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Playgrounds Go Up in Flames?

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As playgrounds in New York heat up, so is the call to remove the black rubber mat flooring.

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Global warming might be warming up more than the Antarctic. A group of parents in New York are complaining that the black mats ubiquitous in most city play areas get so hot they are literally burning children. Reports say the mats can get up to 160 degrees. And it's not just in New York--playgrounds are heating up everywhere. Many parents don't even bother visiting playgrounds during the hottest part of the day because the chains from the swings and the slides get way too hot.

One Southern California mom recounts a too-hot-to-touch play area at a Fourth of July carnival: "They had tons of inflatable bouncies and slides. It was about 100 degrees. We paid $20 for a wristband and my 3-year-old went down the inflatable slide and began crying in pain. She had red welts all over her legs...she had been burned by the scalding hot slide. When I asked for a refund, I was denied. Obviously, we left immediately. Getting burned on an inflatable slide was not our idea of a good time!"

Unlike many mad moms, this one chose not to sue. Conversely, in New York, several lawsuits have been put in motion from angry parents, such as Reyhan Mehran whose 14-month-old son was burned at a park in 2004 when the child kicked off his shoes and ran--before his caregiver could stop him.

While some parents are outraged by the hot playgrounds, others think we're over protecting our kids. Parents remember when they were kids having creative solutions to the hot metal slide problem, "We poured water down the chute to cool it," says one dad.

Using playgrounds is not without risk, says John Crosby of the National Playground Safety Institute. "When public facilities offer play spaces, there is a huge opportunity for injury no matter what. It could be at an open space park and tree branch could fall." He also says there is one rule all parents should follow: "No child should approach a playground without their shoes." Crosby also recommends during hot summer days keeping your kids off of metal slides entirely.

And, although momlogic contributor and Pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson has never treated a child for a burn from rubberized playground surfaces, she insists her children wear shoes at all times at the playground. "I know that there are times when my kids want to take their shoes off and the surface is just too hot. Frankly, that is true of sandboxes and light-colored rubberized surfaces too. Unless there is a canopy of shade at the park, the ground can feel scorching."

While there are drawbacks with the black surfaces heating up, Dr. Cara favors them over the alternative. "Fall injures tend to be much more benign when a child is landing on a soft, padded surface compared with hard concrete."

Do you think public playgrounds are dangerous or parents are too overprotective?


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48 comments so far | Post a comment now
bart March 26, 2009, 3:59 PM

i need to find other people that found themselves on hot sand at the beach? and file a class action suite against god

Norma Wemhoff March 26, 2009, 4:01 PM

Parents need to watch their children and supervise their activities. But not all responsibility lies with the parents. Playgrounds should be made as safe as possible and children taught to play as safely as possible, and to not assume that everything is safe. Check it out before using playground facilities.

Anonymous March 26, 2009, 4:22 PM

i think they should stop putting playgrounds in restruants and take out the mats.but it is not bad parenting it is the owenors fault for the mats.

dfjhjhjt March 26, 2009, 4:24 PM

close the restruant down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

animalhuver March 26, 2009, 4:25 PM

parents need to be responsible and set rules down. i dont like flip flops or sandals. Im a kid though. Parents dont need to sue but it was there money they had payed for their kids to have a good time at some place.In my house its torture. Cussing fighting terrible stuff goes on, my older sisters and brothers cant get their stuff straight cause they didnt listen to our parents.Parents care. But what if parents were mistreated when they were little and didnt really know alot of stuff because they didnt listen to their parents or something?Well parents want their kids to be amazing when they grow up. But i will tell you one thing. So far that hasnt happened for my parents! So yeah dont sue but you need to check around where ever you are if its a hot day to make sure your kid is safe. And my parents own a beach house in florida. Do you think they know if a shark is going to attack one of me or my other siblings? No but they can buy us water shoes and a bathing suit that isnt bright colored. And make sure we dont surf or anything. But parents should touch the sand to see if its hot for child protection. Well i may be a child but i know alot of stuff parents want well got to go

wild March 26, 2009, 4:29 PM

Hey anonymous I am loosing faith in people too. I don’t even recognize this country anymore. Common sense is gone and replaced by greed and lack of responsibility. We are tearing ourselves and this country apart with our own legal system. God help us all.

kriz March 26, 2009, 4:34 PM

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Lena March 26, 2009, 4:45 PM

Hi Everyone ..This page was a joy to read…People finally telling others to
Get off their high horses and stop blameing others for their own laziness . I agree some parents tend to let kids do their own thing and don’t supervise them..Of course when their child gets hurt ?Its always someone elses fault..I must say though ..my hats off to all you parents ..Its a big job you have…Oh yes I may be wrong but if you discilpline your kid to listento you maybe alot of injuries can be avoided..
Good Luck …have a great day ..you are all so lucky to have kids …

KIMBERLY March 29, 2009, 1:56 AM

Common sense isn’t very common these days. I live in Arizona….it doesn’t take a lot of sense to realize the slide is hot in the sun, as is the driveway, not to mention the blacktop. People of course, are devastated when their children are injured. The real problem here is ethics and character.


Ju March 29, 2009, 9:44 PM

At 8 I had more common sense than some of these parents. I lived in Albuquerque at the time on the military base there. Both our playgrounds were equipment(including GINORMOUS truck tires on one)that sat in desert sand. Even the plastic slide on the other playground got scorching, but kids would test it with their hands first.
While I feel sorry for the poor children, really, if you’re stupid, you shouldn’t be allowed to sue, though I understand it seems to be a basic U.S. right. It’s summer, the equipment gets hot (shade or no), ALWAYS test the equipment first regardless of the weather.

carol Junz April 2, 2009, 1:32 PM

It is my opinion that parents of all children exposed to the elements of weather wether hot or cold need to excersize common sense when allowing children in their care to play on play equipment. Always! check surfaces wether hot or cold. check confined spaces and sand boxes for harmful debris and elements. check play equipment thoroughly before use. Play equipment and playgrounds are designed to entertain. It is the parents responsibility to supervise their children and keep them safe and out of harms way. How about we stop the frivious lawsuits and put responsibility on the parents where it belongs.

Laura April 16, 2009, 1:04 PM

When my girls were young, we lived in public housing.
They put down shredded tires for substrate in the playground. It was great until you got poked with the metal wires from the steel belted tires that were missed when cleaning.
It was soft and warm on sunny days (northern IL).
It all came to an end the day that unattended children were playing with matches in a garbage can. They tipped it over and the shredded tires went up fast. No one was hurt, the flames were at least 15 feet high and I am sure the smoke was seen for miles.
You have to watch your kids, and you have to be aware.
Plain sand is okay, but it gets really hot. The rubber does, too, but at least they are trying and going to the park is a whole lot cheaper than building a playground in your own backyard.

Ruth April 21, 2009, 11:29 AM

I agree with Charlotte….parents should be fined for not parenting!

Carla April 21, 2009, 2:59 PM

Here’s your sign, Mom. If it’s 100 degrees outside why would you even want to take your kid to an outdoor playground until it cools off? Take them to a water park. Take them to a movie. Find something fun to do where it’s cool instead of complaining that your kid’s feet were burnt on hot pavement or a rubber slide. Duh. Why were the kid’s shoes off in the first place? Some people aren’t happy until they become perpetual victims brought about by their own stupidity. Too bad the kids have to suffer for it.

Mary April 21, 2009, 9:53 PM

We operate a facility that offers a playground. We have wood chips for the safety zone, we have signs up to warn of potential hazards, we request parents to supervise their children AT ALL TIMES while visiting our facility. We are also on a river, we have No Swimming signs posted along the river bank. We clearly state in our rules no swimming or wading, regardless, we see children unattended on the playground, we see children playing by the water, though we shag them away from the water, it’s hard to understand the lazidazical actions of “some” parents.
We can clearly see the efforts made by the majority for the safety and well being of their children, but it’s going to be the parent(s) that turn their children lose that will be filing a lawsuit. We simply can not be everywhere all the time and we are not “baby-sitters” just a small business attempting to make a living by providing others a nice, clean, place to go. (BTW- We self inspect our equipment on a regular basis)

Fashion Design October 12, 2010, 5:42 PM

Many thanks for the work. I am a small business graduate in Hawaii and have sent the post to my classmates.

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Sharon Rogers December 1, 2010, 5:32 AM

I see nothing wrong with letting my girls go barefoot, they have since they were born and now at 5 and 7 they have tough feet and go barefoot all the time unless at school. Sure they can get the bottoms of their feet black walking across the parking lot, but they do wash! Also during the summer both wear flip flops in places with hot surfaces (and kick them off when not).. Sharon

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Glynda Agcaoili January 21, 2011, 3:55 PM

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