How to Create a Playground Supervision Plan

Mother supervising on playground

At playgrounds, kids can expand their imaginations and learn valuable skills by interacting with others their age. However, playgrounds can sometimes be unsafe, which hinders the experience for kids of all ages and abilities. That’s where a playground supervision checklist comes in. This safety plan can help ensure anyone who visits your playground has the most enjoyable and safest time possible.

The Importance of Playground Supervision

When kids play on playgrounds, they’re not just enjoying themselves — they’re learning to take risks in a safe place. A quality playground provides kids with an environment that challenges and encourages them to learn new things. By stepping outside of their comfort zones, kids begin to explore their limits and potential. Overall, safe risk-taking helps kids develop physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically.

However, with safe risk-taking comes the potential for injury. As a teacher, parent or guardian, it’s your responsibility to ensure children are testing their limits safely. In the United States, more than 200,000 kids ages 14 and younger visit the emergency room due to playground injuries annually. Fortunately, playground-related injuries are preventable when an effective playground supervision plan is in place.

Building a Playground Supervision Plan

While creating your active supervision checklist for your playground, you need to think about variables like the playground’s setup, best practices for supervision and how you’ll respond to an accident.

1. Set Up the Play Area Properly

When designing and installing the playground, it’s essential to ensure the layout of the play area is safe and easy to monitor. Consider the following items when designing a playground:

  • The size of the play area
  • The different types of play equipment present
  • Playground visibility
  • Ages of kids who will visit the playground

To properly set up a play area, think about the playground’s size. Naturally, larger areas will require more supervision. Additionally, take a look at the types of play equipment that are present. Objects like rock walls or large slides will block the visibility of certain playground areas. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make a note in your playground supervision guidelines to have an adult stationed in another spot where they can view blind spots.

Consider the age ranges of kids who will be using the playground, too. Try to incorporate separate playtimes for different age groups within your playground supervision checklist — kids will play with peers around the same age as them, and older kids can be more active and rambunctious than younger ones. If two age groups play at the same time, pay special attention to how the two groups interact to ensure no problems arise.

father watching daughter on swings

2. Be a Good Role Model

People, especially kids, learn from observation and experience. Therefore, when parents and teachers model good behavior, kids will do the same. If you introduce a set of rules for kids to follow regarding playground safety, parents and teachers should ensure they themselves are following them.

While teachers can’t always directly model some playground behaviors, they can exhibit good behaviors in the classroom by demonstrating patience and empathy. At home, parents can work on developing safe play tactics when they’re playing in the yard with their kids. Ultimately, leading by example is an essential way to increase positive behavior on the playground.

3. Inspect Playground Regularly

Regular playground inspections ensure the play area remains safe for kids. In many cases, school playgrounds are open to the public during non-school hours or have after-school programs that use the playground. Custodians should inspect the playground daily for anything left behind by others that could become hazardous to kids or students, like small objects that can pose choking hazards.

When taking kids out to the playground for recess, teachers should quickly look around the area to ensure the space is ready for play — parents should do the same when taking their kids to the playground outside of school hours. If equipment looks warped, rusty or like it’s shifted since last time, close that area off to kids to prevent potential injury. Then, the appropriate party should further inspect the site and repair or replace it.

4. Respond to an Accident Quickly

In the event that an accident or injury happens, it’s vital you know how to respond to the situation promptly. Constant supervision is key to handling any injury or accident effectively. Below are some of the most common playground injuries that can occur and how to treat them:

  • Scrapes and cuts: Clean the affected area with mild soap and water and apply a band-aid or gauze. Apply a topical antibacterial ointment before covering the injury to avoid infection.
  • Blisters: Don’t pop or break a blister. Instead, gently wash the area with mild soap and water, apply antibacterial ointment and cover it with a band-aid or gauze.
  • Split lip: Apply pressure for five to 10 minutes to stop the bleeding. Then, clean with mild soap and water.
  • Black eye: Apply a cold compress to the affected eye for 10-20 minutes. Don’t apply ice or cold packs directly to the eye.
  • Friction burns: Clean the affected area with mild soap and water. Then, cover with a bandage or gauze.
  • Broken bones: Never move the affected limb. Use anything you can as a makeshift splint and seek professional medical attention immediately.
  • Head injuries: A head injury can be very serious and should be treated with the utmost care. If you notice your student or child having balance, speech problems or unequal pupils, seek medical attention immediately.

To be better prepared for dealing with any of the above injuries, keep a first aid kit stocked with basic medical supplies on hand. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends having the following essential items readily available to you:

  • Various sizes of adhesive bandages
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Soap or antibacterial towelettes
  • Sterile dressings like gauze or medical tape
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Prescriptions if you have a student or child who needs them

With all injuries, you should contact a medical professional or seek emergency treatment if a wound bleeds excessively, looks deep enough to need stitches, signs of infection appear or you notice an unusual amount of swelling around the injury. Additionally, seek medical attention immediately if you notice signs of a concussion after a head injury.

Supervising the Play Area

Supervising the Play Area

Supervising the play area includes various moving parts, all of which are essential to implementing a successful playground safety plan.

1. Provide Constant Supervision

Constant supervision is necessary because no matter how hard you try to avoid them, distractions will arise at some point. If one of your students or kids gets hurt, your attention will focus on them, leaving the other kids unsupervised. That’s why it’s best to have more than one adult present when kids are at the playground.

If you have to divert your attention to a situation you need to handle, you can do so knowing there’s another adult present to keep an eye on things. Your playground supervision guidelines should always make room for more than one adult to be available to help during playtime.

2. Ensure a Proper Child-Adult Ratio

Determining the proper ratio of students and kids to adults ensures everyone is safe. If there are too few adults compared to the kids, there’s a chance some kids or occupied playground areas will go unsupervised, leaving an opportunity for an injury to occur.

While no official ratio is set forth by any organization, there are plenty of recommendations., backed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends having one trained adult present for every 10-12 school-age kids. For preschoolers, they recommend one trained adult supervising no more than six to 10 kids.

3. Create Surveillance Zones

Establish surveillance zones around the playground to ensure all playground areas are supervised. By creating surveillance zones, you can make the job of supervision more manageable. Rather than worrying about monitoring the entire playground, you can focus on watching a specific area while other adults tackle different areas.

4. Avoid Distractions

Avoid distractions as best as you can. There are controllable distractions you can actively avoid to ensure your focus is on maintaining the safety of your students and kids. When supervising kids with other adults, keep conversations to a minimum. If you get too deep into a conversation, you can lose track of supervising the playground. Most importantly, avoid texting, talking or scrolling on your phone when you’re tasked with supervising kids on the playground.

5. Scan and Listen

Constantly scan and listen to what’s happening in and around the play area. When supervising kids on the playground, think of yourself as a searchlight — keep your head on a swivel so you can pay attention to everything happening around you. If you’re keeping an eye on one area of the playground for too long, you could completely miss something happening in another area.

Listen for signs of trouble, too. If you hear raised voices from kids, begin to make your way over to that area to ensure there’s no conflict between anyone. If there is, diffuse the situation and demonstrate patience and empathy to the kids so they can learn proper problem-solving skills in a social environment.

6. Stay Moving

Monitor your designated surveillance zone from all angles so you can successfully supervise everyone under your care. Just like keeping your head on a swivel, moving around ensures you’re leaving no room for an unsupervised kid. By moving around, you’re also making your presence known to kids on the playground, further deterring any potential bad behavior they might try to engage in when they think you aren’t there.

7. Identify Blind Spots

Look for any blind spots on the playground, making a note of them in your playground supervision checklist. As we mentioned earlier, it’s important that you take into account the kinds of play equipment you have. Rock walls and other large objects can block certain views of the playground and create blind spots in your supervision.

If you notice particular areas of the playground that you can’t adequately supervise from one location, establish an additional surveillance zone in a spot where another trained adult can watch over it. By identifying blind spots, you can enjoy peace of mind that your students and children are being supervised at all times.

Kid help peer in wheelchair

Teaching Kids About Playground Safety

A good playground supervision plan encourages kids to practice playground safety themselves, even when adults are present. Adults can’t be everywhere at once, so teaching kids about safety while playing is another excellent way to mitigate the possibility of injury.

One of the most important rules you can teach kids when it comes to playground safety is patience. Enforcing the simple “wait your turn” rule can deter accidents caused by too many kids being on a piece of play equipment, like someone going down a slide before the previous kid has cleared the bottom.

Playgrounds are vast and unique, with plenty of different play areas. Of course, these play areas all come with their own risks, so remember to teach your students and children about practicing safe habits in different play areas.

Slides are a staple of playgrounds. You can ensure kids are being safe on and around them by teaching kids to:

  • Go down the slide one at a time
  • Always go down the slide sitting forward with your feet first
  • Don’t slide down until the previous person is clear of the bottom
  • Don’t climb up the slide or on the edges of it

Swing sets are exhilarating for kids — who doesn’t love having the sensation of flying through the air? Teach kids to be safe on and around swing sets by reminding them to:

  • Walk a safe distance away from kids on the swing set to avoid being hit or knocked over
  • Always hold on with both hands while swinging
  • Never jump off the swings

Monkey bars, jungle gyms and other climbing sets are great play objects that allow kids to stretch their imaginations. Remind kids to be safe on and around them by teaching kids to:

  • Always use both hands when climbing
  • Avoid standing under kids who are climbing on the equipment
  • When jumping down or dropping from the bars, make sure to land on both feet with your knees bent

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Stay Safe With Miracle Recreation

When installing playground equipment, Miracle Recreation is committed to keeping kids safe. We set up play areas to meet or exceed safety performance specifications established by ASTM International, CPSC, CSA and EN. We take great pride in creating playground equipment that provides safe, positive play experiences for your kids and students.

Miracle Recreation is committed to helping you design and build playgrounds that promote imagination and fun, so kids can have unique learning experiences. We want to help you create a playground your kids and students will love. To learn more about how we can improve outdoor play at your school or neighborhood, contact us or request a quote today!