Playground Safety Checklist

Use the S.A.F.E. checklist to make playground play safer.

Playground play - playground safety checklist
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Playgrounds are great for encouraging active play, but they also can pose risks. Run through this playground safety checklist regularly at your child's school, the local park, and even your own backyard. It helps ensure that equipment is safe, and also lays out rules of play that can keep kids safer.

The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) suggests these guidelines to lessen the risk of falls and other injuries and maintain a safe playground environment.

Remember the acronym "SAFE," says NPPS:

"S" is for Supervision. Always supervise your child at the playground, watching for potential hazards. This includes improper play, like climbing the wrong way on a slide or chasing playmates in an unsafe way. Another acronym to remember here is the ABCs: Anticipation (of preventable problems and hazardous situations), adult behavior (when you're supervising, stay alert and attentive), and context (adults should be present in any type of play area).

"S" is also for strings and ropes, which should not be present. Strings (such as drawstrings on clothing) or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on equipment. Ropes should always be anchored at both ends.

"A" is for Age-appropriate design. Younger children (ages 2-5) should have their own equipment in an area separate from equipment designed for school-age children (ages 5-12).

And kids should play only on the equipment that's right for their age and physical skill level. For younger children, look for shorter slides, smaller steps, and low platforms. Older children can handle angled or horizontal climbing pieces and bars, tire swings, and larger slides.

"F" is for Falls. Many playground injuries are related to falls.

Playground surfaces should be designed to cushion children when they fall. Playground equipment should not be placed on concrete, asphalt, grass, packed dirt or rocks. According to NPPS, acceptable cushioned surfacing materials include:

  • hardwood wood fiber
  • pea gravel
  • sand
  • shredded rubber

"E" is for Equipment. Play equipment should be anchored safely in the ground, and all pieces should be in good working order. Avoid playground equipment with hazards such as: splintered wood, rusted metal, cracked plastic, partially opened S-hooks, and improper drainage. No more than two swings should be on any one support structure.

More Playground Safety Info

If you're concerned about the safety of a community, school, or home structure, check out NPPS resources that might help. like brochures and other publications and safety videos.

In addition, the NPPS reminds parents and other playground supervisors that it's important to observe sun safety precautions whenever kids play outside. Depending on the climate where you live, playground shade structure might be important. The American Academy of Dermatology has a grant program that helps schools and nonprofit organizations install permanent shade structures to provide sun protection.

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