Kids love to run, jump, climb, swing onto things, and play almost every waking moment.
Sometimes, they do so at home with our furniture.
For them and for our wallets since we have to replace whatever they destroy.
It is better for parents to give children the right medium to channel their active minds and hearts.
The jungle gym is a great option.
But are jungle gyms safe?
A jungle gym is a great way for children to channel their active minds. Time spent in the jungle gym is time away from their mobile devices. But are they safe? Generally, they are safe. However, you have responsibilities to ensure the equipment’s safety, namely to install the jungle gym properly, put impact-absorbent material in the landing zone, and don’t leave playing children unattended.
What Is a Jungle Gym?
A jungle gym is a type of playground equipment made of a lot of bars, connectors, and other pieces of materials that allow children to climb, hang, sit, swing, and more.
It comes in many different iterations with some even including slides and swings.
The jungle gym was invented by Sebastian Hinton, son of the forgotten British genius Charles Howard Hinton.
The elder Hinton made a geometric dome made of bamboo where his children could play in the late 1880s.
It inspired Sebastian Hinton to create the first jungle gym in 1920 in Chicago.
The product was trademarked under the name Junglegym.
It was also believed that the term monkey bars came from the jungle gym as the patent referred to “monkey instinct” when talking about the benefit of the playground equipment.
Speaking of benefits…
Benefits of the Jungle Gym
Jungle gyms are fun and beneficial too.
Here are the important benefits of this bit of playground equipment:
Even adults will have a blast in a jungle gym.
But as it is made for children, the jungle gym really plays into their instincts.
Parents know how active children can be: always jumping on furniture, climbing banisters, or swinging on curtains.
A jungle gym can be a fun outlet for such an instinct.
It’s an Enjoyable Form of Exercise
Children think they are just playing but they are also exercising.
In fact, the younger Hinton’s main goal in creating the jungle gym was for children to be more active.
In the patent, Hinton said the equipment aims to use children’s “monkey instinct” to climb and get exercise while also having fun in the process.
Children burn calories while playing in the jungle gym and also improve their athletic skills.
It Takes Children Away From Their Gadgets
According to a study, too much time on the gadget will take a mental and emotional toll on children.
“There is a significant relationship between the duration of playing gadgets on mental-emotional elementary school students. Mental-emotional elementary school students also have a significant relationship to the frequency of gadget usage in a week.”– The Relationship between the Duration of Playing Gadgets and Mental Emotional State of Elementary School Students
The study recommended that children should spend less than 40 minutes a day and around one to three days a week on their gadgets.
Limiting a child’s gadget time may not sound possible in today’s environment, but a jungle gym gives children another way of having fun.
It Allows the Entire Family to Bond
As earlier mentioned, even adults enjoy jungle gyms.
Most jungle gyms can accommodate the weight of adults.
This way, the entire family can play together and have a game of monkey tag.
Children Become More Independent Because of It
Jungle gyms allow children to be imaginative and analytical.
They have to think about their next move, especially when playing a game of tag.
Thinking for themselves makes them more independent-minded.
By doing so, they will become more confident about themselves and their decisions.
How Safe Is the Jungle Gym?
Now that we know jungle gyms are great for children, the next important thing to ask is this: Are jungle gyms safe?
Jungle gyms are made with safety in mind.
But accidents happen.
Statistics differ from one resource to another but it doesn’t change the situation that many children suffer from jungly gym accidents.
Here are some of the statistics I gathered on playground accidents:
- 40,000 children are hospitalized due to playground accidents every year in the UK – The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (UK non-profit organization)
- From January 1990 to August 2000, there were 147 deaths reported among children 15 years old and below involving playground equipment. Around 70% happened in home locations. – Playground Injuries to Children (U.S. study published in BMJ Journals)
- An average of 72,889 children are rushed to emergency departments for playground equipment-related extremity fractures every year, which translates to an annual incidence rate of 119.2 per 100,000 children. – Playground Equipment-Related Extremity Fractures in Children Presenting to US Emergency Departments, 2006–2016 (U.S. study published on BioMed Central)
- 200,000 children are taken to U.S. hospitals every year due to playground injuries with 80% of the incidents due to falls. – McDivitt Law Firm (U.S. law firm)
The statistics can be quite alarming for parents.
Falling from the equipment is the most common reason for playground accidents.
Children have to hang on to the jungle gym or swing from one rope to the other and one wrong move may lead to a fall.
Some could easily slip from any part of the equipment.
In other instances, kids get too rowdy with each other which can lead to an accident in the jungle gym.
How To Prevent Jungle Gym Accidents
There is no surefire way of preventing accidents in the jungle gym.
But there are things you can do to reduce the chances of it happening.
The following are some things you can do to prevent jungle gym incidents:
1. Buy a Jungle Gym From a Reputable Company
You need to put a lot of thought into buying a jungle gym.
Don’t just get the first thing you see or the one that fits the budget.
First, window shop for three to five types or brands of jungle gyms.
Second, compare the products:
- Materials used
- Weight capacity
- Assembly and installation
- Accessories, ease of use, budget (these are all matters of preference and have no bearing on the overall safety of the product)
Third, read the reviews for all three or five jungle gyms.
Fourth, research reports if any of the brands have ever had issues with the safety of their equipment.
Fifth, make your choice based on everything you have learned.
2. Install the Jungle Gym Appropriately
Follow the jungle gym instructions to a tee.
Better yet, get professionals or experts to install the equipment for you.
Proper installation can affect the structural integrity of the equipment.
3. Put Impact-Absorbing Material Within the Jungle Gym Area
Reports have it that most jungle gym-related accidents are due to falls, so you need to make sure you have a safer landing zone.
Put a thick layer of impact-absorbing material on the jungle gym landing zone.
Some of the common materials for the safe zone of the play area include rubber mulch, wood chips, wood mulch, pea gravel, and sand.
4. Inspect the Equipment Regularly
Even when the manufacturer offers a long-time warranty, you need to check every part of the jungle gym regularly.
Wear and tear and the environment could affect the jungle gym’s integrity.
When you see major damage, forget about having it fixed.
Replace the damaged jungle gym.
5. Don’t Leave Children Unattended
Many accidents in the jungle gym could be prevented with proper supervision.
Playground fights, for example, could lead to accidents and should be stopped before they escalate.
Adults can also notice when a child is struggling with any of the parts of the jungle gym.
When you notice a child is not confident in the equipment, you need to teach or assist them with the appropriate moves to avert an accident.
6. Educate the Children With the Proper Use of the Jungle Gym
Instruct the children about the proper use of the equipment for their safety and to prevent damaging the jungle gym.
Make it their responsibility to take care of their jungle gym and especially themselves.
It’s great to give children the agency to do what they want but within the proper parameters.
Also, you have to make sure that the jungle gym or parts of the equipment are appropriate for the child age-wise.
If not, then you need to set boundaries about what they can or cannot do.
Inform children about possible emergencies when they are not careful in the jungle gym.
The information is not about scaring the children but simply to ensure they have it at the back of their minds.
So, be mindful of your delivery.
A jungle gym is a great addition to your home.
It is fun and it encourages children to be more active.
However, several children have taken a fall from this piece of play equipment.
Ensure that your children will not become part of the statistics by making certain your jungle gym is safe.
Most accidents are not due to the equipment per se but varying factors that could be prevented with some mindfulness.
So, keep that jungle safe for your children at home!