Winter School Playground Accidents: Danger of Falls and Serious Harm to Children

Winter School Playground Accidents: Danger of Falls and Serious Harm to Children

Recess on the school playground is a time-honored tradition for kids in Indiana and Illinois, as well as the rest of the country. From winter fun like making snow angels and playing tag to getting rid of all that energy on the swings or slides or other outdoor equipment, kids will be romping in their school playgrounds during our winter months as well as in the warmer parts of the year.

Schools need to take special precautions during the winter months before children should be allowed to play outdoors. Sidewalks should be free from ice and snow. The weather should be okay for kids to be outside: if it starts to snow or sleet, then school officials need to move the kids off the playground promptly. To do otherwise is asking for an accident to happen.

Like slip and fall accidents or elevated falls (falls to a lower level). Children hurt in a fall accident on a school playground can suffer serious and permanent injury to their brains or spine. Sadly, these kinds of playground accidents can also result in tragic deaths of kids who just wanted to be outside and have some fun.

Winter Can Be Serious Here in Indiana and Illinois

We know that winter weather can be very serious here in our part of the country. Weather conditions during the winter months can include serious storms with ice, sleet, and snow. We get things like whiteouts here and we’re known for our blizzards.

In fact, the Illinois Department of Transportation warns that we can predict about 5 severe winter storms here each year. Sometimes, that’s low-balling it — in 2015, Illinois had 9 severe winter storms, for instance.

For more, check out the latest Illinois Emergency Management Agency’s Winter Weather Preparedness Guide online.

All this harsh winter weather means that Hoosiers and everyone living and working in Illinois are especially vulnerable to serious injury from fall accidents. Slip and falls (falls at the same level) and elevated falls (falls to a lower level) are a much higher risk when grips are harder to achieve on slippery or wet stair rails and door handles, etc., and footing is difficult on icy or wet sidewalks, stairs, or pathways.

Dangerous Winter Conditions for Playgrounds

The winter months make playgrounds potentially dangerous for children. School officials must take special care to protect kids from these dangers, especially when children are anxious to get outdoors and enjoy it. For instance:

1. Equipment Can Be Slippery.

Ice, freezing rain or sleet can make the surfaces of playground equipment wet and slippery. It can be impossible for children, especially younger kids who are not as coordinated as older children, to keep their balance or to hold their grip in these conditions.

2. Ground Cover Can Be Dangerous.

Even ground cover can be unsafe and dangerous for children if the temperatures get low enough. Below freezing, and even protective ground cover can fail to protect a child on the playground. At these temperatures, school playground equipment isn’t safe for use.

3. Snow Can Invite Falls And More.

It’s not the first thing that some teachers and aides and coaches may consider, but snow is especially dangerous for children on a school playground. Not only can snow piling up on the ground and the equipment itself create slippery surfaces that create a risk of falling, but a build-up of snow can create an even scarier danger. Kids playing on slides or chutes in playground equipment that hasn’t been cleared of piled-up snow can zip into a snow pile at the end of their run that is too heavy for them to escape. The result can be the death of the child by suffocation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, playgrounds are worth serious concern for parents and teachers in making sure that the kids are safe to play there. Consider the following CDC statistics:

1. Almost half of all playground injuries are severe injuries to the child, where they suffer concussions, internal injuries, fractures, and even amputations.
2. Most non-fatal playground injuries to children occur during their school day on a school playground (or a daycare center).
3. Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at a higher risk of playground injury than any other age group.
4. During the time period 1990-2000, the CDC data showed that over half of the children who died from a playground injury were victims of strangulation.
5. Girls (55%) are at a somewhat higher risk of playground injury than boys (45%).

Keeping Kids Safe From School Playground Accidents During the Winter Months in Indiana and Illinois

What can school officials (administrators, teachers, coaches, aides, and staff) do to protect kids from being hurt on a school playground this winter? Common sense should control here; children are not able to comprehend all the dangers they may face and are dependent upon adults to keep them safe from harm — especially when the temptation to play on that playground is intense.

Safety precautions for children on a winter playground include:

1. Monitor weather conditions, since winter weather can change quickly.
2. Make sure that the playground equipment is checked routinely and is properly maintained.
3. Check the children’s winter clothing before they go outside to play; make sure that drawstrings or hoods are removed because they can get caught on the play equipment and cause harm.
4. Watch the kids and make sure that younger children aren’t trying to use playground equipment that is designed for larger, older children.
5. Never leave the kids unattended or without supervision on a winter playground.
6. Have a plan in place in case a child is hurt while playing on the playground.

Sources: BrainLine’s “Playground Safety”; National Institute of Health’s Preventing Playground Injuries.


If your child suffers serious injury or a tragic death due to a fall or other kind of accident on a school playground, you may have legal claims against those who are responsible for the playground accident. Negligence in upkeep and maintenance of a playground as well as failure to provide proper supervision or care can result in horrible life-altering accidents to innocents who were out having fun on a cold winter day.  Be careful out there!

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