DEAR DOCTOR K: Two of my child’s friends have hurt themselves playing on the playground recently. What can I do to keep my child safe?
DEAR READER: Kids get exercise, burn off energy and develop their motor skills by running, jumping and climbing on swing sets, monkey bars and other playground equipment.
But each year more than 200,000 children in the United States visit emergency rooms for playground injuries. The most common are broken bones, bruises, scrapes and deeper cuts.
My pediatrician colleagues advise parents to carefully check out the playground where they’d like their kids to play. The specific things parents should focus on are:
• Check for cushioning beneath equipment. Playground equipment should not be located over hard surfaces such as grass, packed dirt, rocks, asphalt or blacktop. Cushioned surfaces should be provided under all equipment and should extend at least 6 feet in all directions from the edge of the equipment.
• Inspect individual equipment. Playground equipment is supposed to be inspected and maintained, but that doesn’t always happen.
Ladders, platforms and steps: Steps should be in good condition and handrails should have appropriate grip sizes for children. Platforms should be surrounded by a guardrail or protective barrier.
Swings should be at least 24 inches apart and 30 inches from any supports. The cushioning surface should extend for at least twice the height of the swing, in front and back of the swing seat, and at least 6 feet to each side of the structure.
Slides should be well anchored, have firm handrails and have steps with good traction. There should be no spaces between the slide platform and the slide itself.
Seesaws: The handles should be secure and easy to grip. There should be a soft bumper under the bottom of the seat, and all pivot points should be covered to prevent pinched fingers.
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