Friday, October 14, 2011
Sometimes what appears to be the most obvious of common sense solutions -- keeping the floor clear so people won't trip -- often gets overlooked in the fray of everyday school or family life. A recent article by Daniel Akinson points out the fact that a leading cause of injuries that happen inside the house or classroom result from toys not being picked up.
"One specific danger and one that is usually ignored are all the kids’ toys that have not been picked up," the article states. "This can definitely be a hazard if the living area is doubling as a play area."
The magazine provides the following advice on how to prevent accidents that can lead to minor or at times serious injuries:
• "Designate a particular area of the room in which the kids should play" and make children understand that whenever toys are in use, that is where they should be.
• "Show your child how to be neat." Instill this early on in their lives and follow up by making sure they always clean up after themselves when playtime concludes.
• "Teach your kids that picking up is fun." To counter the perception that putting stuff away, the article suggests a game in which kids race to put their things away before the end of a favorite song playing in the background.
• "To keep your kids safe from falls, place a large rug in their play area."
Monday, September 12, 2011
It would be hard to find a rational person who would disagree with the idea that children all over the world should have safe places to play.
Organizations such as UNICEF and The Playground Builders Foundation have worked to provide children in war-torn nations with safe, accessible playgrounds.
Playground Builders, a Canadian nonprofit charity, has established a business "model [that] involves the use of a generic playground design and local construction, based on a competitive value bid system," according to the organization's website. "This simplified process ensures many playgrounds throughout conflict areas can be built effectively and efficiently. These special places provide safe spaces for laughter, hope and interaction for war-entrapped children in unstable and poverty-stricken areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories."
UNICEF's common practice is to build or rebuild schools and playgrounds in places ravaged by warfare. Part of its core human rights agenda recognizes the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts."
One example of UNICEF's work in conflict zones is the construction of "20 safe-play areas ... in the occupied Palestinian territory: 11 in the Gaza strip and nine in the West Bank," according to a 2006 press release available online. "These play areas provide an estimated 30,000 children with opportunities to meet, socialize and play in a protected environment."
Friday, August 12, 2011
A few examples of more sustainable playground elements include recycled tires in safety surfacing, recycled plastic benches and playground equipment recycling programs. Another common practice in recent years has been replacing asphalt surfaces with grass and natural surroundings.
"There are plenty of new opportunities to transform decaying asphalt playgrounds or vacant lots into natural play areas," Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” wrote in a 2007 New York Times opinion article. "Researchers at the University of Illinois, exploring people’s relationship to nature, have discovered that green outdoor spaces relieve the symptoms of attention deficit disorders, improve the quality of interaction between children and adults and, in urban play areas, reduce crime."
One of the first schools to move the green playground concept into actuality was the Tule Elk Park Child Development Center, according to an article in Edutopia, the Internet publishing arm of The George Lucas Educational Foundation.
"This sixty-year-old San Francisco school in the city's Marina District went green in the early 1990s, with 20,000 square feet of blacktop removed and replaced by an educational Eden complete with native plantings, shady rest areas, and a nature preserve for the three Bs: birds, butterflies, and bugs," the Edutopia article reports.
However, Edutopia cautions that "the Tule Elk outdoor redo cost a half-million dollars more than it did a decade ago, far beyond the means of most public schools today."
A section of the article titled "follow the money trail" observes how Sherman Elementary School, also in San Francisco, obtained its green playground.
"Sherman parents stretched available dollars by doing their own site preparation, mulching, grading, paving, and laying down a permeable cover," the Edutopia article states. "Even the project's architect, Jeff Miller, besides providing a spectacular landscape plan, donated his own sweat equity by running a Bobcat grader during Sherman's green-schoolyard weekends."
Another important aspect of eco-friendly play equipment is the minimization of toxic substances used in manufacturing that can obviously pose a danger to kids who frequent a particular playground.
"Before 2003, nearly all of the wood used for playground equipment was treated with chromium copper arsenate (CCA) to ensure weather resistance," according to 1-800-Recycling.com. "The arsenic in the finish leached into the soil and was even present in the children who played on this equipment. Eco-friendly playgrounds do a double-duty job of protecting children and the environment from harmful materials like CCA."
Friday, July 15, 2011
The magnitude 7.0 earthquake in January 2010 that killed and left homeless many thousands of people drew a great deal of international attention and aid in the wake of the disaster.
Prior to the earthquake, the Disasters Emergency Committee reports:
• More than 70 percent of Haitians were living on less than $2 a day.
• 86 percent of national capital Port au Prince residents lived in slum conditions.
• 80 percent of education in Haiti was offered in often sub-par private schools because the higher- quality state system provided an inadequate number of schools.
• Half of Port-au-Prince residents didn't have access to latrines and one-third had access to tap water.
One example is Kids Around the World, a religiously themed group that since 1994 has built nearly 150 playgrounds in 27 countries, including nine either completed or in the works in Haiti.
The organization's website says it provides "safe play equipment for children ... in situations where it was difficult to just be a 'kid.' So often children find themselves as victims of situations out of their control, they become victims of economic stress, victims of political injustice, victims of natural disasters and worst of all, victims of war. It was for these children that Kids Around the World began."
Numerous other playground equipment and financial donation drives have taken place toward creating Haitian playgrounds. Some donor organizations include:
• Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos International
• International Childhood Enrichment Program
• The Miriam Foundation
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Children's hospitals around the country are promoting safe play, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. A report published in January titled "Injury Prevention on Playgrounds, at Home and in the Neighborhood" notes endeavors by hospitals in several states.
The foundation's Injury Free Coalition for Kids is the spearhead for raising awareness about safe play at children's hospitals and within the broader community.
"More than half of the Injury Free coalitions built playgrounds, typically with plastic or rubber materials, a soft ground covering and other features to prevent injuries," the report states. "The purpose -- and impact -- of the playground projects went beyond just providing safe places for children to play. ... By bringing neighborhood residents into the planning and construction process, the Injury Free teams were also building community."
The Comer's Children Hospital at the University of Chicago built two playgrounds with help from area residents. "Both projects contributed to an increased effort by community residents and the local police to keep children in the neighborhood safe from violence," states the report. "St. Louis Children's Hospital reported that while a few of its playgrounds experienced vandalism, most neighborhoods were committed to maintaining their new play spaces."
The Injury Free Coalition has also encouraged in-home safety and violence prevention for young people through research and community initiatives.
Cases in point include a coalition-sponsored annual program in Worcester, Mass. in conjunction with the UMASS Memorial Children's Medical Center and local law enforcement that collects guns in exchange for Wal-Mart gift certificates, according to the report. "In Miami, members of the Injury Free team helped develop a local violent injury surveillance system ... and used the data to assess patterns and trends in violent deaths and to report findings to the public and policy-makers."
The Indianapolis Injury Free program at Riley Children's Hospital collaborated with the local fire department to hand out more than 17,000 smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
"Ten years ago, a study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered more deaths occurred on backyard playground equipment than on public playgrounds," FortWayne.com recently reported. "A 2009 study from the CPSC found that 40 deaths were associated with playground equipment between 2001 to 2008, the majority of which were the result of hangings or asphyxiations."
Toward preventing such tragedies, the article highlights "location," "equipment," "surfaces" and "inspection" as the keys to a consistently safe backyard play area.
Playground placement is especially emphasized:
"Location, location, location! A home playground's location is very important. When deciding where to put a playground, consider its accessibility."
Earshot distance is a suggested gauge for determining a reasonable distance for responders -- be they parental or paramedic -- in the event of an emergency.
Other statistics of note:
- On Equipment -- "A 2009 report from the CPSC indicated that climbers were associated with 23 percent of all playground injuries while swings were associated with 22 percent."
- On Surfaces -- "According to the CPSC, 67 percent of playground accidents between 2001 and 2008 involved falls or equipment failure."
Regarding playground equipment "inspection," the article advises parents to make children very aware that they should immediately report if anything is loose or not properly functioning.
"Kids often like to play rough, and as a result playgrounds commonly take quite a beating," the article states. "Even if equipment was sturdy at installation and was installed to the letter of the manufacturer's instructions, parents should routinely inspect equipment to ensure it's holding up to the wear and tear of children."
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Umbrellas and sails provide shade for playground patrons and also keep the intense heat of direct sunlight from benches, slides, swings and other play structures. This can of course prevent burning-hot injuries to tender young skin, but it also prolongs the life of playground equipment, which takes a beating from the sun on a daily basis.
Durable shade sails can be designed to accommodate irregularly shaped areas, and low points can be positioned relative to the sun's direction for optimal blockage.
Beyond playground applications, shade sails are a cost-effective solution for keeping direct sunlight from most outdoor areas such as pools, barbeques, house fronts and spas.
"They can be the best idea for your outdoor areas, improving the look while also offering protection from the sun's harmful UV rays," according to Coastal Design Concepts Inc. "They can be successfully used in public outdoor areas -- at shopping centers, car parking [facilities], community centers, kindergartens, schools, outdoor playgrounds/activity areas and sport facilities."
Shade sails are easily customized with lots of flexibility in shape, size and color.
Sails and umbrellas are attached to free-standing uprights or suitable existing structures and don't require any form of structural roofing support.
Coastal Design recommends products made by Georgia-based Skyspan Structures. According to the company, Skyspan umbrellas and sails are designed for longevity and can withstand wind gusts over 90 miles per hour, in addition to being easy to install and use.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
The no. 1 safety concern for any play area is the surfacing. If it's hard, rough or slippery, it's time to look for another playground. Rubber is best, followed by wood chips and gravel.
Jaipi Sixbear, a writer for Yahoo.com's Associated Content, observed that a lack of toddler scale playground equipment is often "a hidden safety issue”.
"Some toddlers may be able to handle the climb up the big slide ladder," Sixbear wrote. "What if they slip and fall from that height? While this is no problem for older kids, it could cause a serious or fatal injury for toddlers. Be sure the playground you choose has toddler scale equipment."
She also warned about the possibility of old, unmaintained equipment that is especially dangerous to toddlers, requiring that parents always check for stability before children begin playing.
Sixbear also mentioned parks that have water features in addition to play facilities. Ponds and fountains, for example, pose a drowning hazard because "it only takes a second for your toddler to wander off ... while you're momentarily distracted," she wrote. "It's better to be safe. Avoid parks with water features altogether."
Fences are another safety component that can protect young children.
"No matter how vigilant you are, accidents happen," Sixbear noted. "Fences also separate you toddler from large dogs and older, more rambunctious children who might be using other areas of the park."
Sunday, February 20, 2011
The "CPSI Candidate Handbook" establishes a code of professional conduct for inspectors and lists the course's main objectives:
• Identify hazards on public playground equipment and the playground.
• Rank the hazards according to injury potential.
• Apply the knowledge to remove the hazards and establish a system of inspections.
The organization has "a long-term goal of training and certifying at least one person from every community in the United States to be a CPSI," according to the NRPA website. "These inspectors will share their knowledge on the public-use playground standard of care with other people involved in playground operations within their agencies and throughout their community."
Training involves an optional two-day prep-course on information covered in the certification exam, which takes place on the third day and final day of the course schedule. Computer-based exams are also available.Training centers are located in every region of the United States and offer sessions periodically throughout the year. There are no prerequisites to attending the course and taking the exam, and the examination fee is $200. Certification must be renewed every three years.
Test questions come from the following sources:
• The Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook for Public Playground Safety
• The Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use (ASTM F1487-07)
• Standard Guide for ASTM Standards on Playground Surfacing (ASTM 2333-04)
• Playground Safety Is No Accident, 4th Edition
The first step toward CPSI status is to visit the NRPA's website and fill out the application.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
"It is important to build safe habits in your children as soon as you begin visiting the playground," according to eHow.com's Todd Bowerman. "Good habits keep your kids safe and make your trips less stressful."
The writer lists four points to teach youngsters about how to make the most of the playground experience.
First on the agenda is communication. Prior to going to the playground, toddlers should be walked through the motions of using playground equipment as well as how they should interact with other children. Emphasize that pushing and shoving are never acceptable and taking turns is the way to do it. Parents should repeat these instructions often.
Clear ground rules are also essential. Set specific boundaries pertaining to equipment you don't want the child to use or areas of the playground he or she is not permitted. Make sure the toddler has a well-defined play area.
Once the Child has been properly prepped, the first trip to the playground needs to involve mom and/or dad physically demonstrating equipment use.
"For instance, slide down a slide with her to build her confidence, show her the proper way to sit on a swing and hold on to the chains or how to correctly and safely mount a rocking horse," Bowerman advised. "Remind her to let moving equipment stop before getting on or off."
Correcting mistakes immediately is also key. Upon spotting a toddler's mistake, go up to him or her and offer a gentle reminder of the playground rules.