Let’s face it: Massachusetts winters can be a nightmare for both kids and parents. For kids, it’s frustrating to be stuck indoors, even when it’s cold and grey outside. And almost every parent knows the misery of being stuck indoors with bored, frustrated kids!
Nobody’s going to blame you for letting them run around the playground for awhile, even in winter weather. Just be careful: the CDC estimates that every year over 200,000 kids make trips to the emergency room due to playground-related injuries. The risk of injury may increase with freezing, snowy, or icy conditions.
Before letting your kids loose in any outdoor recreation area this winter, be sure to keep these 6 safety tips in mind:
Tip #1: Avoid putting a scarf on your child.
Yep, that’s right: no scarves on the playground, even in winter. Scarves – along with hats and hoods with drawstrings – can get entangled in playground equipment and choke or suffocate your child. Since the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission names strangulation as the leading cause of fatalities on playgrounds, this is something to take very seriously.
Instead of a scarf, have your child wear a neck warmer. If your child must wear a scarf, make sure that both ends are securely tucked inside of the coat at all times.
Tip #2: Skip the slide if wearing ski/nylon pants.
First, no scarf, now no ski pants? It sounds overcautious, it’s true. But the nylon in ski pants reduces resistance to slippery surfaces and a child’s travel speed on a slide can increase to an unsafe level. If you couple that faster travel speed with a hard, semi-frozen ground cover, your child’s risk of becoming injured escalates.
Tip #3: Inspect playground equipment for ice and snow build-up.
Slip and falls are by far the most common form of playground injuries, accounting for about 75% of all such traumas (according to SafeKids.org). In winter, the risk of a child falling on a playground increases, as ice may have formed on the play structures or snow build-up may hide holes, drops or pointed objects.
Before play, check the play equipment for icy patches, including on handrails. If there’s ice on a piece of equipment that can’t be chipped away, the equipment isn’t safe. Also, although snow-covered play structures look pretty, be sure to brush away all snow build-up until the entire structure is clearly revealed. Kids need to see where they’re going in order to stay safe.
Tip #4: Examine the resiliency of the playground’s ground cover.
Safe playgrounds have resilient surfacing material to help absorb the shock of a fall. During winter, this pliant ground cover may freeze and become hard, putting kids at increased risk of injury. In near-freezing weather, always examine the ground cover of the playground. If it’s frozen or unyielding – particularly underneath any climbing structure or swing – the playground isn’t safe for play.
Tip #5: Make sure your child is supervised.
Children should be supervised by an adult on a playground at all times, even at home playgrounds. Ice can build up very quickly and an accident can happen in a blink of an eye. Having someone present to monitor playground conditions and steer children away from dangerous activities can help minimize risks and injuries.
Tip #6: If it’s below freezing or there’s freezing rain, forget it.
If the kids are begging to go to the playground in freezing weather conditions, it’s best to put your foot down. Not only can slippery ice patches form rapidly under these circumstances, but your child is at higher risk of frostbite. It would be much safer to stay inside and play something else instead.
- CDC: Playground Injuries Fact Sheet
- Ontario School Boards Insurance Exchange: Playground Safety – Winter Use Advisory
- Safe Kids, USA: Playground Safety Fact Sheet
Photos by edenpictures & Flickr.