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Safe play for your kids

A trip to your local playground should be a fun and safe adventure for you and your kids. Don Keenan, of the Keenan’s Kid’s Foundation, offers some playground safety advice and shares a look at his Playground Report Card.
/ Source: TODAY

A family outing to the local playground should be a joyful time for all kids and parents, but when playgrounds are unsafe, it can turn into a family’s worst nightmare. On NBC’s “Today” show, attorney Don Keenan, head of “Keenan’s Kid’s Foundation,” discusses his organization’s playground report card and shares some playground safety tips for parents. Learn more about the report card and playground safety below.

During the past two decades, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) statistics have shown a dramatic increase in playground-related injuries. It is estimated that each year more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are injured on America’s playgrounds (76 percent on public playgrounds and 23 percent on home playground equipment). Falls are by far the leading cause of injuries on playgrounds.

Accidents happen on playgrounds around the world, and kids get injured every day, however when those accidents can be prevented, it’s always important to take note. Most of the attention usually goes to the actual playground equipment, however attention should also be paid to the environmental details surrounding the playground as well.

History shows there are 10 areas in playgrounds where kids can get killed or seriously injured. The Playground Report Card was created to provide a common sense safety report that children and their parents can do together, which can be easily communicated to government authorities. All you basically need is a report card, a red pen or magic marker, a throw away camera and a bucket full of common sense and you’re in business. If parents find a failing grade they should immediately notify the park authorities and subscribe to the “squeaky wheel” theory, which is to continue to complain until they fix it. The subjects that get the F’s are not just inconvenience things, they’re life-endangering or injury-preventable circumstances.The reason why the report is pass/fail is that when you’re talking about a life-endangering defect, there’s no gray area.


Here’s what the playground report card looks like:



(Each item should be graded: P=Pass/F=Fail.)


1. CONDITION of equipment:

2. SURFACES must be smooth:

3. TRIP hazards eliminated:

4. TIPPING of equipment prevented:

5. FALL ZONES adequate:

6. GAPS or SPACES absent:



9. SURFACE AREAS safe and uniform:


CONDITION of equipment:

Check for broken or missing components, or any damaged structure.

Is the paint on equipment chipping or peeling?

Are the swing seats constructed of heavy or rigid materials (wood, metal, etc.)?

SURFACES must be smooth:

Are the equipment surfaces smooth? Check for sharp points, corners, edges, nails, splinters etc.

TRIP hazards eliminated:

Are there any trip hazards? Check for exposed footings, anchoring devices, or environmental obstacles.

TIPPING of equipment prevented:

Check the foundations of slides, monkey bars, swings, etc.: is the equipment properly secured to prevent tipping?

FALL ZONES adequate:

Check for equipment foundations in a fall zone surrounding or under the equipment. Look closely for buried foundations that still may pose a threat.

GAPS or SPACES absent:

Are there any gaps or spaces in the equipment? Examine all S-hooks on swings: you should not be able to insert a dime or credit card into the space; look for gaps or protrusions in slide areas, elevated walks, etc. that could snag clothing or allow a child’s limbs to be caught while playing.


Check the playground for any electrical wires supplying or passing through the play area. Are there any exposed wires in or around the playground?


Are there trees in or around the playground? Look closely for evidence of dead or dying branches overhanging or surrounding the play area.


What is the surface under and around the play equipment? (Circle below)

Wood Chips





Does the surface cover the play area uniformly? Check for erosion in high traffic areas, or grass/dirt exposed through playground surface.

Does the surface material extend at least 6’ from the equipment?

For slides: surface must extend the height of the slide, plus four feet

For swings: surface must extend twice the height in front as well as behind the swings


Are there any animal swings, swinging trapeze bars, or unsecured climbing ropes?

To learn more about the Keenan’s Kid’s Foundation, you can visit Don Keenan’s Web site at: