Children’s Hospital offers playground safety tips for spring


As the weather finally begins to warm across Middle Tennessee, families may be looking for some outdoor diversions, such as visiting a local park. The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt is offering tips to keep playground visits safe and injury-free.

The Tennessee Department of Health reports that more than 260 children were treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries in 2011.

Andrew Gregory, assistant professor of orthopaedics and pediatrics, says that many injuries to young children occur on the playground, but one of particular concern occurs when a child is placed on an adult’s lap to go down a slide.

“Parents may think they are protecting their child by sitting with them on the slide,” Gregory said. “However, the injuries that we see are often the result of the child’s leg being pinned between the adult and the slide, which causes a fracture of the child’s tibia. It is much safer to let young children go down on their own and catch them at the bottom.”

Sarah Haverstick, manager of the Safe Children Program at Children’s Hospital, says that other common causes for playground injury include falls from equipment, such as swings or monkey bars.

“It is important to make sure the equipment at your playground is the appropriate size for your child,” Haverstick said. “Younger children may be tempted to use equipment designed for older kids, which may result in falls or other injuries.”

Haverstick offers the following tips to keep children safe:

  • Use only age-appropriate playground equipment. Younger children should use equipment that is appropriate for their smaller size. Many playgrounds will list age recommendations along with their playground rules.
  • Check the playground for hazards such as rusted or broken equipment, glass or debris.
  • Choose, if possible, a playground with protective surfacing underneath equipment, such as sand, mulch or rubber.
  • Use equipment appropriately—only one child on the slide at a time, no lap-sitting, one child on each swing, etc.
  • Remove head and neck drawstrings from your child’s outerwear to avoid strangulation hazards.
  • Teach children proper playground behavior—no pushing, shoving or crowding on equipment.
  • Always supervise your children at the playground.