As playgrounds are set for reopening or new playgrounds that were constructed are now ready to serve as play hosts, the pandemic still lingers. With the lingering pandemic, playground health and safety is of the prime importance. Kaboom.org has shared its guidance to promote safe usage of playgrounds.
Developing the Guidance for Reopening Playgrounds
- As public health authorities determine when playgrounds can reopen, the question is how to do so safely while emphasizing public health goals. To help answer this, the KABOOM! Playground Reopening Taskforce developed an actionable resource for playground owner/operators as they plan for reopening.
- Members of the KABOOM! Playground Reopening Taskforce include experts in public health, community development, parks and recreation and facilities experts. The guidance accounts for a thorough review of the latest guidelines on COVID-19 published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- This guidance also complements and builds from existing guidance by the CDC, and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) on playground cleaning and maintenance that playground owners and operators should consult and integrate as appropriate for their contexts.
- KABOOM! recognizes that individual playground users will make their own determinations about whether to visit the playground. For playground owner/operators, we outline the following suggested guidelines with supporting resources to help prepare their spaces for kids and adults to play safely.
Steps to Prioritize Safe Play on Playgrounds During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Prepare the Playground Equipment and Space
Set reasonable, responsible limits on usage. Determine the number of users who can share the playground while maintaining a physical distance of six feet from one another. These limits should be clearly shared with signage and outreach to playground users, and self-enforced by adults bringing kids to the playground. Judgments on user capacity should factor in the design and layout of the playground structure. Here are two starting approaches:
- Reduce capacity by two-thirds. Take the total established playground capacity and multiply by 0.33, so that the total capacity is one third of the previous norm for the playground footprint.
- Ensure users can maintain 6 feet of physical distance. Take the total square footage of the playground footprint and divide by 113 square feet per user to reach a user number that allows each person on the playground to have a 6 foot radius around them. As an example, this would mean that a 2,500 square foot playground would accommodate a maximum of 22 users.
- Clean playground equipment using soap and water before reopening. Follow CDC guidance to “continue existing cleaning and hygiene practices for outdoor areas.” If using disinfectant to clean high-touch areas like handrails, ensure any disinfectant has dried before kids play on the equipment.
Enable Safe Playground Use and Practice Safe Behavior
Post accessible and visible playground signage, in English and other predominant languages of playground users, geared toward both kids and adults reminding users to:
- stay home if they are feeling sick
- wash or sanitize hands frequently
- keep physical distance from other users outside of their household
- come back to play another time if there are more people at the playground than the posted capacity
- cover coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue or cough and sneeze into the elbow rather than hands, and throw tissues away after use; wash or sanitize hands after coughing or sneezing
- wear cloth face coverings or masks (except children under age two)
- Provide hand washing or hand sanitizing resources for playground users near the playground footprint. Where this is not possible, encourage playground users to bring their own personal hand sanitizer for use during and after playing.
- Train staff and volunteers to support safe and healthy behaviors by playground users and to make community members feel welcome. Where feasible, periodic site visits by staff and volunteers to encourage safe use is recommended.
- Engage the community of playground users by sharing written guidelines for safe use with caregivers and kids directly and with the network of educators, kid-focused local nonprofits and health professionals so that playground users can take good care of themselves in accordance with information shared.
- Utilize the communications methods that usually connect best with playground users, which may include website posts, social media sharing, community meetings, and posting on community bulletin boards.
- Key guidance to share with the community of playground users includes:
- Avoid the playground if any member of the household is sick.
- Stay proactive: Wash hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and bring hand sanitizer to the playground for use when it is not possible to wash hands. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
- Stay informed: With the information provided either by your local public health department or physician, assess the risks that you and those persons in your care are encountering when accessing a public playspace.
- Stay physically distant: ensure 6 feet of distance between playground users who are not from the same household.
Guidance for masks:
- Ensure that adults and children older than two wear cloth face coverings when visiting the playground.
- Caregivers and/or playground staff should encourage all children to wear their cloth face coverings properly, and that there are no hanging strings or loops that could catch on equipment.
- Caregivers and/or playground staff should monitor how masks are being worn. If, because children are unable, or do not want to wear cloth face coverings, or if play is vigorous and the cloth face covering is moving around the face or neck, it would be prudent not to require a child or children to wear the cloth face covering(s).
- If this is the case, though, it is very important that physical distancing (6 feet or more) be maintained among children using equipment.
- Stay safe together. Discuss your thoughts with your kids and have them help you develop a “safe way to play” plan.