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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
With 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?
U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, April, 2008. Handbook for Public Playground Safety, page 18, http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/122149/325.pdf
Playground Magazine, Volume 9 – No. 5 winter, 2009-2010, “The Chill Effect: Winter Tips for Playground Surfaces” www.playgroundmag.org
Child Care Weather Watch Chart www.isbe.net/pdf/school_health/wind-heat-chart.pdf