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Play Space Safety (inside and out)

The importance of play

The importance of play: Play allows children of all ages to try new things, test their boundaries and learn from their mistakes while enjoying physical activity. Whether children are playing indoors or outdoors, be aware of how to prevent fall-related injuries.

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Did you know?

  • In Halton, fall-related injuries are the leading cause of injury in children.
  • Parents and caregivers are children's best protection against injury. Be aware, be there!
  • Most injuries are preventable.

Why preschoolers and 5-9 year-olds are at high risk for fall-related injuries

Preschoolers are at a high risk for injury because they:

  • are learning to run, jump, and climb.
  • are curious and are exploring their world.
  • get distracted easily.
  • cannot always remember rules

5-9 year-olds are at high risk for injury because they:

  • can climb higher, jump further, and balance longer. These new skills make them want to try new things.
  • have a natural curiosity.
  • enjoy doing more activities on their own.

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Safety Tips at Home
According to your child’s age and stage of development

  • Supervise

    • 12-18 months

      • Physical Abilities
        • Walks alone; runs but still falls down
        • May climb up and down stairs
        • Can stack, pull, and drag things
        • Holds cup with two hands
        • Can bend and pick things up off the floor
        • Can unzip a large zipper and undo clothing
        • Climbs on furniture
        • Tries to climb out of crib, play pen, or over safety gates
      • Emotional-Social Abilities
        • Starts using words to show feelings
        • Copies adult actions and activities
        • Likes to “help” in the kitchen
        • Temper tantrums may begin
        • Can sit on a riding toy and balance for a short distance while moving
        • Can use pencils and crayons
        • Can throw a ball and dance to music
      • Safety Issues
        • Choose “ride-on” toys with wide base and low seat
        • Avoid riding on hard surfaces (e.g. concrete)
        • Secure bookshelves and other tall furniture to the wall
        • Keep chairs tucked under table when not in use
        • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for removing safety gate(s) or as soon as a child tries to climb on it
        • Move child out of crib before they start to climb out by themselves (use a mattress on the floor before using one on a bed frame)
    • 18-24 months

      • Physical Abilities
        • Will copy your actions
        • Runs quickly and more steadily
        • Walks backwards and sideways
        • Walks down stairs using handrail (still learning how to take steps)
        • Still learning to chew food
        • Tries to reach higher objects
        • Can put on clothing
        • Can turn door knobs, and pull drawers and cupboards
      • Emotional-Social Abilities
        • Likes to be active
        • Curious about other people’s activities
        • Can make and use simple tools, such as handles and knobs
        • Uses trial and error to open and close containers
        • May be interested in animals
        • Likes to use hands to play with clay, play dough, and finger paint
      • Safety Issues
        • Keep toddler on play equipment made for his/her age
        • Stay within arm’s reach of child when playing on playground equipment
        • Discourage child from standing on chairs
        • Bunk beds should be used only after the youngest child is 6 years old
    • 2-3 years

      • Physical Abilities
        • Walks down stairs, alternating feet
        • Walks and runs with balance
        • Can walk backward, sideways, and jump
        • Starts to run and may stop suddenly
        • Can pour and drink from a container
        • Can twist lids off jars, take objects in and out
        • Can dress self
        • Can pedal tricycle
        • Busy, curious, and full of energy
      • Emotional-Social Abilities
        • Temper tantrums become less but still frustrates easily
        • Starts to have an imagination
        • Feels good when doing things by self (e.g., feeding, toilet, dressing)
        • Uses trial and error to solve problems
        • Plays with a group
        • Plays simple games
        • Copies your actions
      • Safety Issues
        • Ensure child always wears a fitted helmet when using “ride-on” toys, tricycles and bicycles
        • Check that helmets meet Canadian safety standards
    • 3-5 years

      • Physical Abilities
        • Skips and hops on one foot
        • Balance and coordination skills develop
        • Brushes teeth with help
        • Learns to tie shoe laces
        • Climbs on playground equipment
        • Likes to play outdoors
        • Likes simple, active games
      • Emotional-Social Abilities
        • Focuses on the present
        • Curious about what will happen next
        • Does not understand cause and effect
        • Does not see the viewpoint of others (focuses on own feelings)
        • Can focus on group activities for a longer time
        • May not be able to judge risk (e.g. timing traffic)
        • Curious and may ask a lot of questions
        • Starts understanding right from wrong
      • Safety Issues
        • Ensure child wears fitted helmet, elbow and knee pads when roller or inline skating
        • Adults show an example of safety by wearing appropriate safety equipment as noted above
        • Keep a child under 5 years on low playground equipment (under 1.5 metres or 5 feet)
  • Teach

  • Check

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Safety tips for outdoor home playground spaces

Make sure your home equipment:

  • is appropriate for the age and height of your children.
  • has guardrails or barriers to prevent falls.
  • has enough space between fencing and other structures
  • Parachute Canada has more information on home playground safety (external link).

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Safety tips for outdoor public playgrounds

  • Supervise

    • Under 5 years of age:

      • Keep your child off equipment higher than 1.5 metres (5 feet).
      •  Always stay within arm’s reach.
    • 5-9 year-olds:

      • As children reach school age they will be mastering many new skills while learning about the world around them. Parents need to be aware of, monitor and minimize risks, while allowing school age children new experiences.
        • Allow children to try new things.
        • Role model rules and wearing safety gear.
        • Help children to problem-solve in the face of difficulty.
        • Praise children for following the rules.
        • Stay close to your children, but let them explore and play.
        • Give children some independence if they are ready for it.
  • Teach

    • Waiting your turn
    • Sliding down feet first
    • Holding on to railings
    • Watching out for other kids
    • Sitting down on swings and slides
  • Check

    • Check your child’s clothing and equipment:
      • Remove anything that could accidentally strangle your child, including mitten strings, scarves, draw-strings and skipping ropes.
      • Also, be sure to consider helmet safety.
    • Check the playground:
      • Choose a playground with a deep, soft surface. Sand, pea gravel, wood chips, rubber crumb, or soft rubber are some good choices.
      • Is it well maintained?
      • Is there any garbage or sharp glass underneath?

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For more information on preventing childhood injuries check out these resources: