playground safety

10 tips for playground street smarts

Camp's over, school's starting and you need to fill those endless afternoons with fun activities. A natural cabin fever cure is the local playground, where your children can exercise their bodies and minds.

However, a trip to the park can be as dangerous as it is fun if you don't know the facts. According to the National Program for Playground Safety, more than 200,000 children each year sustain an injury requiring a trip to the emergency room. More than 75 percent occur in public play space.

So what can you do to help keep your kids safe while at play? Check equipment and surroundings for potential hazards and properly supervise your young ones and help them become knowledgeable about their own well-being. "The biggest thing is to be with your children at the playground," says Donna Thompson, PhD, director of the National Program for Playground Safety. "Many parents will just turn their kids loose, but you need to keep an eye on them."

Follow these top 10 safety strategies for peace of mind at play.

1. Show Some ID: Pay attention to the equipment your child plays on. There are standards for specific age groups: two-to-five-year-olds and five-to-twelve-year-olds. All equipment should be clearly marked with age-indicating signs.

As of summer 2005, standards are still being created for children under two. That means swings, slides and climbing equipment weren't built for your newly walking toddler, and a trip to the park may be better suited for his older siblings. Use your own judgment when bringing your under-two-year-old to the park. There are plenty of activities that don't require equipment, such as playing with bubbles or chalk. Sandboxes can be a fun option too, but make sure they're clean (no animal excrement or garbage).

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