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Playground Safety

Anna Mendenhall, MD, FAAP

Playground equipment allows children to test and expand their physical abilities.  However, there are some dangers that can be minimized when equipment is well designed and children are taught basic playground rules.

Children under five should play on equipment separate from older children who may be running around and not use care around toddlers.

The playground should have safety-tested mats or loose-fill materials (shredded rubber, sand, wood chips or bark) maintained to a depth of at least 9 inches.  The protective surface should be installed at least 6 feet (more for swings and slides) in all directions from the equipment.



  • Should be carefully maintained.  Splinters, exposed nails, open “s” hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.
  • Do not allow children to play barefoot on the playground.
  • Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
  • Never attach or allow children to attach ropes, jump ropes, leashes or similar items to play equipment (children can strangle on these).



  • Should only be used with other children of comparable age and weight (children under three don’t have the arm and leg coordination to use the equipment).



  • Seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.
  • Teach your child never to walk in front of or behind a swing.
  • Monitor younger children who have difficulty remembering this important rule.
  • Avoid equipment in which the swings hang from overhead climbing bars.



  • Be sure children on slides use the ladder instead of climbing up the sliding surface.
  • Teach your child to leave the bottom of the slide as soon as he reaches it.
  • If it is sunny, check the sliding surface to ensure it isn’t too hot.



Parents should never purchase a home trampoline or allow children to use home trampolines.  100,000 people per year are injured on trampolines.  These injuries include broken bones, head injuries, neck and spinal cord injuries, sprains and bruises.  Parental supervision and protective netting aren’t adequate to prevent these injuries.

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children never use trampolines at home, a friend’s house, the playground or in a routine gym class.  Older children should use trampolines only in training programs for competitive sports such as gymnastics or diving, and only when supervised by a professional trained in trampoline safety.


Monkey Bars:

Parents should supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.  ESPECIALLY with monkey bars.  We see so many falls from monkey bars resulting in broken arms that often need surgery… these could be avoided if kids are being “spotted” by their parents until they are able to do the monkey bars really well.

Remind children to take breaks from playing on the monkey bars over and over because if they get fatigued or get blisters, they will fall even if they can ordinarily play on the monkey bars safely!