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California Day Care Centers / Child Care Centers: What Safety Standards and Requirements Apply to Playgrounds / Outdoor Activity Spaces?

By Scott A. Marks, Attorney and David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network


California parents rely on child care center to provide their children with supervision, educational instruction, indoor play activities, and outdoor play activities during the day. Unfortunately, children suffer personal injuries at day care centers / child care centers on playgrounds. Many of these incidents result from inadequate or improper supervision and or negligent playground maintenance /design. Because children are prone to injuries at child care center playgrounds, the California Department of Social Services require child care centers to comply with Section 101238.2 -Outdoor Activity Space. The regulations as to child care center playgrounds / outdoor activity spaces can be accessed online at California Child Care Regulations.

The playground area needs to accomodate enough space so that there is 75 square fee of space per child based on the total licensed capacity for the child care center. Since California weather can get quite hot especially over summer months, the child care center must provide a shaded rest area for the children that is situated close to the playground area. The surface for the outdoor activity / playground must be kept or maintained in a safe condition free from hazards like holes, broken glass, debris, and garbage.

Many children are injured due to improper or dangerous playground surfaces below high climbing equipment, slides, and swings. It is important for child care centers to use surface material that absorbs falls. Approved or allowable surfacing materials include sand, wood chips, and pea gravel. While not particularly referenced, it would appear that rubber tire chips or mulch would also be acceptable as a playground surface below equipment like slides and monkey bars.

Child care centers have a duty to fence the playground area with a fence that is at least four feet high. Fencing is a tool that helps keep the children inside the play area and that prevents or discourages children from wandering away. Of course, a fence should not be used as a substitute for good supervision.

California child care centers that diligently follow the regulations help prevent or avoid many personal injuries that take place on playgrounds. If a child is injured at a California child care center or other area and the child requires medical care, the child care center has a duty to report the incident to the parents and to the Department of Social Services. See prior post – California Day Care Centers / Child Care Centers: What Injuries / Incidents Are Required to be Reported to the Department of Social Services?

Parents should request a copy of the report to make sure that the parents have the information and details as to the incident and injuries from the child care center. A California child injury lawyer / attorney can review the report and other information to determine the child’s legal rights and entitlement to compensation for injuries and medical bills.

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