OKINAWA, Japan - During the hot summer months, children fuel their imaginations and stay active on playgrounds. Parents can help their children safely enjoy the recreational opportunities playgrounds present with a few easy tips.
“Children learn through playing, and playgrounds are great enablers for developing children physically, intellectually, socially and emotionally,” said Shawn M. Curtis, a certified playground safety inspector and deputy safety director with the Installation Safety Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “Children focus strictly on the fun aspect of what the playground environment offers as many are too young to comprehend applying risk management principles into their play activities.
“Parents should educate themselves on the basics of playground safety and what hazards to look for prior to their children going to play,” said Curtis.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has made the Public Playground Handbook 325 available for download at www.cpsc.gov, as a reference for parents interested in learning about playground safety, according to Curtis.
“Before and while the children are playing, parents need to look for broken or damaged equipment and debris on the play surface,” said Curtis. “Additionally, parents should ensure loose or hanging pieces of clothing do not become entangled in the equipment.”
Educating children on how to use playground equipment safely is another important tool, according to Curtis.
“Adult supervision is key to preventing injuries,” said Curtis. “However, I encourage parents to discuss playground rules with their children.”
Department of Defense Education Activity Schools have already taken steps to ensure a safe and fun time for children at DODEA playground facilities.
“For all DOD schools in the Pacific, we invested in specialized certified playground safety inspection training through the National Recreation and Park Association,” said Jeffery D. Bolles, a facilities operation specialist with the DODEA Facilities Branch. “This investment continues to pay dividends as our districts and schools now have the expertise to find and correct playground concerns before they develop into safety hazards.”
The schools also use students to help with safety, according to Bolles.
“Each school is responsible for providing a safety orientation and establishing safe use expectations early in the school year and periodically throughout the school year as needed,” said Bolles. “Many schools get students involved. As an example, students at Amelia Earhart Intermediate School created a fun and informative playground safety video that uses humor to contrast the wrong and right ways to behave on the playground.”
Taking a proactive approach to addressing safety is important for all playground users and providers.
“At the start of each year, we do grade-level assemblies to discuss our school's expectations,” said Cindy M. Templeton, the principal of Zukeran Elementary School. “Among those are how to make safe choices while playing at recess. These are reinforced by the classroom teachers, as well as the counselors in the biweekly classroom lessons.”
Applying these simple principles of playground safety can provide children with a fun tool that aids in social, academic and physical development.
“Exercise reduces stress and optimizes learning, so a play break in the middle of the day is not only developmentally appropriate but educationally sound,” said Templeton. “It is important for children to get outside and play during the day, but they also to need to use equipment correctly, so that they don't get injured or injure others.
“We want children to be involved in age-appropriate activities that promote fair play, teamwork and healthy living,” said Templeton.