Play Safe! Tips for Playground Safety

Play Safe! Tips for Playground Safety

Play Safe! Tips for Playground Safety

This year, more than 29,000 children under the age of 15 will go to a hospital emergency room to be treated for injuries sustained on a playground, according to the Canadian Paediatric Society. Most of these injuries (up to 75%) are caused by falls. Other injuries may be the result of impact with an object or another child, or a body part being pinched, cut, or crushed. The most common injuries are fractures (81%), followed by head injuries (14%); falling from playground structures or swings accounted for many of these. The highest risk of injury occurs in kids between five and nine years of age, and backyard playground equipment accounts for about 20% of the incidents. In Canada in 2014-15, 1,841 children required hospitalization as a result of a playground injury.

While the numbers of playground injuries in Canada have declined from the beginning of the century to the present day – mainly due to improvements in design standards -- there are still risks inherent in playground activity. However, the benefits of this kind of play are many, and include exercise, contact with the natural world, socialization with other children, and creative play. So how can we help to reduce injuries without “bubble-wrapping” our kids? When parents and supervisors know what to look for, risks can be reduced. Here are a few tips from the experts:

Making Play Safe

There are various aspects of playground safety, from the thought that goes into designing the equipment to the way parents supervise their children, from installation to how children use the equipment.

As a parent, you can access the most recent playground safety standards from CSA and try to ensure that your local playground and/or school structure has new equipment or a structure that has been upgraded or retrofitted to meet current specifications. If you are purchasing playground equipment set for your back yard, be sure to buy CSA-certified products, and have them professionally installed.

On any equipment that your child will be using, be sure that the height of the climbing equipment adheres to CSA safety guidelines. Check that there are no areas large enough for a child to get a body part caught, that any steps have traction, and that swing seats are made of soft material and are spaced at least two feet apart. (Also, be sure to locate the swings at a safe distance from other equipment.) And of course, playground equipment needs to be maintained properly. Check periodically for splinters or weak spots in any wooden components, any broken parts, loose nails or bolts, or any other signs of wear and tear that could be problematic.

Another aspect to be aware of is the surface or ground cover below the equipment. Since falls are the most common cause of injury, it’s important to have a soft surface below any swings or climbing structures. (Pavement, grass, or earth playground surfaces are not safe.) Generally speaking, surface cover should be close to twelve inches deep and should be comprised of a material such as wood chips, shredded rubber, or sand. Maintain this depth by regularly adding new material. Before children begin playing, check for any objects on the ground such as broken glass.

As we know, children do not always play on equipment the way it was intended to be used, and sometimes younger children try to interact with older ones in a way that can be dangerous.  This is why adult supervision is absolutely key to safety. Teach and model playground safety, and watch young children carefully. Adopt a zero tolerance for horseplay or pushing. Read any rules posted in a playground, and make sure that your children understand them. Don’t let younger children play on structures that are designed for older ones.

Educate Your Kids

Finally, teach your older children to be safe when they are playing on equipment at school or with friends in a neighbourhood park. Some of the rules they should follow include:


  • Don’t wear a scarf, a hoodie with long strings, or any other clothing that could become tangled in playground equipment.
  • If you rode your bike or your skateboard to the park, take your helmet off before playing.
  • Be careful of metal slides, which may get very hot in the sun. Go down the slide person one at a time, and don’t go down too soon after the person in front of you. Move away from the slide as soon as you reach the bottom. Never slide down head first!
  • Sit down when you swing. Wait until the swing stops before you get off. Be very careful when you walk past the swings, so that you won’t be hit.
  • Don’t play barefoot, because you may get splinters or cuts.
  • Don’t climb over guardrails.
  • When climbing stairs, hang onto the handrails.
  • If the climbing equipment is wet, don’t play on it.

If your child does get injured on playground equipment, make sure they receive proper medical attention, particularly if they hit their head. If a permanent injury has occurred, consult a personal injury law firm to explore your family’s options.