Playground Safety: Safe Toy Checklist

Is your child's playground safe? Here are some things to check with the school to ensure that the play area remains risk-free.

With the recent increase in child abductions from public educational institutions and school violence incidents, it is a good idea for parents to find out more about the playgrounds that entertain kids during and after school. You may want to visit the play area for a visual inspection and talk with teachers to make sure that recess poses no dangers to your child. A serious accident can happen in seconds, so parents need to know that the school playground is as safe as the administrators can make it.

Check the surface area first. Is the playground built on an asphalt, concrete, or brick foundation? Or does the equipment stand in a grassy area, perhaps covered with shredded tires or mulch as a cushion for bodies falling off of slides or swing sets? Look for broken glass, empty cans, bees' nests, or weed patches to determine whether any of these things might pose a safety hazard for children who are playing there. Keep an eye open for rusty nails, sharp gravel, or deep pits on the grounds or in nearby areas that might create problems for schoolchildren. There should be a shady area for extremely hot or cold days. A drinking fountain would be nice, but is not necessary.

Next, inspect the equipment. Are the swing chains rusty? Do any of the links appear broken? Does the slide have any tiny metal splinters on its surface? Are the steps sturdy? Is the basketball pole secure? Check each piece of equipment to make sure it appears sound and in dependable working order. If something is broken, you may want to suggest that a sign be posted to remind kids not to play there.

If there is a fence surrounding the playground, is it stable? Are there broken or missing places where stray dogs can burrow under or climb over to get in? Does the gate latch, and if it does, is the latch in good condition or is it rusty or weak? Are there clusters of shrubs or foliage that could hide an unseen observer? Can kids slip out or perverts sneak in?

Then, notice how the teachers monitor the students. While watching kids at play, do teachers seem to keep a balanced view of the scene or are they engaged in conversations that take their attention from students? Are there enough teachers to adequately supervise the number of children in the play area? Do children play fairly or is there evidence of bullying or fights? Are kids following the rules or are they misusing the equipment or trying to hide from their teachers' view? Are there enough activities for kids to play with or do the students appeared bored with little to do?

After your visit, report any problems or questions you may have to the teacher. If you fail to get satisfactory answers, go next to the principal. Ask your child about his or her experiences on the playground. Does she feel safe? Does he mention questionable goings-on? Even though the school is responsible for your children when they visit the playground during school hours, it is the parent's ultimate duty to ensure the safety and well being of their kids at all times.

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