Recess Ready: Back-to-School Tips for Safer Play

Written By: Salvatore Shaw and Nicole Fielding, Student-at-Law

Recess is an important part of any child’s day at school, and likely the most popular! It is one of the few opportunities for students at school to interact with their peers on their own terms, as well as a chance for free play in a child’s day. Studies[1] have shown that this break in a child’s day can lead to better productivity and more effective learning in classrooms.

While recess is an important aspect of any child’s day, it can be dangerous too. Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated for playground-related injuries.[2]

As we approach the beginning of a new school year, here are some helpful tips for parents and teachers to keep kids safe on the playground.

SAFE GEAR

As a parent, sending your child to school dressed for success is an easy way to protect them from playground injuries.

Flip flops or loose shoes can lead to trips and falls. Ensure your child heads out the door to school wearing appropriate footwear for playing sports and climbing on play equipment. A well-fitted, rubber-soled, close-toed shoe is a good choice for any active child. Check your child’s clothing, and ensure there are no exposed drawstrings, or cords which could get trapped in equipment. Keeping these items off the playground can prevent injuries from happening.

SAFE FACILITIES

Better play also starts with safe recess facilities and grounds.

Supervisors should regularly inspect the area where children will be playing to ensure there are no trip hazards, like rocks or tree stumps, or injury risks such as broken glass or debris. Uneven terrain or holes on the grounds where children will be playing should be visibly marked so as to prevent trips and falls.

If children will be using a play structure or equipment, supervisors should ensure that these playgrounds meet the standards provided by the Canadian Standards Association. Playground equipment should be in good working order, with no rusted metal or splintered wood. Always keep an eye out for hidden hazards, such as broken guardrails or barriers. Rain or snow can cause equipment to become slippery and dangerous, and unsafe for use by children, so use caution when allowing children to use play structures during inclement weather.

For more information about keeping playground equipment safe, click here.

SAFE PLAY

Supervision and instruction are critical for ensure a safe play space for all children. Have plenty of adults present to supervise playground activities, whether at recess or outside of school, as this can significantly minimize the risk of serious personal injuries.

A little guidance from teachers and parents to kids can go a long way in keeping them safe during play. Children should be taught to watch for others, to take turns and to use all playground equipment safely and correctly. Avoid promoting contact sports and games which can lead to roughhousing, as these kinds of activities can increase the risk of conflict and injury. Promoting cooperative behaviors at home and in the classroom can lead to better teamwork and more positive play at recess.

With proper supervision and awareness, and a few extra precautions, parents and teachers alike can ensure kids enjoy a recess that is both safe and fun this upcoming school year.

[1] Check out this article from TIME on a study from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

<http://healthland.time.com/2012/12/31/yay-for-recess-pediatricians-say-its-as-important-as-math-or-reading/>.

[2] See “Playground Safety” by Kids Health:  <https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/playground.html>.

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