys, concrete footings, plants, or tree stumps.
  8. Check all elevated areas and ensure that there are guardrails so that children cannot fall from them. In child care centers and preschools, the guardrail should be higher than 20 inches.
  9. Playgrounds should be age appropriate. For a child care or preschool program with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers, your daycare and preschool playground should be specifically geared toward children under 5 years old. It’s even better if you can have separate playground for children under 2 years old, and children 2-5 years old. If you also have school-aged students, then your early childhood education playground should be in a separate area from the school-aged kids’ playground.
  10. Set the play area up in such a way that a caregiver or preschool teacher can see and supervise all children. AT ALL TIMES.

As of today, only 6 states have fully adopted the CPSC’s guidelines for child care and preschool playgrounds. However, the following 16 States have adopted at least parts of the CPSC guidelines: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

Many more have also taken these regulations into consideration when creating their own regulations, which is very promising. States and professional organizations are now encouraging improvements and there is evidence that adopting these guidelines can decrease playground injuries as much as 22%.

Regardless of your State though, playground safety codes are here to help you.

Whether you are a family child care provider, a child care center owner, or a preschool director, the safety of your children should come first. This is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also the right business decision to make. The better you follow child care and preschool playground safety guidelines, the happier you and your students will be!

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  • Safety is always a concern when it comes to playgrounds, and it’s important to check any playground your child will be using for safety concerns. Ask the preschool for safety reports or inspection records, or ask to do an inspection yourself. Make sure the surfaces are soft and shock absorbent, and that the playground equipment is in good condition and securely attached. Make sure there are no sharp edges or protruding parts, and make sure all of the guardrails and other components are secure.

  • (Point#1) I have owned and operated a Daycare/Preschool program in Whitsett North Carolina for 21 years. The state mandates all licensed childcare facilities- (Except for church childcare facilities (Which I totally disagree with because children are children and need a safe place to play outside) Many Church Childcare Programs are not licensed or not required to have Playground Safety Training. N.C. requires at least one employee on site with playground safety training at all times. I require all employees and substitutes to receive this training prior to overseeing the students during outside recess. Licensed CHildcare Facilities are also required to go outside prior to the students entering the play areas and inspect the area for any hazards that may have occurred after your last inspection. A Monthly Playground Inspection is posted on our State Inspection Board at the preschool entrance.

    (Point# 2)- Parents are a child’s first teacher. I encourage parents to take a First Aid & C.P.R class) Safety habits began at home first with simple age appropriate lessons during daily routine activities – Example NO running in the house (use your walking feet) – When children are eating or drinking they should be setting down to avoid choking or falling with the object in your mouth – When outside children need to be in a fenced in area with adult supervision at all times. If your child goes outside at home parents need to take the Playground Safety Class. (It is a eye opening experience)

    (Point# 3) – Many injuries occur in public parks because the area is not mandated to have approved playgrounds or age appropriate equipment. Yes they aim to make them safe but its up to the parent to decide what equipment is age appropriate). There are many dangers lurking in the shadows that could fatally harm children be prepared to handle emergencies that may occur! I hope this information is helpful. Sincerely: Mrs. Prater

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