When it comes to avoiding dirty or dangerous summer attractions, a little intel from safety experts and germ scientists can go a long way.
6. Outdoor Playgrounds
Insufficient or inappropriate ground cover. Falls are a major cause of playground injuries that send children to the E.R. “Some private communities use insufficient materials such as grass under their equipment, but it’s just not enough to cushion a child’s fall,” says Karen Snyder, senior manager of certification for the National Recreation and Park Association based in Ashburn, Virginia. (Obviously, concrete or asphalt aren’t soft enough either.) The materials that are considered safe include wood chips, and sand and pea gravel, which should extend about 6 feet beyond the equipment. “If you can push away that covering and see the dirt, it means there’s most likely not enough there to provide protection,” says Snyder. If you can’t avoid the playground altogether, encourage your child to use the equipment that’s low to the ground, or bring a ball along to play catch or soccer.
Lack of signs. In a well-designed and well-maintained playground, the intended age range for the equipment is clearly posted. A sign should also include contact information for the person who oversees the playground.
Lots to stumble on. Tree roots and broken rubber ground cover can easily cause a child or a caregiver to take a spill. They may also be a sign of poor playground oversight and maintenance.
Catch hazards. Strangulation is the top cause of death on playgrounds, so diligent managers do all they can to minimize the chance of scarves and drawstrings getting caught on hazardous hardware. S-hooks that make up chains for swings should be completely closed. If you can squeeze in even a dime, it’s dangerous, says Snyder. Bolts on equipment shouldn’t protrude more than one-eighth of an inch, since they, too, can catch onto loose clothing and scrape or cut kids. To do your part, supervise children at all times and remove any drawstrings, scarves, jump ropes, and dangling jewelry before your kids get onto the playground.
Rust. It could be a sign of deterioration and equipment that may be dangerously weak.
Broken fencing. Good, solid fencing makes it harder for kids to wander away into traffic and for sketchy strangers to wander in unnoticed.