This is National Playground Safety Week, a time to check out the places kids play to try and make them safer. Donna Thompson, is the executive director of the National Program for Playground Safety at the University of Northern Iowa. Thompson uses the word "safe" to illustrate the things that are important for playgrounds. The letter "s" stands for "supervision", while the letter "a" is for using "age appropriate" play systems.
Thompson says kids need to be taken to systems that are built for them. The "F" is for appropriate surfaces underneath to prevent injuries from falls, and "E" is equipment maintenance and proper maintenance of the surface. Thompson says Iowa’s playgrounds have historically lagged a little behind the rest of the country in safety. She says the only real guideline they have is a 2004 survey where the nation moved up to a C-plus grade, while Iowa stayed at a C. Thompson says part of the problem are the Iowa winters that take a toll on the surfaces under the playgrounds.
Thompson says surfaces under playgrounds are often overlooked. Thompson says part of the problem is cost, but she says it costs a lot more to fix up a kid when they get injured, than it does to put down the proper surface and keep it up. Thompson says adults treat their "play" areas better than the areas for kids.
"If people kept their golf courses in the same manner they keep the surfaces for playgrounds, there’d be a great hue and cry, and it would get fixed in several hours, because people need to go play golf," Thompson says. She says adults also need to be sure play areas are safe for their children.
Thompson says one thing they are stressing this week is to have P-E teachers in schools teach kids the proper way to fall. She says the children can be taught how to fall and roll so they don’t just fall and put their arms out. Thompson says proper falling and rolling can reduce injuries significantly. For more information on playground safety, go the National Program for Playground Safety website .