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How to Keep Playgrounds Safe

Every year 200,000 children wind up in emergency rooms from playground injuries, mostly falls. Of course, taking risks  -- on the slide, the jungle gym, even the swings  -- is often half the fun for kids. So to protect your little thrill-seeker:

Be a safety net. Move with your child around the playground (nearly half of accidents there stem from spotty supervision). If she loses her footing, you might be close enough to catch her. And if something's too risky, say so: "No climbing on the top of the swing set!"

Match ages to stages. Most playground equipment is designed either for 2- to 5-year-olds or for older kids up to age 12. Keep toddlers off the big slides, and, if possible, keep the big kids off the little things. If your child's under 2, it's safest to let him play in the sandbox, under the sprinklers, or in the grass with his toys.

Check that:

  • The ground around equipment is padded with 6 to 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or rubber (not concrete or grass).
  • Playsets are well-anchored, with sturdy guardrails and handles and no sharp edges, and that chains and hooks on swings aren't rusty or open.
  • There are no hidden hazards, like broken glass or scalding-hot metal slides. Walk around the playground before you set your child loose.

Dress her for play. Skip jewelry (especially necklaces) and shirts with drawstrings, which can get caught and are choking hazards.

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