Playground Hazards: 14 Hidden Dangers

  • Play Safely

    There’s no way to completely ensure kids’ safety at playgrounds, but there are some key things you can look out for to limit the likelihood that your child may get hurt or sick. Here is a list of dangers that may lurk in the playgrounds you frequent. Photo Credit: gemsling
    The Injury Toll
  • The Injury Toll

    Every year, more than 200,000 kids end up visiting emergency rooms because of injuries they received in the playground. According to the CDC, nearly 200 children died from playground injuries in the period between 1990 and 2000. Photo Credit: Autistic Psycho
    Something is in the Sandbox
  • Something is in the Sandbox

    I loved playing in the sandbox as a kid, so it makes me feel a bit uneasy now to learn some of the risks that are there. Sandboxes can be a particularly good breeding place for parasites such as roundworm because eggs can hide there easily. While it’s difficult to be 100% sure that the sandbox is clean, one thing parents can do is watch their child to make sure they don’t put any sand in their mouth. It may sound silly, but we all know kids love to try eating everything. Also, it’s important to make sure that whoever is in charge of the playground covers the sandbox whenever it is not in use so that no animals can get in there and leave excrement behind. Photo Credit: abkfenris
    The Importance of Padding
  • The Importance of Padding

    Back in 2005, Jacob Buckett, an 8-year-old boy, was seriously injured at a Burger King playground. Jacob had been climbing on thejungle gym when he lost his grip and fell onto a hard tile floor, causing traumatic brain injury. Buckett’s parents later sued and reached a $20 million out-of-court settlement with Burger King. According to MSN, the parents argued that “the playground had significant safety risks such as a lack of ‘no-climb netting’ around the structural poles and not enough floor padding. They say the restaurant owner knew about the potential hazards because of prior accidents.” Photo Credit: Evil Erin
    Ball Pit Dangers
  • Ball Pit Dangers

    The padding incident is far from the only concern in a fast food playground. Ball pits, one of the more popular fixtures in many indoor play area, are also one of more dangerous. There is a popular urban legend that a young boy died in a ball pit after he was “pricked” by a syringe loaded with heroin.  As far as we can tell, this is just a myth. But as WebMD reports, there are other real issues. “[W]orkers at ball pits have reported finding dirty diapers, half-eaten food, and, yes, even syringes among the balls.” WebMD claims that the two big risks in ball pits are disease and collisions. The balls may be covered in germs from the other children. So be sure to bring some hand sanitizer along (if it’s not provided in the playground, as it should be) and try to stop your child from eating with their dirty hands directly after playing. And perhaps most importantly, if your child is sick, don’t let them play there because they may get others sick, too. In order to minimize the risk of collisions, WebMD recommends you separate younger kids separate from bigger kids, and “discourage your children from burying themselves in the balls,” which unfortunately happens to be the whole point of a ball pit. Also, empty your child’s pockets so they don’t lose items in the ball pit and try to find them. Photo Credit: obiwanjr
  • Bacteria

    The other big danger in fast food restaurant playgrounds is bacteria. In 2007, one Denver news station took swab samples of playground equipment in all the big fast food chains (McDonalds, Burger King and Chuck E. Cheese, to name a few).  There were some traces of bacteria in McDonald’s play area, but the biggest finds were in indoor playgrounds in places like Chuck E. Cheese and Funtastic Fun. On the bright side, the news crew didn’t find any feces in the major chain restaurants. Although, according to the Examiner, other surveys of fast food playgrounds have found fecal traces, as well as E. coli. Photo Credit: Nate C
    Burning Mats
  • Burning Mats

    Even when your playground has adequate padding on the floor, there can be a different danger. According to the New York Daily News, black rubber mats that are found in many playgrounds can reach a scalding temperature on a hot summer day. There are more than a dozen cases of children going to hospitals with bad burns every year in New York City alone. Photo Credit:
    Metal Slides
  • Metal Slides

    Metal slides have been removed from most playgrounds, replaced by safer plastic alternatives, but some older playgrounds still have them. In 2008, one child went down a metal slide barefoot and nearly lost a toe. If the metal is exposed in the sun long enough, it can also cause serious burns. Photo Credit: Xurble
    Monkey Bars
  • Monkey Bars

    According to one estimate, more than a dozen children die each year from playground falls while playing on equipment like monkey bars. Many others get bad injuries. It’s easy for a child to slip and break an arm while playing on the monkey bars, so if you can’t stop junior from playing on them, at least make sure that the bars themselves aren’t too high off the ground and there is sufficient padding below.  Also, make sure you don’t let your mother use them either, as we found one story of a 74-year-old woman who fell and passed out after playing on the monkey bars. Photo Credit: audi_insperation
    Killer Clothes
  • Killer Clothes

    Strangulation is unfortunately one of the more common threats children face in playgrounds. According to Occupational Health and Safety magazine, any clothing that has a drawstring around the hood or neck could get caught on a piece of playground equipment and choke a child. Hooded sweatshirts are particularly risky, as we’ve reported before. Photo Credit: ::big daddy k::
    Don't Wear A Helmet
  • Don't Wear A Helmet

    While it’s great to encourage your kids to wear helmets when they go bike riding or roller blading, a helmet could actually prove to be a huge safety hazard in the playground.  According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there have been multiple reports of kids strangling to death because their helmets got caught in some piece of playground equipment. Photo Credit: BB Photoworks
  • Lead

    It’s not just in Chinese toys. Lead is a big problem in playgrounds, though it used to be worse. As USA Today reported last year, many playgrounds started to use rubber to help reduce the risk of injury. But as it turns out, some rubber contains potentially dangerous amounts of lead in it. In recent years, lead has been found in rubber mulch and some sandboxes in playgrounds. Lead paint on playground equipment is also a problem, though the government does a good job policing this. Photo Credit:
  • Arsenic

    Arsenic is the other big chemical culprit in playgrounds. According to USA Today, arsenic is particularly prevalent in wooden equipment that was built before 2004. There have been several cases of arsenic contamination in recent years – it can seep into your skin upon contact. The best way to prevent against arsenic is stain the wood annually.  Things get more complicated, however, when the toxins are actually beneath your feet, in the soil. Photo Credit: joefutrelle
    Sharp Objects
  • Sharp Objects

    WebMD cautions parents to be on the lookout for sharp edges and exposed bolts that may be on the playground equipment.  But sometimes it’s not even the  equipment that’s the problem. One playground in northern New York was considered a serious risk because it was “booby-trapped” with soda cans sliced in half. So make sure that someone is cleaning up the area on a daily basis or stay away. Photo Credit: goldberg
    Home Playground Safety Tips
  • Home Playground Safety Tips

    Many of the above concerns may also apply to any playground you set up in your own backyard. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that you never put children’s climbing gyms and slides on hard surfaces. And just stick to the basics – don’t feel the need to buy monkey bars and sandboxes. The fun should not outweigh the risks. Yet, ultimately, the most important thing is to make sure someone is there to supervise. Many dangers can be avoided if there is an adult on hand to keep an eye on the kids. Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe
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