Monday, July 20, 2009

Best Playgrounds and Playground Safety

Now is the time of year when we are all taking advantage of the wonderful recreational facilities that we have in the Washington Region including some great parks for kids.

However, according to the National Program for Playground Safety, each year over 205,000 preschool and elementary children receive emergency department care for injuries that occur in parks.

Where are the great parks?

Every year in our Best for Families survey we ask parents where their favorite park or playground is. Our Best for Families is an annual survey of parents about resources in the Washington area and it appears in our July magazine. As you can imagine, it is EXTREMELY popular.

This year there were over 4,000 nominees in our Best for Families Survey. There were many, many playgrounds and parks nominated but the top three are favorites of mine. Here is a link to the Best for Families Winner Page. You can also find detailed descriptions of many of these parks inside the FAMILY Magazine WEB EXTRAS (here is the link). The number one playground or park in the Best for Families survey was Clemyjontri Park in McLean. Here is some information about Clemyjontri as well as the next two most favorite playgrounds.

Clemyjontri Park
6317 Georgetown Pike
McLean, Virginia 22101
Features a unique playground where children of all abilities can play side-by-side. It is a playground where every child is welcome. Children who use wheelchairs, walkers or braces, or who have sensory or developmental disabilities, can have a parallel playground experience. At Clemyjontri ramps connect structures, swings have high backs, arm rests and special safety features, rubber surfacing allows wheelchairs to roll easily, lowered monkey bars provide easy access, equipment is designed to be sensory rich so all children can participate with peers, & wider openings allows easy access to play structures. Other features include a carousel and a picnic pavilion. The entrance road leads to an 81-space parking area and a drop-off zone for vehicles whose passengers need close access. Future development will include other amenities in the surrounding 10 acres of space.

Clemyjontri is located on Georgetown Pike in McLean. It was opened in 2006 with funding donated by Mrs. Adele Lebowitz who envisioned an oasis for youngsters – especially those with physical, sensory or developmental disabilities. The name “CLEMYJONTRI” is derived from the four Lebowitz children’s names.

Cabin John Regional Park
7400 Tuckerman Lane
Rockville, MD 20852
(301) 299-0024
Huge park with lots of climbing structures, slides, mazes, play houses, swings, Cinderella's pumpkin carriage, airplane, and cars. Other features include miniature train, snack bar, rest rooms, hiking trails, picnic areas, indoor/outdoor tennis courts, ice skating rink, Locust Grove Nature Center, the Cabin John Amphitheatre and lighted athletic fields. Plenty of shade. During the summer months, evening concerts are offered to the public free of charge.

The park has --
* 1 Baseball Field (lighted)
* 5 softball Fields (one lighted)
* 4 Tennis Practice Walls (lighted)
* 9 Tennis Courts (lighted)
* Pee-Wee Soccer Field
* 4 Single Wall Handball Courts
* 1 Volley Court

Burke Lake Park
7315 Ox Road,
Fairfax Station, VA
A 218-acre lake with fishing, boating, rowboat rental, camping, a miniature train, a carousel, outdoor volleyball courts, open fields, an 18-hole par 3 golf course, clubhouse with snack bar and driving range, disk golf, horse shoe pits, an ice cream parlor, picnic areas with grills, 3 playgrounds, trails, amphitheater, and a brand new miniature golf course. Swimming and windsurfing are prohibited.

For a list with pictures of area parks from our resource editor, Liz McConville’s list of area parks and playgrounds CLICK HERE. (

For the Best for Families survey results, CLICK HERE.

National Program for Playground Safety says that each year over 205,000 preschool and elementary children receive emergency department care for injuries that occur on playground equipment.

* 76% of the injuries happened on public playground equipment
* 23% occurred on home playground equipment

15% of these injuries were classified as severe and 49% were injuries to the head or face.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in a recent study of U.S. hospital emergency rooms, the majority of playground accidents (79%) resulted from falls from equipment. has a great article about playground safety and what you can do to make sure the playground you go to is a safe place for your children. Here are some excerpts from their article.

The most important factors in evaluating the safety of any playground are surface, design and spacing, and equipment inspection and maintenance.


A proper playground surface is one of the most important factors in reducing injuries — and the severity of injuries — that occur when kids fall from equipment. The surface under the playground equipment should be soft enough and thick enough to soften the impact of a child's fall.

Here are some things to consider:

* Concrete, asphalt, and blacktop are unsafe and unacceptable. Grass, soil, and packed-earth surfaces are also unsafe because weather and wear can reduce their capacities to cushion a child's fall.
* The playground surface should be free of standing water and debris that could cause kids to trip and fall, such as rocks, tree stumps, and tree roots.
* There should be no dangerous materials, like broken glass or twisted metal.
* The surfaces may be loosely filled with materials like wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or shredded rubber.
* Surfacing mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials are also safe.
* Rubber mats and wood chips allow the best access for people in wheelchairs.
* Loose-fill surface materials 12 inches deep should be used for equipment up to 8 feet high. The material should not be packed down because this will reduce any cushioning effect.
* No surfacing materials are considered safe if the combined height of playground and the child (standing on the highest platform) is higher than 12 feet.
* The cushioned surface should extend at least 6 feet past the equipment. Additional coverage may be needed, depending on how high a slide is or how long a swing is.
* If there is loose-fill over a hard surface (like asphalt or concrete), there should be 3-6 inches of loose-fill like gravel, a layer of geo-textile cloth, a layer of loose-fill surfacing material, and then impact mats under the playground equipment.

Keep in mind that even proper surfacing can't prevent all injuries. Also, the greater the height of the equipment, the more likely kids are to get injured if they fall from it.

Design and Spacing

Playground equipment should be designed for three different age groups: infants and toddlers under 2, 2- to 5-year-olds (preschoolers), and 5- to 12-year-olds (school-age kids).

In the safest playgrounds, play areas for younger children are separated from those meant for older kids and signs clearly designate each area to prevent confusion.

Younger children should not play on equipment designed for older kids because the equipment sizes and proportions won't be right for small kids, and this can lead to injury. Likewise, older kids shouldn't play on equipment designed for younger ones. Smaller equipment and spaces can cause problems for bigger kids.

Maintenance and Inspection

Whether your kids play on a home or public playground, it's important for you to take a general look at the equipment to make sure that it is clean and well maintained.

Check for objects (like hardware, S-shaped hooks, bolts, and sharp or unfinished edges) that stick out on equipment and could cut a child or cause clothing to become entangled.

1 comment:

  1. Nice Post. Children having injuries due to playground accidents.
    Main reasons to occur an Playground Accident are:
    1. Slides. Falling off from the top of the slide is the most prevalent cause of injury of this equipment.
    2. Swings. Even the smallest of infant swings can cause significant injury when used improperly. Children passing too closely in front of swings that are being used cause the usual accidents on outdoor swing sets.
    3. Monkey Bars. Children playing on monkey bars fall off when they climb over and fall through the bars.
    4. Merry Go Round. Where the equipment spins strongly and children either jump or fall off causes injuries ranging from scrapes to head injuries and getting caught under the spinning platform.