By Erin Ryan Goodnow
Injuries on the playground are part of pretty much every childhood. No matter how closely a parent or teacher is watching, boo-boos happen. Thankfully, fatalities and serious injuries are rare. But, according to the National Institutes of Health, strangulation is the case of death in more than half of all playground deaths.
The strangulation is most often due to entanglement—meaning a child’s body or clothing gets caught in the playground equipment and can choke them. And according to Safe Kids Worldwide, 67 percent of injuries that occur on home playgrounds involve swings.
Entanglement, whether on a swing or any other piece of playground equipment, most frequently happens with drawstrings, mitten strings, hoods, long hair, untied shoelaces and jewelry (especially necklaces). Some climates don’t need to worry too much about the mittens as a factor, but shoelaces are something a child does not often want to pause playing to tie.
Check your child and teach your child to check themselves
Before getting to the playground, make sure your child is dressed appropriately for fun and safe playing. There is no need, even for the most fashionable of children, for necklaces, bracelets or purses on the playground. In colder weather, save the scarves for the walk home. And consider a quick change of clothes if your child is wearing pants or a jacket with drawstrings that can get caught on equipment and pose a strangulation hazard.
And the helmet should come off as soon as you’re done riding your bike to the park. It’s tempting to let your toddler leave it on for safer playing, but it can choke them if caught anywhere.
Dressing appropriately is easy enough to catch before heading to the playground. But things like long hair that can fall out of a bun or up-do and the dreaded untied shoelaces pose are never-ending dangers. So the best defense will be to teach your child to notice them. Now you and your child will be watching for it.
If your daughter’s hair starts blowing around too much, tie it back again. If the shoelaces come undone, double knot or next time remember a Velcro shoe. Do it enough and it will become habit for your kid to do for him or herself.
I see a lot of kids going barefoot in the sand at a playground. And believe me, I’m tempted to let my kids do it too to avoid the buckets of sand that always get dumped on my floor when we return home and the kids remove their shoes. But barefoot at the playground actually produces more injuries with tripping, burns or stepping on sharp or completely disgusting items. Shoes are safer and a lot cleaner, even with the sand transported to your floors.