The playground is a fun-filled place. However, with the dramatic increase in playground-related injuries over the past two decades, it is also a place that requires adult supervision. United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics estimate that more than 200,000 playground-related injuries occur each year resulting in emergency room visits. That’s about one every 2 ½ minutes. About 40 percent of those injuries are related to inadequate supervision.
Although teachers and supervisors are not expected to be trained playground inspectors, they can visually inspect the playground for potential hazards and make sure that children do not play on any unsafe equipment.
Another problem that can occur on the playground is bullying. A student is being bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students. Knowing what behaviors to look for can significantly reduce that number.
The following tips offer key points to remember when supervising children on playgrounds.
- Being alert and attentive – Move through the playground area, stationary persons only help children nearest to them. Direct eye contact with a child can help prevent inappropriate behavior. Ensure you have an adequate number of adults supervising for the number of children.
- Being aware of age appropriate equipment – Equipment should reflect the physical, social, emotional and intellectual difference of its planned users. Not all playground equipment is appropriate for all ages of children; areas should be separated for children ages 2—5 and ages 6-12.
- Evaluating hazards – Visually survey the playground for potential hazards that could cause serious or fatal injuries to children. Watch for hazards like loose or protruding nuts or bolts, broken parts, exposed concrete, and shallow protective surfacing. If you observe safety problems, like broken equipment or inadequate amount of surfacing material, contact the facility manager and the principal.
- Observing – Keep an eye out for any unsafe behavior, such as climbing up a slide or sliding down a slide backwards. Make sure children keep moving on equipment and keep their hands and feet on supports at all times. Watch for behavior such as shoving, hitting, name-calling, threatening, and deliberate shunning of classmates.
- Knowing safe playground rules – Teach children there are rules to be followed on the playground. Instruct children to keep their hands to themselves – no hitting, pushing, punching, kicking or biting. Do not allow children to throw sand, rocks, wood fibers or play with sticks on the ground.
- Intervening when inappropriate behavior occurs – Verbally warn children about inappropriate behavior. Intervene immediately between fighting children to prevent someone from being hurt. Be firm and consistent when enforcing rules.
- Being prepared – Keep a first aid kit stocked and easily available in case an injury occurs. First aid kits should be maintained by the school nurse/office staff and should include latex gloves.