playground safety

10 tips for playground street smarts

Child chat: Explain to your kids that trees are not meant to play on or near. Branches aren't made to support children, and can fall at any time to hurt them.

4. Grass Isn't Always Greener: Stick to parks with equipment that rests on the right surfacing. Safe surfaces include wood fiber, pea gravel, sand or shredded rubber. Grass, asphalt, concrete or packed dirt can cause undue injury. Grass may appear soft, but falling on it feels just as bad as falling on cement!

5. Know Your Zones: Slides and swing sets each require their own "zoning laws," which ensure surrounding surface areas are safe. For a four-foot-long slide, there must be six feet of suitable surfacing at the end, as well as all around it. For superlong slides, remember this: The use zone is the height of the platform plus four feet. So, for an eight-foot-high platform there should be 12 feet of cushioning to break your child's fall at the end of the slide and six feet all around it.

For swings, a proper zone of twice the height of the swing set will keep your kid safe should she decide to test her jumping prowess. So, if the swing set is seven feet high, the use zone is 14 feet both front and back. It needs to be covered with 12 inches of loose fill.

6. Back-to-School To-Do: You won't be there to keep a close eye on equipment upkeep and proper playground behavior, so before the yellow bus rolls up, spend a few minutes examining the play areas your child will frequent. Look for the above hazards and voice all concerns, no matter how minor, to the principal.

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