This blog post identifies the three hazards that, I believe, justify the presence of a fence around a playground used by toddlers and preschoolers.

The three hazards are:

  • Traffic
  • Water
  • Dogs

Although there aren’t specific statistics available regarding incidences involving young children being affected by these hazards while in a public playground, there is data discussing the degree to which the hazards affect New Zealand children more generally – and this demonstrates that we are justified in being concerned about them.

I also strongly suspect that parents actively avoid specific playgrounds because of nearby hazards, which obviously affects the likelihood of children being involved in accidents near those playgrounds. I know that I have avoided many playgrounds on the North Shore for that reason, especially those that are near roads, and many parents have told me they’ve done this too. I will launch a short survey very soon to canvass how parents regarding their playground use, and it will be interesting to see if the data supports my theory. If I’m correct, this could mean that our councils are investing in playgrounds that are totally under-utilised, because hazards near them reduce the likelihood of parents of young children using them.

I’ll discuss each of the hazards in separate blog posts within the next couple of days, but first, let’s look at what Plunket has to say, since it is known and respected throughout New Zealand as a sensible voice on all matters relevant to babies and young children.

Here’s the Plunket website’s language regarding safety while out and about:


Out & about

  • any car seat is suitable for your child’s weight and size is always used
  • discuss simple road safety messages with your child and they are supervised at all times around traffic
  • your child’s play area is fenced and away from the driveway
  • swimming/spa pool fencing complies with the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act
  • your child uses a sunscreen and hat and that they are encouraged to play in the shade.  The Cancer Society recommends sun protection when the UV Index is 3 or higher. This occurs from September to the beginning of April, especially between 10am and 4pm, even on cloudy/cooler days.


 

It’s good to see two clear references to fencing. With regard to play areas the website doesn’t specify whether Plunket is referring to private land or public land, and I’ll be approaching them for clarification, but logic would suggest that, if Plunket cares about the importance of separating children’s play areas from cars with a fence at home, it would be odd to not also care about separating public play areas from cars as well. Similarly, as Plunket recognises the importance of using fences to protect children from water on private property, surely an understanding that children should be similarly protected from water on public land might also apply?

And here’s what Plunket has to say about dogs:


What children need to know about dogs

Teach your child:

  • not all dogs are as friendly as their own dog.
  • how to understand ‘dog language’ (why dogs behave the way they do, and how they might be protecting their property or the family).
  • to ask the owner’s permission before patting a dog
  • to be ‘like a stone’ if they fall over, or a dog knocks them to the ground
  • to be ‘as still as a statue’ if a dog rushes at them

 

That’s all excellent advice, and I’ll certainly look to follow it with my own children, but I do wonder whether young children are likely to remember to fall like a stone or be as still as a statue if a strange dog approaches them – I know from my kids that their reaction is more likely to involve them freaking out and trying to get to me as quickly as possible (and we had a lovely, gentle dog until they were two and a half, so they’re not strangers to all things canine). Wouldn’t it be easier to just separate dogs from dogs’ playgrounds, rather than relying on young children to have sufficient presence of mind to remember what to do?

Three hazards post.jpg

In short, it’s clear to see that Plunket recognises that traffic, water, and dogs are all hazards for younger children. In the next three posts I’ll examine each of those hazards in more detail.


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