Extension and Ag Research News


Prairie Fare: Kids Need to Play Hard but Safely

Now is the time to begin checking both backyard and community playground equipment.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

“Mom, there are kids at the playground,” my 5-year-old daughter said as she peeked out our front window at the nearby playground.

“I think it’s a little muddy yet,” I said as I swept the floor.

“Mom, look into my eyes. Those kids are having lots of fun at the playground!” she exclaimed, tugging on my sleeve.

My daughter is not too subtle with her hints. She knows how to get my attention, too.

“OK, put your boots on,” I said.

Actually, the playground wasn’t too muddy. The area under the slide and swings was covered with a thick layer of wood chips, which was a good thing from a safety perspective.

As I learned from our playground excursion, wood chips provide a soft landing and they’re easier to sweep from floors than mud.

Now is the time to begin checking both backyard playground equipment and community playground equipment. We want to encourage kids to enjoy the warmer spring weather with some outdoor fitness activities, but not get hurt in the process.

More than 200,000 playground injuries that require emergency room visits occur each year in the U.S.

According to Safe Kids USA (http://www.usa.safekids.org), children ages 5 to 9 account for more than half of all playground-related injuries. Children ages 4 and under are more likely to suffer injuries to the head and face, while children ages 5 to 14 are more likely to suffer hand and arm injuries.

A study by NDSU Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences professor Tom Barnhart and his students showed that of 19 playgrounds tested, nearly 55 percent failed to meet safety requirements for surfacing.

Children who fall on concrete or asphalt are more than twice as likely to be injured, compared with children who fall on shock-absorbing material.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends a minimum of 12 inches of loose-fill surfacing under and around public playground equipment to reduce the risk of potentially life-threatening injuries from falls.

Home playgrounds should have an initial fill level of 12 inches. Due to wear, some compression will occur. Levels should be maintained at a minimum of 9 inches. Loose-fill surfaces are displaced easily with use. Regular maintenance is required for all playground equipment, including the protective surfacing on the playground.

You can learn more about playground safety from an NDSU Extension Service publication, “Is Your Playground Safe for Kids?” The publication provides information about surfacing materials that are best for playgrounds and details how those surfaces are tested. It also provides a checklist for monitoring the condition of your playground equipment. The publication is available online at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/fitness/fn1374color.pdf.

After playing hard, kids might want a snack, such as fruit with this tasty dip. For more information about food and fitness, visit the NDSU “Eat Smart. Play Hard” Web site at http://www.ndsu.edu/eatsmart for recipes and meal-planning information for parents, caregivers and kids.

Fruit Dip

2 c. low-fat sour cream

1-ounce package sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix

1/4 c. fat-free milk

4 tsp. lemon juice

Assorted fruit (apple and pear slices, strawberries, grapes)

Whisk together all ingredients until well blended. Refrigerate. Wash and cut fruit. Serve.

Makes eight servings (1/4 cup per serving). Each serving has 90 calories, 5 grams (g) of fat, 7 g of carbohydrate and 4 g of protein.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)

NDSU Agriculture Communication

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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