This is the final of three blog posts discussing the hazards that justify fencing playgrounds for toddlers and preschoolers. The first one covered traffic, and the second one talked about dogs. Today’s post is about water.
I really feel like this is a bit of a no-brainer: access to water is clearly a hazard for small children – so much so that the Government focuses considerable attention on the issue. Here’s what the watersafety.org website says about under-fives:
Pre-schooler drownings typically occur when a child is allowed out of sight and reach of a caregiver; in the bath, paddling pool, or bucket – or larger bodies of water such as in a beach, lake or river.
No children under-five should be drowning in this country.
Keep under fives within arm’s reach at all times.
It only takes sixty seconds and around five centimetres of water for a child to drown.
- Always empty and store paddling pools and water containers after use and ensure you have a safely fenced play area.
- Identify water hazards in and around your home and ensure your children can’t reach them.
- If you’re in a group of people, ensure you have an active supervision roster so you know who is watching the children at all times.
- Make sure older children don’t have to take responsibility for younger children.
- Teach your children water safety behaviour from as soon as they are old enough to understand, things like: “Never go near the water unless you’re with a grown up”.
So, the Government itself acknowledges that larger bodies of water represent a risk to children, and that a safely fenced play area should be provided. And yet our councils are not prevented from building unfenced playgrounds near beaches and lakes… does anybody else see the contradiction here?
And yes, the advice to keep children within arm’s reach around water is obviously helpful, unless your child is running around at a playground, in which case it’s not particularly practical.
Plunket’s section on water safety also emphasises the need for constant supervision, but – as I’ve already discussed in other blog posts – that isn’t conducive to children actually playing. Wouldn’t it be easier for all concerned to ensure that, while at a playground, kids couldn’t wander in the direction of water?
The biggest contradiction regarding unfenced playgrounds near water lies in the fact that, under the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act 1987, it is illegal to have an unfenced pool on a private property. In other words, private citizens are being held to a higher safety standard than councils, who face no such restriction.
We are fortunate enough to live near several beautiful beaches, and one of our favourites – Castor Bay – has a playground right next to the beach. I don’t think my children’s enjoyment of that playground would be diminished if it was fenced. And the lack of consistency regarding the fencing of playgrounds near water is very confusing. When we were on holiday in Napier last summer we loved the superb fenced playground on Beach Domain:
But why is the lovely playground at Spriggs Park unfenced, given that it shares a similar kind of location (between a road and a beach)?
Now that I’ve highlighted the three main playground-related hazards, it’s time to name (and shame) the great fenced playgrounds and the playgrounds that parents actively avoid. Look out for those posts very soon!
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