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'Safety-First' Playgrounds Linked to Bored, Inactive Kids: Study
Date:1/4/2012

ng as 3 years old," Copeland said. "Children learn on the playground -- they learn about nature, weather and the seasons, motion, concepts of distance and speed, and cause and effect. They learn how to negotiate and talk with their peers. And they learn fundamental gross motor skills, like how to throw and catch a ball, and how to skip."

And it's also a case of sluggish bodies make sluggish minds. "Research has shown that children can concentrate and learn better after brief periods of vigorous activity," Copeland noted.

Angela Mickalide, director of research and programs for Safe Kids Worldwide, called the new study "thought-provoking," but said it lacked epidemiologic information on injuries that do occur from playground equipment. "A kid with a traumatic brain injury or fracture is going to be even less active," she noted.

Nearly 220,000 kids aged 14 and under were treated in emergency departments for playground-equipment injuries in 2009, according to a Safe Kids fact sheet. And in children aged 4 and under, most traumatic brain injuries happen on the playground.

Mickalide said that among the most dangerous for young children are "old playgrounds with slides at inclines greater than 45 degrees, climbers that are 8 or 10 feet off the ground, and monkey bars much higher than kids should be on, but without a soft surface underneath."

Safety measures like decreasing equipment height and using protective surfaces like shredded rubber and wood chips in "fall zones" have markedly reduced injury risk, as have state laws requiring conformance to safety guidelines, according to Safe Kids.

It's not always equipment design at issue. Other factors can include "inappropriate behavior on the playground," Mickalide said. "Not playing on soft surfaces. Allowing kids to play on equipment meant for older children. Playing on equipment that gets too hot, or is splintered or damaged. Kids who aren't actively supervised."

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