Keeping Daycare Kids Safe on the Playground

Keeping Daycare Kids Safe On The Playground

The memories we treasure from childhood are the times we felt free to be who we were — kids. In those days, being on the playground was the most incredible feeling in the world. Outdoor playgrounds remain one of the few places where kids can let loose and play. With children increasingly interested in TVs, tablets and video games, having fun on a playground is an essential aspect of childhood physical fitness and an opportunity for growth and development.

While many daycares today have adopted educational activities, play still encompasses a large portion of a child’s day. After some time indoors, the kids at your daycare are probably bursting at the seams to break free on the playground. Playing outside can offer them the essential social and physical activity they need.

As an adult who cares for these young ones, your job is to ensure these play areas are safe. Despite the many benefits of having a playground at daycare, you must be mindful of potential hazards to keep all the children in your care safe, so they can enjoy the benefits of playing on it for years to come.

Play Is A Large Portion Of A Child's Day

The Benefits of Playgrounds for Young Children in Daycare

We build playgrounds to let young children get outdoors, learn and grow. Kids need to develop their muscles and exercise as much as they need to improve their minds. It sets them up to be healthy, well-rounded individuals. As kids move around and play, it promotes physical fitness and healthy exercise habits, too.

Plus, there are several proven social and cognitive reasons playground play is crucial for young children.

  • Help children meet and make new friends: Playgrounds are excellent social environments where children can engage with others their age. From school recess to community playgrounds, kids enjoy group activities at playgrounds. Daycare students can use outdoor playtime to get to know other kids in a safe, familiar environment where adults are nearby to help when needed.
  • Stimulate their brains: As they explore and have fun, kids can touch various materials and help develop their minds. Sensory experiences from textures can teach them to distinguish different substances and refine their understanding of the world. Exposure to more sounds and musical equipment can help kids build their language skills by learning to separate sounds.
  • Develop their spatial awareness and motor skills: Kids use various muscles and movements as they climb and slide. Playtime can help kids build their fine and gross motor skills. Movement builds muscle and teaches them how to control their bodies, and playgrounds offer several kinds of experiences they can apply to various body parts, from their fingers to entire limbs. Repeated actions help their brains internalize correct motions for increased muscle memory and confidence.
  • Teach problem-solving skills: Kids can encounter many obstacles on the playground. They can try various strategies and solutions to reach their desired result. With trusted adults nearby, kids might feel more comfortable trying new things and taking risks when facing problems because they know they can get help if needed. However, the unstructured format of playgrounds gives them a chance to make mistakes and try again.
  • Build social and communication skills: In addition to making friends, kids can use daycare playtime to develop essential skills that can help them in school, at home and in their futures. Playing with other children allows them to learn how to communicate, from forming sentences and using correct vocabulary to collaborating and compromising. Games might require kids to negotiate to find a common ground, while limited space and toys can spark sharing.
  • Process emotions and decompress: Kids experience many emotions throughout the day. Independent and pretend play can offer kids a chance to act out scenarios to understand their feelings and their days, while physical play can help them destress. Time to process and control their emotions can increase focus in structured events later, from lessons to group activities for smoother daycare management.

Ultimately, it’s about having fun. Kids need to gain a sense of identity and independence, and a playground is a safe place where they can discover more about who they are. By using their imagination and engaging actively in play, kids are preparing themselves to be creative problem-solvers who are ready for preschool, kindergarten and beyond.

How to Keep Kids Safe on the Playground

Recess and breaks on the playground are vital times for daycares. Children can get fresh air and engage in physical activity with their friends. When so many things in kids’ lives are structured, this unstructured play opportunity can allow them to explore their interests and regain autonomy.

Though we want our kids’ experiences on the playground to be a liberating time of pure enjoyment, playground equipment can become broken or damaged over time. Also, our friend Mother Nature sometimes likes to throw some surprises our way, like extreme temperatures and hazardous little critters. Daycare staff are responsible for ensuring everything is safe for the children to play freely. You can help children maximize outdoor play periods by increasing safety with the appropriate precautions.

Kids Want To Have Fun

1. Check Playground Equipment Regularly for Safety Hazards

Having a beautiful new playground is an amazing feeling. Whether you’re a child or a kid at heart, playgrounds inspire excitement at the play possibilities. Over time, the shiny paint and colorful plastics begin to fade, and safety hazards become a distinct possibility — that’s where adult responsibilities come in. You can take a few essential steps to ensure all the equipment is safe for the children to play on.

Maintenance issues can cause kids to fall or get minor injuries like scratches and scrapes. That’s why it’s essential for the adults in charge to routinely check all the playground equipment for any potential safety hazards. Chances are, kids will still get bumps and bruises every so often — that’s the nature of children playing. These things happen. However, examining the equipment will ensure no injuries are due to broken, damaged or otherwise unsuitable playground equipment.

Plan periodic safety inspections. You can walk around the playground and see if there are any visible signs you should repair or replace any of your equipment. Here are three things you can look for as you check for safety hazards.

Check Playground Equipment For Safety Hazards

Plan periodic safety inspections on a regular basis. You can walk around the playground and see if there are any visible signs that you should repair or replace any of your equipment. Here are three things you can look for as you check for safety hazards.

Worn or Broken Equipment

The first thing to check for when you’re inspecting the playground is worn-down or faulty equipment. The materials used to construct playgrounds should be durable and able to withstand all kinds of weather and the pitter-patter of little feet pounding on it every day.

Even the best playgrounds require a little care and refurbishing from time to time. It may be unclear at first that something is broken, so it’s essential to get an up-close look. Before your daycare kids prepare to play, make sure there is no visible damage.

Some of the things to look out for include:

  • Splintering or cracking wood.
  • Rust on metal pieces.
  • Cracked or brittle plastic parts.
  • Protruding objects, like nails or sharp exposed edges that could catch on the children’s skin or clothes.
  • Unintended openings in any playground fences.
  • Any bending or warping that could indicate signs of weakening.

Catching signs of worn and broken equipment can help you get repairs early. You can replace equipment before it becomes dangerous for children at play. Consider checking after wet or snowy seasons, when rust and wear risks increase from exposure to harsh weather. Knowing problem areas can help you keep your kids safer as they enjoy their time on the playground.

Loose Playground Structures

Broken equipment is usually noticeable, even to an untrained eye. If a playground structure has become loose, you may not know until it’s too late. You can create a safer play environment by catching loose structures before they become hazards. As part of your periodic safety inspection, make sure all the playground structures are secure. Shaking or moving them in ways you know the kids would can help you tell if something is wobbly or feels unstable.

A few objects you’ll want to pay particular attention to include:

  • Loose or leaning posts.
  • Platforms that are not secure.
  • Loose bolts, clamps or other hardware that hold the equipment together.
  • All guardrails or protective barriers that protect kids on elevated surfaces.
  • Loose or swaying fences.

When you want to increase safety, comprehensive checks can serve your interests. Kids at play might pay less attention to equipment that behaves differently. You can help keep them safe by spotting and blocking loose equipment, so they can focus on playing and having fun.

The Ground Surfaces

As kids are running and jumping around the playground, we may not be aware that one of the most critical safety features lies beneath their feet. A proper ground surface can reduce injury, but it also can limit how severe an injury can be. There are many surface material options, but your choice needs to be soft and thick enough to soften the impact of a fall.

Blacktop, asphalt, concrete, grass and bare earth are not safe or appropriate playground surfaces. Consider these acceptable options instead.

  • Loose-fill rubber: Rubber is excellent for playground surfacing. It provides support with more cushion that makes physical play more comfortable. This rubber surfacing options includes several pieces of rubber mulch. While rubber is soft, the loose-fill material makes it easy for other substances to get trapped or hide between pieces, like animal waste. Over time, loose-fill methods will erode and compact, so you will have to refill them eventually.
  • Pour-in-place rubber: For a unitary rubber option, pour-in-place rubber is an ideal surfacing choice. This option offers a similar cushion to loose-fill rubber with increased durability and simplified maintenance. Pour-in-place lays over a sub-base, cushioning play activities. Its even, flat surface supports accessibility initiatives and makes it easy to remove dirt and debris.
  • Rubber tiles or mats: Tiles and mats are another rubber alternative. These options come ready for installation and fit together to make a cohesive surface. When you want to create stunning, unique aesthetics at your playground, you can use this surfacing to make various patterns.
  • Engineered wood fiber: EWF is an ideal option when you want a neutral feel that offers natural elements. This surfacing material provides adequate cushion for comfortable play and an iconic playground aesthetic. You may need to complete more regular maintenance for loose-fill options like EWF to maintain the right surfacing depth as play compacts it over time.

Weather and tireless running of little feet can cause loose-fill surfaces to shift.

Regardless of what surfacing type you use, it can experience wear. The combination of weather and the tireless running of little feet can cause loose-fill surfaces to shift or unitary playground surfacing to become damaged. When you do your safety inspection, make a note of any areas that need more fill. If you’re not sure what appropriate surfacing depths are for the specific playground equipment at your daycare, contact an expert for assistance.

Tripping and slipping hazards are another concern. Rain, mud, ice and snow can cause playground surface materials and platforms to become slippery. Your kids may need to wait to play if that’s the case. You should also check for loose debris and remove anything that’s a tripping hazard. Pay particular attention to ensure there’s nothing that could hurt a child if they fell, like sharp sticks, glass or metal.

2. Follow a Daily Playground Checklist Before Use

Daycare workers know how crucial routine is to children, but it benefits adults, too. A lot of things can go wrong out of the safe confines of the classroom or playroom, and Mother Nature likes to throw plenty of curveballs our way. To ensure your time on the playground is as safe and fun for your kids as possible, you might want to consider using a daily playground checklist.

A playground checklist is a guide the workers at your daycare can use to ensure everyone is on the same page about outdoor playground safety. It includes tips and information to follow every time they bring the kids out to the playground. The checklist functions as a reminder of what workers should look out for before letting the kids out to play.

Every daycare has different needs, so your list should reflect your unique surroundings. For example, a fenced-in playground with pour-in-place surfacing won’t have the same concerns as an open playground in a rural setting with loose-fill surfacing. Either way, here are four items you will likely want to include on your daycare’s daily playground checklist.

Check Temperatures and Weather Conditions

Whether it’s hot or cold, your kids will probably want to play outside. As an adult, you need to be aware of the appropriate weather for playground time. Before you even consider heading outdoors, check the forecast. Nowadays, this simple task is easier than ever with readily available technology.

If you have a smartphone, you can use it to learn crucial information about weather conditions, like the current temperatures. Many weather apps display a “real-feel” temperature, giving you a more accurate depiction of conditions. Windchill plays a considerable role in whether it’s comfortable to be outdoors. It also includes an hourly forecast, so you can foresee if playing outside later that afternoon is feasible.

Here are some weather phenomena you should consider before taking your kids outside.

  • Too cold: It’s up to your daycare’s discretion how cold is too cold to take the kids outside. However, a good rule of thumb is that if the windchill is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it may be too cold for outdoor play. If it is a cold day, be sure to shorten outdoor play for toddlers and younger children.
  • Too hot: On the other end of the spectrum, sweltering temperatures put children at risk for many heat-related complications. Excessive thirst, dehydration, sunburns, heatstroke and heat exhaustion are all more likely to occur when kids are actively playing on the playground.
  • Inclement weather: Playing in the rain and snow can be fun for a kid, but this type of weather makes playground equipment more hazardous. Steps and ladders become incredibly slippery, and slides can send the kids careening down at speeds that could frighten or injure them — not to mention getting their backsides wet! In these types of weather situations, it may be best to keep the kids indoors until the playground dries off.

Heat doesn’t only affect kids — it can also cause outdoor play equipment to become severely overheated. Daycare workers need to pay particular attention to the temperature of anything a child may touch or sit on. Even if the temperature doesn’t feel that hot, the bright sunshine has the potential to heat up plastic and metal equipment. It can result in severe injuries and burns, especially to younger children.

Schedule summer playtime for the mornings, but winter ones for the afternoon.

Regardless of the weather conditions, you can care for your children with the right strategies. Ensure children have tools to handle weather conditions, from hats and scarves in the cold or water bottles during the summer heat. Adjusting your recess time can help children get fresh air during the best time of the day. You can schedule summer playtime for the mornings, but winter ones for the afternoon when it is warmer.

Working daily surface checks into your routine can help protect children. From slippery wet materials to hot equipment, you can better assess what is safe for children with this method. After rain or snowstorms, you can block off equipment and playsets still affected by ice and rain until they are OK to play on again.

Plastic playground equipment, like those from Playworld, conducts less heat than metal equipment. However, even these can get overly warm if they’re in direct sunlight or extreme heat. As the guardian of the playground, be sure you’re aware of how hot all the equipment is before letting the children play.

Check for Critters

Another item to include on your daily playground checklist is checking for little critters. Wasps, spiders and even furry animals can decide to make their home in playground equipment. You need to ensure an animal hasn’t taken up residence — otherwise, your kids might find him first. If your children come in contact with hazardous insects, they could get stung or even have a severe allergic reaction.

Research what wasp nests, spider sacks and other common insect evidence look like, so you can spot them easily. You can also educate other helpers at your daycare for increased awareness. Knowing what bugs and animals are native to your area can help you tailor research efforts to match your playground’s unique needs.

Another thing to be aware of is animal droppings. They live elsewhere, but they may have left a little surprise when passing through. Be sure to check the equipment and the surrounding grounds before someone steps in it or unwittingly picks it up.

Clear Debris

As you check your playground for critter evidence, you should also note any other objects you come across. Branches and litter can fall or blow into your playground after a storm or high winds, making them hazards for kids at play. Even leaf litter can pose a risk because it can be slippery. Sweeping debris or picking up large objects can keep your children safe when it’s time to play on the playground.

Doing regular perimeter checks can also identify when your amenities need updating. In addition to checking your playground equipment, assess your fences, benches, sidewalks and other playground features. You might find unexpected damage, graffiti or loose components that can harm children. Finding these spots early can help you block them off and keep kids safer.

Provide Adequate Adult Supervision

Adult Supervision On The Playground

The most significant tools we have to keep our kids safe on the playground are our eyes. Adequate supervision means that you will be able to see if children need help or are behaving inappropriately. If an accident occurs, you’ll know what happened and be there to help immediately.

There should always be an appropriate number of adults to watch the kids playing on the playground. Chaperones can foresee dangerous situations when kids try to test the limits. Here are some things your daycare may want to consider about supervision when making their playground checklist:

  • Station adults all around the playground so they’re visible to children at all times.
  • Account for all children at all times.
  • Encourage kids to play on age-appropriate playground equipment.
  • Bring needed supplies to the playground, like first-aid kits, tissues and water.
  • Make sure children have dressed appropriately for the weather — including sunscreen if required.
  • Maintain an appropriate child-to-staff ratio.

An adult presence can help prevent many playground hazards and increase reaction time in the event of a problem. From arguments to injuries, anything can happen during playtime. Having a strong supervision system and plan can create better proactive and reactive strategies to keep children safe.

3. Establish Clear Daycare Playground Safety Regulations and Rules

Checking equipment and creating a checklist are just some of the aspects of playground safety — establishing rules is the best way you and the children can work together to keep this space safe. Regardless of the age of the children at your daycare, clearly set rules are an essential part of playground safety. Even toddlers will respect regulations if you enforce them reasonably.

Rules don’t inhibit fun, but they do create clear boundaries so the children can feel safe. Some basic rules you may want to consider implementing at your daycare’s playground include:

  • Never roughhouse or push.
  • Do not misuse the playground equipment, such as by standing on swings, climbing guardrails or sliding headfirst down the slide.
  • Do not jump from elevated platforms.
  • Do not leave personal items on or near the equipment.
  • Wait your turn before going down the slide.
  • Don’t stand or run in front of swings while another person is swinging.

You know the kids at your daycare best. These rules are not exhaustive, and we’re sure you’ll come up with a few more based on your unique situation and play area components. Our goal is to provide some suggestions based on our many years of experience.

Part of setting up rules for your playground is establishing how your daycare employees should respond to problems. While your institution might already have methods, providing training about how employees and adults can handle issues can create a cohesive and productive problem-resolution process for any scenario. Whether you have kids arguing over a shared toy or an injury, a fast and confident response can help keep your children safe while at your daycare.

4. Schedule Playtime by Age

Kids across ages play differently and have varying skills.

If your daycare serves multiple ages, you might consider developing policies and schedules about when each age group can play. Kids across ages play differently and have varying skills. Letting toddlers and elementary school kids on the playground at the same time can put both groups at risk.

While many daycares incorporate equipment designed for each age group, having lots of kids on the playground at once can crowd spaces and make it challenging for kids to maneuver between equipment. With many kids on the playground, adults might have a harder time keeping track of each child, especially smaller ones. Injuries or conflicts might go unnoticed, and kids might get away with breaking more rules.

Giving each age group or grade a recess time can offer several benefits to daycare organizations. In addition to safety, children in each group can receive more individualized care. Adults are more available to watch kids and step in when they need help.

Separate recess blocks allow daycare coordinators to schedule play periods at times that work best for that group. Younger children might have theirs earlier in the day, so they can nap in the afternoon, leaving the playground free when elementary-aged kids arrive after school. They can take the time and space they need to decompress and destress after long hours in the classroom without worrying about being extra careful around younger kids.

Breaking up recess times into separate sections can also reduce the number of kids your employees must manage inside for lessons or structured activities. When other groups are outside for recess, daycare employees can use that time to tailor activities to the remaining group’s needs for more engaging experiences. For example, elementary school kids might get to practice math and reading skills, while preschool students learn their colors and letters.

What to Do if Your Playground Equipment Is Broken or Damaged

If you notice any of the safety hazards mentioned above during your regular playground inspection, you need to take care of it as soon as possible. The daycare staff can handle some things, like loose screws or hazardous debris. However, you should hire a professional to repair any significantly damaged equipment.

Make sure you designate the broken equipment as off-limits and tell all the children not to play on it until it is in working order again. Then, either hire a professional who can fix it, or search for new, exciting options to add to your play space.

Daycare Playground Equipment Available From Playworld

Daycare playground safety starts with quality equipment. If you need new playground equipment, turn to Playworld, one of the most trusted names with decades of experience in the industry. We provide superb craftsmanship and ensure our equipment is safe and enjoyable for even the littlest explorers.

We have a vast range of options available to you depending on your daycare’s particular needs. For example, we have full playground sets or individual equipment, depending on whether you’re looking to add to an existing area or create a completely new playground. You can feel free to browse our wide selection of products or narrow your search based on age range or the type of equipment you are searching for. Choose from various products such as these.

  • Swings: Swings are playground staples. Balancing on the seat and moving without getting pushed can help kids develop their coordination and gross motor skills. With multiple swings in a set, children can swing together, so they can make more friends and practice communication skills.
  • Climbers: Climbers are suitable for several age groups, making them perfect for daycares. Kids can use climbers to access other playground equipment, like slides, or enjoy reaching new heights. With several different configurations and designs, you can find the option that will enhance your playground.
  • Adventure tubes: When you want to transform your playground into another world, adventure tubes can support your theme and kids’ imaginations. These pieces of equipment give spaces where kids can crawl, sit and hide for several types of play. Whether they are pretending or need a space to decompress, adventure tubes can assist their needs.
  • Slides: Kids love going down the slide. When you want quality equipment, Playworld can pair you with the right slides for your playground. If you are looking for a curved or straight option, your slide selection will enhance your playground’s experience for more fun that your kids will look forward to at daycare. Double slides can increase social and group play opportunities for increased activities for friends on playsets.
  • Sensory equipment: Your playground can support many sensory experiences with the help of various equipment. Sand and water tables can introduce kids to new textures. They can also learn the properties of elements, like items that float or sink in the water. Musical equipment can inspire kids to make music together or independently, helping them learn to interpret sounds and collaborate.
  • Site furnishings: While the playground is a vital place for active play, it should also support other needs. Kids might need rest after playing. Providing benches can give them a spot to ease their muscles and catch their breath for healthier practices when on the playground. Your employees can also use these spots to watch children playing while relaxing. Shade structures can help block the sun, protecting you and your kids from the sun and giving them a cool spot during the warmer days.

From themes to collections, Playworld can help you make a unique play experience for your daycare playground. Our designs include motifs from nature and modern influences with dramatic angles and colors. Whether you are starting from scratch or looking to refresh your existing playground, Playworld can support your needs and design goals.

At Playworld, we value creating accessible play spaces. When you want to improve inclusivity at your playground, we can recommend the best equipment and designs to support your goals and needs.

Contact Playworld for Playground Equipment and Design Assistance

Playworld Gurus Are Here To Help

To make sure your daycare playground is as safe and exciting as possible, our team of play experts is here to help. Let us assist you with creating a play area that meets all your daycare’s needs. We can also help you design something parents and children will adore. Guided by our wealth of knowledge, you can come up with creative solutions for a safer environment, and the result will be a fun and attractive space.

With decades of experience designing playgrounds, Playworld can help your daycare reach its design and functionality goals.

Contact a Playworld Play expert today!

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