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Study Finds Playgrounds Often Let Safety Slide

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Here are some tips from the experts about what adults should know if they take children to a playground:

  • Surfaces around the playground equipment should have either mats made of safety-tested rubber or similar materials or at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel. (Remember, Thompson says, loose surfaces like wood chips or gravel must be raked back into place regularly, as kids will kick it out of place as they play.)
  • Stationary equipment should have protective ground surfaces at least six feet in all directions. Swings should have ground surfaces that extend twice the height of the suspending bar, both in front and behind the swing. (So a swing set 10 feet high needs 20 feet of ground material in front and behind the swing.)
  • Play structures taller than 30 inches should be spaced at least nine feet apart.
  • Check for dangerous hardware like open "S" hooks or bolt ends that stick out and other sharp surfaces.
  • Spaces, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than nine inches, so a child's head either can't pass through at all or can do so freely without getting stuck.
  • Look out for tripping hazards such as exposed concrete equipment anchors, tree stumps, and rocks.
  • Elevated surfaces such as ramps and platforms need guardrails.
  • Equipment and surfaces should be in good condition.
  • Supervise your children and make sure they keep to equipment geared toward their age. Thompson says kids 2 to 5 years should not go on equipment intended for older kids because it's easy for them to fall.

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