Winter Reminders: Playground Safety

With the current snow and freezing temperatures it is important to remind providers about conditions in the winter that have the potential for causing serious injuries on the playground.

  1. Many providers in Iowa use loose-filled surfacing under and around playground equipment to provide cushioning in the event of a fall. The U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook reminds us that freezing temperatures result in the protective surfacing in and around playground equipment to also freeze. Even if the first few layers are loose, the base layer may be frozen and will not provide adequate impact absorption if a child falls from the equipment. If these conditions exist, the CPSC recommends that children not use equipment requiring fall zone protection.
  2. Those howling winter winds can also cause loose-filled like mulch or wood chips to be blown around which can result in inadequate protection.   Just as in the summer months, it is important to remind providers to rake the material and check the surface to make sure there is adequate protection.
  3. Ice can make a play structure including the stairs, slides and platforms to be slippery increasing the risk of falls. In the event of these conditions, ice should be removed from the equipment prior to children being allowed to use it. Snow and ice can also build up on trip limbs creating potential hazards if children play under trees. Regular pruning is recommended.
  4. Snow on a playground is fun for play, but can also conceal hidden hazards such as, glass or other unsafe items that can harm children. Even if the snow surface looks pristine, it is important to remind providers to still do those routine maintenance checks to make sure the playground surface is hazard-free.

snow playgroundWith all these hazards and the time it takes to get children dressed properly for outdoor play, why is it important for children to play outside in the winter (weather permitting)? Because research shows that children that play outside are actually healthier and besides its fun!

What winter tips do you have for providers?

What activities do you suggest to providers when climbing equipment is not safe to use?



Kris Signature







U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, April, 2008. Handbook for Public Playground Safety, page 18,

Playground Magazine, Volume 9 – No. 5 winter, 2009-2010, “The Chill Effect: Winter Tips for Playground Surfaces”

Child Care Weather Watch Chart


Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner

Melissa Wagner is an Early Childhood Coordinator with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach. Melissa has over 10 years of experience with the Environment Rating Scales as an assessor for research projects and Iowa's Quality Rating System and now as the ERS Training project coordinator. Melissa loves hearing success stories about providers who have made great strides to improve the quality of care within their program. In her free time she enjoys spending time with family, traveling, camping, and house projects.

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