Building Blocks

Playground Safety


You can prevent injuries from happening to your child while at the playground.

Health Canada estimates more than 28, 000 Canadian children each year are treated at hospitals for playground related injuries.


Playground Fact Sheet
Pre-School Aged Children
School-Aged Children
10 Rules for Safe Play
Falls and how to stay safe on some common equipment.


Heading outdoors to play?  Remember these important tips:

  1. Apply sunscreen and insect repellent to your children before they leave the house.
  2. Remove any loose clothing, such as drawstrings, scarves, and bike helmets.
  3. Remind children how to play safe.


Don’t be surprised. SUPERVISE!

Active supervision helps reduce childhood injuries while at the playground.

  1. Adults and parents should ensure children are using age appropriate equipment.
  2. Teach basic rules of play, e.g. taking turns, staying away from moving swings and bottom of slides.
  3. Stay within reach of the child/children by watching them, waiting close to them to catch any potential falls and warning them of any moving objects they may not see in time.


Backyard play equipment safety tips:

  1. Equipment is secured to the ground.
  2. The play structure is stable.  It doesn’t wobble when being used and all bolts are tight and in place.
  3. Children know to keep out of the way of moving swings and bottom of slides.
  4. Children know how to take turns when playing on slides and swings.
  5. There is no broken glass, metal, missing pieces, or rope tied to any of the equipment.


What could you find at your local playground? 

What could you expect young children to do when they get to the playground?  A lot of running, jumping and climbing, but not all playground equipment was made equal.   Not all of these types of equipment are suitable for children of all ages.

Monkey Bars
Play Structures
Sand Boxes
Rocking Horses


Pre-school Age Children (1.5 - 4 yrs)

I might not be able to reach some of the play equipment.  If I can’t, it is not safe for me to use. Please don’t lift me on to this equipment to let me play.  I don’t understand how dangerous it is and I might fall off.  My feet might not reach ground the while on a teeter totter, ropes or a swing so I shouldn’t use these things.  If a play structure is over 5 feet high that is too high for me to play on because it increases my risk for injury too much!

I might think I would like to go on a merry-go-round with the older kids, but I don’t have very strong arms and I might fall off when it’s going very fast.  I could break a bone or hurt my head.  It would be much safer for me to play in the sandbox or have you push me a little in a bucket swing.


When I get to go to the playground, I get very excited and like to run around.  I might forget that the kids on swings can’t stop in time if I go running by.  I think I can make it, but I can’t understand how fast it’s going and how long it will take me to get by.  You need to follow me and warn me about moving objects like swings.  Also, I shouldn’t stand at the bottom of slides to wait for my friends, they might run into me and I could get hurt.


It’s fun to run across the play structures and swing off of ropes and poles, but I am still too little to make my arms and legs work together properly to safely play on these kinds of equipment.  Wait until I am older to let me try out these types of equipment.


There is so much to do and see when I get to the playground that you might have trouble keeping an eye on me, I change my mind quickly and can move fast when you’re not looking.  Make sure that you keep your eyes on me at all times and stay within catching distance in case I fall.


School Aged Children (Aged 5-9 years)

  1. Child on SwingWhen I am at the playground, I like to jump, run and climb. I love to take risks and don’t understand what danger is, or how badly I could get hurt by falling off playground equipment.  You need to watch me play and remind me to play safely with my friends.
  2. There are so many things to do and a lot of kids playing at the playground that I am easily distracted and might forget about the rules of safety we talked about before going to the playground.  Please remind my friends and I about how to play safe a few times while we are at the playground.
  3. I also like to show off to my friends, because everyone is learning how to do new things while we are at the playground.  I might try and jump off swings or high climbing structures.  Just remember that I am learning to try new things and getting stronger, but I still need you to watch me play and stay close to me.
  4. As a boy, I may seem to be a little rougher with my friends.  I might need to be reminded not to push or pull on my friends, especially when on top of play equipment like monkey bars or a climbing structure.


10 Rules for Safe Play

  1. Learning to take turns is important.  Wait until the first person has gone down the slide  before climbing the ladder to go down.  It is also important to take turns then waiting to slide down a fireman’s pole.
  2. Clear away from the area around the bottom of the slide quickly after sliding down, in case the next person takes their turn.
  3. Always go down the slide feet first.
  4. Remember not to stand in front of swing sets.
  5. Never push or pull on other children.
  6. Merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters and tire swings should be stopped as soon as someone wants off.
  7. Never rush someone who is climbing on monkey bars, climbing ropes or ladders.
  8. Make sure children are using age appropriate equipment.
  9. Teach children not to jump off of swings in motion or from high structures.
  10. These rules should apply to both community and backyard playgrounds.



Falls cause almost 70% of non-fatal playground injuries, including head injuries.  More than 40% of children who come to emergency departments with a playground equipment injury require major treatment such as a cast or a stitch. 

Climbers, slides and swings are where playground injuries are most likely to occur.  The height of equipment also has an impact on injuries, as equipment higher than 5 or 6 feet greatly increases the chances of injury.  Playground equipment should have railings and barriers to help prevent falls.  To ensure a child can’t fall or strangle, openings in railings or barriers should be smaller than 3 inches (90 mm) or larger than 9 inches (225cm) in diameter. 



Critical Heights of Tested Materials

Protective Surfacing Material * Fall Height**
Wood Chips * 10 feet (3 metres)
Fine Gravel 6 feet (1.8 metres)
Fine Sand 5 feet (1.5 metres)
Medium Gravel 5 feet (1.5 metres)
Coarse Sand 4 feet   (1.2 metres)


*A depth of 9 inches (225 millimetres) of the material listed on the left should provide protection for the fall height listed on the right hand column.

**For example a compressed depth of 9 inches (225mm) of protective surfacing.Taken from page 97 CAN/SA Z614-98

  Children’s Playspaces and Equipment.

*The wood chips offer the best protection against injuries in the case of falls. As shown in the chart they offer protection for a fall up to 10 feet.  Surfaces such as lawn, concrete and hard packed ground should be avoided.




How do I check the surface material?

Check the depth by digging your shoe into the surface.  There should be at least 6 inches (15 cm) under all equipment and 12 inches (30 cm) under equipment higher than 6 feet.  Try to push the surface material to where children will land from swings, slides and ladders.


How to stay safe around some common playground equipment:

 Slides are a fun activity to do when at the playground, but they can also be dangerous too!   When you get to the playground, make sure metal slides are not hot.  They can heat up quickly and burn sensitive skin!


Please don’t walk away! Keep within arm’s reach of your child and be ready to catch them as they slide down.  You may think your child is ready to go down on their own, but it might be a new and scary experience.   For equipment such as slides and swings or any other moving play equipment, there should be at least 18 feet, (5.4 metres) around them to be safe.  Between any other stationary equipment, there should be 6 feet (1.8 metres) of space between two pieces of equipment.




Play structures such as these may look like a lot of fun, but there are a few things to remember. 

 1) What is the weather like?  If it’s very hot out or

if it has been raining, the metal could be hot or slippery. 

2) This equipment is suitable for older school-aged children, who should be supervised no matter what. 

3) There should be deep soft surfaces underneath playground equipment

in case children fall.   For information on surface materials and depths, see chart above.

Grassy surfaces are not as safe!


Have a sandbox?  Make sure to cover it, so animals do not use it.  At playgrounds, check for cigarette butts, broken glass and animal waste in and around playground equipment.



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