Outdoor Learning Environments and Risk Management 2011-05-23آ  Approximation of the maximum fall height

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  • Outdoor Learning Environments and

    Risk Management

    2011 Birth To Three Institute Bethann Smith

    Kansas I/T and Education Manager

  • 2


    Become knowledgeable of children’s abilities, linking domains with outdoor environments. Gain knowledge of Safety Recommendations for children ages 6 months to 4 years. Be aware of outdoor environment hazards to reduce the severity of life & debilitating injuries.

  • Outdoor Time - Reduced

    • Emphasis on academic learning has led to changes in some programs.

    • Research indicates that removing outdoor play may actually undermine intended achievement-oriented outcomes.

    • Play enhances attention, memory, self-regulation, and overall academic achievement throughout childhood .

    • (Castelli, et. al., 2007; Pellegrini, & Bohn, 2005).


  • Physical Play

    Research studies have determined that play contributes to cognitive, perceptual and language development.

    It has been long understood by educators and developmental scientists that motor play contributes to healthy physical development.

  • Quality Outdoor Learning Space

    Quality outdoor environments must be challenging to promote children learning.

    The highest predictor of increased physical activity level in young children is the quality of the program they are enrolled in.


  • Infant and Toddlers

    An important intellectual accomplishment of the first 2 years of life is learning about cause and effect.

    As babies develop they differentiate between actions & consequences and intentionally make things occur.

    Motor play contributes to this thinking.

    Infants solve problems by using “tools” to achieve their goals.


  • Moving and Thinking

    Young children’s motor development is a powerful predictor of cognitive abilities in the elementary years (Piek, et. al., 2008). Movement is tied to processing speed and memory.

    Why? Movement facilitates the development of new connections (synapses) among brain cells & the overall organization of the brain.

    (Gabbard, 1998; Rakison, & Woodward, 2008).


  • Selection of Motor Play Equipment

    Researchers believe… Equipment should be chosen to carry out specific activities that meet motor learning goals.


  • Movement More parts of the brain are activated when children are moving. Activates the part that allows the processing of visual information (visual association cortex). Develops the ability to accurately interpret information being received by different senses at the same time. Promotes the ability to coordinate the different regions responsible for sensory-based learning.


  • Moving & Social-Emotional Development

    Toddlers are; • Becoming more expressive. • Learning about others…feelings,

    temperament and abilities. • Beginning making friends. • Beginning acceptance or rejection by

    peers. • Beginning to see conflicts. • Beginning verbally expressing feelings.


  • Children with Disabilities

    Adults should model motor behaviors for children.

    More complex movements may require direct guidance and instruction particularly for children with disabilities.


  • Equipment Used by Several Children

    Enhances social development of children with intellectual disabilities, and visual impairments.

    …Rocking boats, swings, tubes children can crawl through.


  • Age of Children

    Younger children require more attentive supervision and assistance on how to use equipment.


  • Travel Patterns

    Children’s brains are focused on emerging or refining motor skills

    May not be focused on safety (running in front of a swing) .

    Balance…going up is easier than coming down.


  • Public Playground Risk Management

    Very few states have regulations that are law. Goal is to reduce life-threatening and debilitating injuries. Reduce lawsuits. Identify non-compliant or damaged playground environment. Show good intent to the public.


  • General Playground Considerations

    Toddlers 6 months to 24 months Preschoolers 24 months to 5 years School Agers 5 years to12 years

    NO hope of having injury-free play areas! Knowledge & application improve safety!


  • Playground Injury Overview

    More than 220,000 US, children 2 to 12 years are injured annually

    76% occur on Public Playgrounds 45% on school sites 10% in commercial daycare 31% on park sites

    24% on Residential Playgrounds


  • Playground Injuries

    79% of Injuries are FALLS 68% to surface 10% to other parts of the equipment 1% to unknown reasons

    11% of injuries are Caused by Impact 8% Impact with stationary equipment 3% Impact with moving equipment 10% Miscellaneous causes


  • Causes of Death & Debilitating Injuries

    Cause of death in order;

    1. Entanglement (clothing, strings or ropes).

    2. Falls to hard underlying surfaces. 3. Head and neck entrapment in

    equipment openings. 4. Impact by tipped or loose

    equipment, or moving swings. 19

  • Priority 1 Hazard

    Safety Goal - Reduce the number & severity of life threatening & debilitating injuries.


  • Risks and Hazards

    Risk is a challenge that involves a choice by the user

    Hazard is something unknown, hidden, unforeseen, or unexpected

    Children are not expected to be aware of hazards….

    That is Our Job!!! 21

  • Factors for Injuries

    Improper use of equipment and poor supervision - 44% of injuries Poor maintenance of surfaces or equipment Inappropriate designs -71% Equipment installation issues – 6% Site planning issues

    Drainage Swing location


  • Playground Supervisors Must

    Understand the basics of playground safety. Be aware not all equipment is appropriate for children of all ages. Realize younger children require more attentive supervision. Know what the posted signage at the entrances of the playground says.


  • General Playground Considerations

    Age Separation Separate areas should be provided for all ages of children.

    Site Lines Playgrounds for different age groups should be visible from younger children's area.


  • Site Selection Considerations

    Travel Patterns Vehicular traffic,

    Lakes – ponds - streams

    Cliffs - drop-offs - contaminated areas

    Site well drained - no standing water

    Sun Exposure and Shading Locate in shaded areas or provide man-made shelters

    Provide warning labels about potential burn 25

  • Not Recommended

    For Any Age…

    Swinging Gates or Doors Trapeze Bars Multiple Occupancy Swings Swinging Exercise Rings


  • Not Recommended

    Under 2 years Balance Beams

    Log Rolls

    Horizontal Ladders

    Track Rides

    Parallel Bars


  • Platforms No higher than 32” from the ground.

    Stepped Platforms – Maximum height between platforms of 7” If space between platforms is less than 7”, infill should be used to reduce the space to < 3”


  • Access to Equipment

    Easiest to most difficult egress

    1. Ramps/Slope < 1 to 8; Width 19” 2. Straight stairways – Slope ≤ 35 degrees 3. Step ladders – used with 15 months and



  • Playground Considerations


  • Guardrails and Barriers

    Guardrails Not recommended for Toddlers Barriers must be a minimum of 24” high

    Used on all elevated walking surfaces above 18”, however do not apply if the barrier would interfere with the intended use of the equipment such as climbing equipment. Fall height of layered platforms should be 7” or less


  • Playground Considerations


  • Playground Surfacing Considerations


  • Critical Height

    Approximation of the maximum fall height from which a life-threatening head injury would not be expected to occur.


  • Surfaces (Unitary or Loose Fill) Materials should not be used over hard surfaces.

    Acceptable Unacceptable Rubber Matting Grass Sand Dirt Shredded Wood Products Water

    Concrete Asphalt Gravel

    Refer to manufacturer for equipment requirements. 35

  • Play Equipment “Use Zone”

    Area beneath and immediately adjacent to a play structure.

    Must meet criteria for; Critical Height in relation to the fall height of the equipment. Placement under and around play equipment. Use zone must have an accessible route of travel per ADA/ABA.


  • Labels and Signs

    Label Warnings





  • What is Wrong with this Playground?


  • To and F