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With summer in full swing, most parents are very aware of the safety precautions needed to enjoy the sun and fun. We pack the sunblock, hydrate the children faithfully and frequently, are extra-vigilant near water, and sign up the kids for pool safety and swim lessons, but do you think twice before letting your child hop onto the playground equipment at the local park? In summer’s higher temperatures, and sometimes even when the mercury isn’t that high, playground equipment can become dangerously hot to the touch.

The numbers are alarming, even early in the day; surface temperatures of playground equipment can reach over 130 degrees. Artificial turf fields and black rubber ‘safety’ mats and padding commonly used in play areas are just as dangerous, with documented temperatures over 140 degrees, around the temperature of a hot cup of coffee. Human skin begins to burn at 124 degrees Fahrenheit, and children’s delicate skin is even more susceptible.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), between the years of 2001 and 2008, twenty-nine children in the United States alone suffered completely preventable burns from contact with playground equipment. Sadly, most parks and recreations departments around the country do not post warnings about the potential risk of burns to playground users, so it falls to the conscientious parent to keep some simple safety tips in mind.

  1. Do a quick ‘touch test’ on any equipment your child intends to use before you let them jump in for the fun.
  2. Whenever possible, choose a park that has plenty of shade…and still do the touch test first.
  3. Make sure your child always leaves their shoes on while playing at an outdoor facility.
  4. If you choose to build a play structure at your own home, choose the shadiest spot possible and monitor its temperature just as you would at any public park.

Cherished memories of summer fun in the great outdoors are a staple of childhood, and we want our children’s experiences to be full of happiness and adventure. Adding one more simple precaution to their outdoor routines can help insure that your child doesn’t suffer a painful and needless injury this summer vacation.

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