And suddenly, I, Justin, was falling.
I had climbed up on our soon-to-be playhouse my dad was making for my brother and me. Balanced across a beam, I sat watching him work.
And then I wasn’t.
I had a pretty long fall, not that I could have said the Gettysburg Address during the fall, but still, it felt like an eternity. As one of my favorite authors, Patrick McManus, says about falling, “I would have enjoyed the trip more if I hadn’t worried about the landing.”
And then I hit. Dad looked down at me in disbelief. “Are you alright?” he asked.
I did a manual inventory and then nodded. I was actually fine.
Let’s talk about playground safety and common playground injuries. We will tackle three big ones in today’s blog post.
I want to thank the National Safety Council great article on this topic. You can view it here. I gained information from their article and from talking to our on-staff certified playground inspectors. Both were helpful with this article.
Falling, Entanglement, and Entrapment
Let’s talk about the big three of playground injuries; falling, entanglement, and entrapment.
According to the article and the information our certified safety inspectors on staff provided, 80% of the injuries that occur on playgrounds or swing sets are caused by falling. I expect no one is actually surprised by this as we all have witnessed the child who clambers out where he isn’t supposed to or takes a misjudged step.
Falling is easy to understand, but what is entanglement? Simply put, it is when your child gets part of them or what they are wearing stuck on or in part of the equipment. You may think this is similar to entrapment, but entrapment is slightly different. It is about putting part of their body where it shouldn’t go, and then they cannot pull it out or slip through.
How do we prevent these things from happening? Let’s handle each of them one at a time.
Misuse and Horseplay
Don’t allow horseplay or misuse of the equipment. Once, I had to run out to our playground to tell the parents of a child to get him down from dancing on a playhouse roof (true story). Kids will always push boundaries, and if we turn a blind eye to the misuse of the equipment, they will keep trying more and more dangerous things. Don’t let them climb on things they shouldn’t or play games that involve pushing or shoving.
Another way to prevent falls is to ensure the children use age-appropriate items. “Wait,” you say, “One of your big ideas is that swing sets should grow with your children.”
Yes, I do think it is important to get items that your children will grow into. However, the first couple of times they use these items, you should be on hand to guide them through it, and once they are comfortable with the challenge, you can stand down. Taking the time to monitor and train the children how to use new items, such as a big rock wall, for the first few times will help prevent falls.
Don’t overcrowd the set with people or items. Jamming too many things like climbers or slides side by side can create a large opening inside the tower, which, if a child is accidentally bumped or shoved, can cause a falling hazard.
This goes hand in hand with not allowing too many children up in the set at once. This number can vary as a pack of calm children can fit more into a tower safely than a gaggle of energetic ones. Use your best judgment here.
Rubber and Wood Mulch
Now we can’t prevent all falls. I am a dad with three kids: I know that kids just fall sometimes. Putting down wood or rubber mulch can dramatically reduce the chance of serious injury if a fall occurs.
How much mulch should you get? That depends on how tall your tower is and if you want to have the swing set inspected for a commercial application. Please reach out to our swing set design team for the answer to this question.
As Edna Mode from Pixar’s The Incredibles says, “NO CAPES!”, this should be a rule for your swing set area as well. At least when there is no adult supervision.
Things like capes or necklaces, or even helmets that have straps under them can cause injury if the clothing gets hung up on a piece of equipment.
This can be actually dangerous if it is something is around their neck, and they leap off the equipment.
Don’t allow your children to attach a bunch of ropes, bungee cords, or things like that to the playset without you checking out how they intend to use it. A dog on a leash attached to a swing set may suddenly chase a squirrel and wrap the leash around the child. Yes, that is a far-out example, but you get the idea of what I mean.
Demonstrate the Danger
Entrapment can be a serious issue, especially if it involves the head. If you see your kids doing things like trying to slip between ladder rails or staircase steps, stop them and explain how they could get stuck. Kids aren’t dumb. If you demonstrate it to them in a way they will understand, they most likely won’t do it. I once convinced my little sister to wander out towards the road by demonstrating on a pop can what would happen if she got hit by a truck. It solved the problem.
The important thing is not to turn a blind eye if you see these sorts of things happening. Stop the play and correct the behavior. And if they do it and you catch them, maybe the swing set is in time out for a while.
All swing set manufacturers build their swing sets as safely as they can with acceptable risks (such as rock walls) built into the set. We all care about your child’s safety.
We do our best to engineer all unacceptable risks out of a swing set, but children are creative little engineers themselves; thus, I believe one of the most important safety steps you can do is to demonstrate what is acceptable and what is not and be firm with those rules.
If you have any questions regarding the safety of a King Swings swing set, please don’t hesitate to ask!