Playground Safety Tips
Weintraub urges parents to prevent their small children from playing on equipment that is too high because toddlers, for instance, don't yet know how to fall properly. "When young children fall to the surface from play equipment, they are more susceptible to head injuries since they often do not have the motor coordination or cognitive skills necessary to protect their heads by breaking a fall with their arms," the US PIRG report states.
Dr. Thompson reports that her group also found problems with toddlers and preschoolers using equipment designed for older children. She noted research showing that parents and caretakers with children of different ages often let a younger child use a higher, more sophisticated apparatus. For example, Dr. Thompson says researchers observed parents holding toddlers up to horizontal ladders—something made for older children.
The NPPS urges park departments and school districts to post signs informing parents what ages certain pieces of equipment are designed for so these parents won't expose their younger children to potential injury.
DiStefano thinks these notices would be a big help. "I think if age ranges are posted, then you become more cognizant of the dangers of the piece of equipment," she says. "You might think twice about allowing your toddler on something without close supervision."
Weintraub adds that one of the most important ways for parents to guard against injury is simply to stick by their kids. "The parent needs to be watchful and not [be] reading a book," she says.