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Playground Rules and Guidelines for a Safe and Fun Experience

How Parents & Teachers Can Help Make Playtime Fun

If you have a playground, you need safety rules for outdoor play. While not everyone associates rules with fun, the right playground rules for schools and other recreation areas can teach kids how to play on the playground while keeping safe so they can have a great time. The right playground rules and safety regulations, implemented correctly, can promote inclusiveness and good manners at the playground — and beyond. A playground can be a safe space for kids to learn valuable skills that will last a lifetime.

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Why Having Rules and Equipment Guidelines is Important

Playground rules and safety regulations offer numerous benefits. They clearly outline safe and appropriate behaviors, ensuring everyone understands the do’s and don’ts.

Having clearly defined rules also creates expectations, ensuring every user of a play area know what they should be doing.

In many cases, having rules posted can help children feel more comfortable about reporting bullying and wrongdoing. Posted rules mean children are given a voice of some authority. They can feel confident knowing when someone does something wrong, and they can give voice to that issue.

Playground rules are also important for discipline. If someone is acting in a dangerous or harmful way, having clear rules makes it easier to remove them for the safety of other children on the playground. No one can claim they didn’t know the behavior was not allowed, because the rules are clear. Clear regulations can also help reduce your liability and make it easier to explain what is expected, ensuring teachers or other caregivers are not accused of favoritism. Explicitly stated rules are much easier to enforce.

Increase Playground Safety

Promoting safety is a primary reason for posting guidelines. Specific equipment may pose risks if not used correctly, and having set safety rules for outdoor play informs everyone about the proper usage. Written information reinforces safety guidelines, reducing the likelihood of forgetfulness. Considering the importance of minimizing playground injuries, rules play a vital role in creating a safer environment.

To that end, it can be helpful to implement some guidelines for adults on the playground. Make sure parents and caregivers know that they should:

  • Actively supervise children on the playground to make sure they’re following the rules and playing safely.
  • Wear proper attire that won’t get caught on equipment — and make sure kids are doing the same.
  • Help kids choose age-appropriate play equipment to engage with.

Foster Valuable Life Skills

Playground rules for children are also important because kids are learning skills they’ll use in their everyday lives. Children need structure and guidelines to thrive, from classroom rules to set schedules for baths and bedtime. Universal rules for outdoor play are key to creating consistency. A playground can create a safe, controlled environment where kids can learn and grow at their own pace while having so much fun they don’t even realize it.

Many playground rules that are in place for safety can also teach kids valuable lessons. When kids line up to use equipment, they learn about the importance of taking turns. They can develop time management skills here as well — if there’s a long line for a particular piece of equipment at the start of playtime, kids can choose to play somewhere else and come back when it’s less crowded to spend less time waiting overall.

Early childhood is the ideal time to start building these skills, even if kids can’t put a name to them yet.

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Behaviors That Teachers, Parents, and Other Caregivers Should Encourage

When creating the rules for your playground, you will want to create regulations which promote certain types of positive behaviors.

When crafting playground rules, promoting positive behaviors is key:

1. Communication

Good communication can help encourage inclusivity and is important for childhood development. Helping children communicate more effectively can also help keep them safer on and off the playground.

2. Verbal conflict resolution

Exclusion, bullying, and conflict most often happen when children disagree about something. Unfortunately, playground disagreements are bound to happen. Kids may disagree about sharing, taking turns, or playing together. On the playground, children may still be learning social skills such as conflict resolution, so setting rules which help with this skill can be very useful in keeping the play area more welcoming and in teaching kids an important life skill.

3. Sharing

Playgrounds mean sharing play spaces, equipment, attention, and time. Rules such as “no pushing” or “no staying on a piece of playground equipment for more than ten minutes if there is someone waiting” set clear limits and help turn the general ideas of “sharing” into something kids can understand.

4. Personal space

Personal space, like sharing, can be a challenging concept for kids to grasp. Clear rules about maintaining personal space help children build social skills and ensure everyone feels more comfortable in the play area. Rules which encourage personal space also encourage inclusivity by ensuring that everyone is comfortable while playing on the playground.

5. Collaboration

Play is much more fun when it’s a team effort and rules which encourage kids to work together can help kids learn how to play on the playground together and even learn new ways of using the play area.

Behaviors That Teachers, Parents, and Caregivers Should Discourage

Certain behaviors warrant discouragement:

1. Roughhousing

Creating rules which reduce roughhousing and play fighting is important to improve safety on the playground. Shoving, pushing and other similar behaviors can seem harmless but can easily lead to falls and serious injuries. Rougher forms of games and play can also encourage aggression and can make it harder to draw the line to prevent bullying. Creating rules to prevent physical abuse keeps everyone safe.

2. Teasing and name-calling

While words don’t leave physical marks, they can hurt as much as a push or a shove. Name-calling can quickly escalate to more dangerous forms of bullying and can impact self-esteem and confidence. Teasing and hurtful words can lead to exclusion and hurt feelings that last long after the words have been spoken.

3. Exclusion

Excluding kids on the playground can make them vulnerable to bullying and can create a negative dynamic. Removing exclusion from your play space encourages a sense of collaboration and community, which helps keep kids happy and healthy.

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8 Playground Safety Rules

Playground rules and safety go hand in hand. Rules make expectations clear and can help reduce liability as well as the risk of injury. They make it clear to children what they should and should not do, helping them build the skills they need both on the playground and in life. By making regulations clear, it also becomes easier to explain safety rules for outdoor play and allows children to feel confident they are doing the right thing.

Consider these safety rules to create a secure playground environment:

1. Supervision: It is estimated that over 40% of playground injuries are linked to inadequate supervision. Ensure an adult accompanies children on the playground, preventing injuries and bullying. Having adults watching also encourages children to try their best to get along and to take turns.

2. Clothing guidelines: Prohibit oversized or hazardous clothing to prevent accidents, such as strangulation. Untied shoes, jackets with cords, loose hoods and sleeves, costume capes and just about any clothes with drawstrings or loose elements can pose a hazard. Inappropriate shoes can also cause them to slip on rungs and climbing equipment, so make the rules about appropriate clothing clear.

Parents and caregivers should also follow this rule, removing purses, scarves, and jewelry that could easily catch on the equipment. Doing so is important because adults should model playground rules for children, and they may need to step in and get close to the equipment while supervising.

Children Should Only Use Equipment Intended for Their Age

3. Age-appropriate equipment usage: Enforce rules for using equipment designed for specific age groups to avoid accidents. Maybe you need to develop playground rules and safety regulations for preschoolers ages 2-5 or elementary-aged students ages 5-12. Be clear about stating age ranges, because play equipment designed for older kids can be dangerous for younger kids. If your playground is not designed to separate different ages, make sure your rules clearly indicate which age groups can play on which pieces of equipment.

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4. Cautious climbing: Emphasize careful use of climbing equipment to prevent falls and overcrowding. Any piece of playground equipment which is at a height can create a danger of falls if used incorrectly. Though serious injuries from falls have become less common over the last decade, they’re still a hazard to watch out for. Safety precautions can go a long way toward continuing the trend of fewer fall injuries.

5. No running or tag near equipment: Minimize the risk of collisions and falls by prohibiting running around playground equipment. Having kids walk can help ensure there’s no rush and no collisions, creating a safer space.

6. Avoiding crowding during play: Encourage awareness and consideration to prevent accidental kicks or impacts. When a child is going down a slide or starting to swing, they need to check to ensure there isn’t a child who they will impact with. When climbing on a climber or up a ladder, they also need to check to ensure there isn’t someone in the way.

7. Checking equipment condition: Teach children to inspect equipment for safety before use, reporting any issues to adults. On a hot day, some playground equipment can become hot enough to cause burns. On a cold day, it can be cold enough to cause injuries to hands and other exposed skin. Wet playground equipment, especially rungs and climbers, can be uncomfortable and can also be unsafe.

8. Proper equipment usage: Emphasize using equipment as intended to prevent injuries and ensure safe play. When children slide down a slide sideways, upside down, or with limbs hanging over the sides, for instance, they can suffer abrasions, sprains, fractures, and other serious injuries. When climbers are not used as intended, falls can happen. Reminding children how equipment should be used encourages them to have fun in safe ways which reduce the risk of injury.

School Playground Rules

Whether preschool or elementary, schools must set guidelines so that everyone can enjoy the playground safely and respectfully. Additional rules for school playgrounds include:

  1. Weather-appropriate clothing: Encourage suitable attire for weather conditions.
  2. Listening to teachers: Follow directions and stay within designated play areas.
  3. Inclusivity: Welcome everyone to play and be kind and respectful to others.
  4. Turn-taking: Promote waiting for turns on swings, slides, and other equipment.
  5. Stop, look, and listen: Follow instructions for coming inside.
  6. No personal toys: Discourage bringing toys from home to recess.

Common Behavioral Playground Rules for Children

There are some common playground rules for outdoor play that all children should follow to create a positive atmosphere for themselves and their peers. The playground can be an excellent place for children to learn how to get along well with others and regulate their own behavior.

Consider these three universal rules for outdoor play as guidelines for the playground as a whole. These common rules are essential for safety as well as early development of key social skills.

1. No physical violence: Zero-tolerance for pushing, shoving, or hitting to ensure a safe and inclusive playground.

No Teasing, Bullying, or Saying Unkind Words.

2. No verbal abuse: Discourage teasing, bullying, or unkind words for respectful interactions.

3. Turn-taking: Encourage patience in waiting for equipment use to prevent overcrowding.

Additional Things to Consider When Creating Playground Rules

The best playground rules are those which are adapted for your specific playground and for the children who play there. When creating your list of guidelines for your play space, be sure to consider:

  • What is your location like? Consider the terrain of your playground as well as the climate. If your playground is located in an area with long winters, you may need to have regulations about winter safety. If you are in an area near open water, you may need to have rules about approaching the water without adult supervision.
  • What is your community? Consider whether you want to post your rules in English as well as another language, whether you want to include a strong visual component, and whether you want to have braille rules, too.
  • Where will the rules go? A brightly colored sign at the front of your playground entrance ensures everyone can see the regulations as they enter. Making them eye-catching can increase the likelihood they will be read.
  • How much can you streamline the rules? Having dozens of rules is overwhelming and few people will remember more than a few. Try to be as succinct as possible. Take a look at the rules posted on other playgrounds to get inspiration.
  • What types of playground equipment do you have? Consider whether any equipment needs its own signs and rules. You can place these next to specific pieces of play equipment and have general rules for the entire play space.
  • Have you seen any problems which should be addressed with a new rule? Rules can change. If you notice a problem, you can address that in your rules or even add a rule to make it clear what play space users need to do to keep everyone safe.

Inclusive Playgrounds Encourage Safe and Fun Play for Everyone

If you want to create a playground that allows everyone to have fun while staying safe, you may want to look beyond rules, too. Rules can be a great way to build a foundation, but the very design of your play space can have a direct impact on safety. Creating an inclusive playground can help promote peaceful, fun, and safe play for a number of reasons:

  • Collaborative play: By definition, inclusive playgrounds are designed for all children, not just children with specific needs or children with no mobility or other conditions. This sort of inclusion can encourage children to work and play together, which can help reduce the risk of exclusion and even playground aggression, creating a safer space for all kids.
  • Learning from differences: Inclusive playgrounds let children get to know and play alongside children who are different from them. This can potentially help build respect and empathy, which in turn can help children to think of others and to play more carefully.
  • Reduce wait times: Inclusive playgrounds do not create a separate area for kids who are different in any way, which means that the pieces of equipment are not reserved for just some kids. Moreover, inclusive play equipment is designed to be used by kids in different ways, ensuring children can use more of the play equipment on the playground. With more fun equipment to choose from, kids may not be crowding around the few same activities, which can reduce wait times and lineups and the resulting frustration. Kids get to play more and have more options to explore. This approach is more fun, and it can mean fewer problems with lines and sharing.
  • Peaceful play: Inclusive playgrounds have quiet spaces for kids who may become overwhelmed and equipment that is safe for children of all ages and abilities. These quiet spaces and variety can help naturally discouraged roughhousing and can create a more peaceful play space.

Create an Inclusive Play Space With Little Tikes Commercial

If you’re interested in signs for rules or inclusive playgrounds which help you create the best possible experience for all children, contact Little Tikes Commercial today to help you create the right play space or browse our site furnishings, including signs and other accessories to make your play area welcoming.

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Related Pages:

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Playground Safety Surfacing

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