Friday, June 15, 2012

Playground Safety: Not Just for Overprotective Parents

By Jamell Williams

For both parents and children, there is something magical about a playground. It gives the child an opportunity to play freely in a safe outdoor environment and to interact with other kids, and it gives parents the chance to sit back and relax in the fresh air while the child plays. But of course, while many children thrive when given the chance to play an area designated for them, no playground is completely safe. There are things to fall off of and things to bump into, and there can even be sharp edges. Parents do not have to hover over their children at the playground, but it is a good idea to be aware of the safety issues and to train the child in basic safety.

Balancing safety and fun

Many playgrounds built in the 21st century are designed with safety in mind. Many have padded floors, avoid high heights, and provide special areas for very young children. But there are plenty of older playgrounds still in use, and with these in particular it is important for parents to be vigilant. This does not mean that you have to entirely avoid certain playgrounds, but try to be aware of the potential safety risks of the playgrounds in your area, and direct your child away from the areas that are risky.

You do not have to do this alone. In fact, visiting playgrounds can be a great opportunity to begin teaching your child about safety precautions. This does not have to ruin the fun. When introducing your child to the world of playgrounds, discuss the rules of the playground and make sure he or she is aware that some activities are unsafe. Also make sure your child knows that you are watching.

Children are natural explorers and experimenters, and it is only natural for a child to try things on the playground that may be unsafe. At these moments, it is important for the parent to step in and let the child know that the activity is unsafe. Some young children might not react well to this instruction, but when it comes to safety, it is imperative for parents to set clear boundaries.

Safe playgrounds

For some parents, finding a safe, modern playground is easy. But for others, the options may be slim. But no matter what playgrounds are in your area, try to narrow down your choices to the safest two or three options, and visit those playgrounds regularly. If you are not sure what to look for, here are some things to keep in mind:

·         Safe surfaces: Many modern playgrounds have floors that are padded, but this is not always necessary for safety. Grass, dirt, and sand floors are also relatively safe. But try to avoid playgrounds that have concrete or asphalt surfaces, and stay away from the ones that  might have debris such as glass, trash, rocks, or tree stumps.
·         Spacing: There should be a decent amount of space between pieces of playground equipment so that children do not collide with each other.
·         Dangerous pinch points: Check for points in playground equipment where a child can get pinched or where body parts can get caught.
·         Safe confines: Make sure the playground is secure, so that children cannot run out into surrounding traffic.

Also, especially for parents of young children, it is a good idea to find playgrounds that have multiple sections for children of different ages so that your children can play in age-appropriate areas. There is no reason why a two-year-old, for instance, should play on slides, wings, and structures built for children much older. Try to find a playground that has a designated area for younger children, with lower play equipment and special features for young children who may not be fully comfortable with how to play.

Teaching safety

Children can find all sorts of creative ways to use playground equipment, and watching them use their creativity is one of the great joys of being a parent. But of course, it must be done safely. If your child gets a special kick out of swinging, for example, it is important to make sure that he does not let this joy make him do unsafe things. Most playground equipment is designed with specific purposes in mind. Your child does not necessarily have to be completely normal in the way he uses equipment, but he must keep his activity safe. So when he behaves improperly, be sure to let him know

Kids generally understand the idea of safety, and when parents set clear limits, kids are usually comfortable staying within them. Make sure your child knows that playing on the playground is a privilege that has to be earned and maintained. If he or she cannot act within the bounds of safety, then it is perfectly reasonable that they should be deprived of playground rights. As parents, our first job is to keep our children safe, and this sometimes requires us to be a little mean for our children’s benefit. So if it becomes necessary for you to set boundaries until your child can learn to be safe, do not be afraid to do so.

Jamell Andrews is an accomplished writer who believes in the power of homeopathic medicine. She is a regular contributor to the Parenting Journals.



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