Children soon lose interest in expensive equipment that seems so attractive to adults. They may start inventing hazardous ways to use it. If the play area has equipment from which children can fall, this equipment must have proper surfacing under and at the required distance around it. Asphalt, concrete, and other hard surfaces as well as grass and dirt are not acceptable surfacing or materials for equipment from which children can fall. Use properly installed loose fill surfacing or use surfacing materials like poured-in-place rubber or artificial grass that meet the guidelines in the Public Playground Safety Handbook published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/122149/325.pdf.) If maintenance of the equipment and surfacing is too costly or too difficult, remove that equipment.
For advice about safe active play, use the resources recommended by the Early Childhood Education Linkage System (ECELS)-Healthy Child Care Pennsylvania. Go to the ECELS website home page. Enter “injury” in the search box. Look at the list of items related to injury and active play. Then, return to the home page and search for “active play. The items about injury prevention and active play on the ECELS website include information, handouts, and web links to many useful online resources. Use the two Self-Learning Modules that address Active Play: the newly updated Active Play and Head Bumps Matter. You can also request a workshop about this topic. These professional development activities earn Keystone STARS professional development credit.
In October 2013, ECELS published Model Child Care Health Policies, 5th edition (MCCHP5.) This fill-in-the-blank set of polices is based on best practices defined in Caring for Our Children, 3rd edition. Using MCCHP5 eases the burden of drafting site-specific policies. For large muscle play, MCCHP5 includes requirements for equipment, supervision, maintenance, required clothing, footwear, risk-control, and teacher participation in activities. Use the forms in MCCHP5 Appendix O: Daily and Monthly Playground Inspection and Maintenance and in Appendix P: Staff Assignments for Active (Large-Muscle) Play. MCCHP5 is free online at: http://www.ecels-healthychildcarepa.org/publications/manuals-pamphlets-policies/item/248-model-child-care-health-policies. You can buy the hard copy, printed version of this publication at www.aap.org/bookstore.
Betsy Caesar, MEd, Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) and Dennis Smiddle, CPSI contributed to this article.