The National Program for Playground Safety actively engages in research, advocacy, and outreach to educate at the local, state, and national level the importance of outdoor play, safety, and offering a positive influence on children’s health, learning, social-emotional skills, and physical skills. NPPS efforts are a comprehensive view of child well-being and safety of the environment. Our research informs all of best practices, educational materials, training, and outreach efforts.
The National Program for Playground Safety collected playground safety data in 2017 for the project titled National Study of Public Playground Equipment and Surfacing. The overall purpose of this study was to examine the general safety status of playground equipment and conditions, while also investigating the impact attenuation characteristics of a variety of playground safety surfacing materials. The purpose of this study was to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the current playground infrastructure - from the direct perspective of injury prevention and more importantly from a broader perspective of maintenance, materials, environmental factors, and other trends in present-day playgrounds. This study included over 100 playgrounds which were geographically dispersed across the United States. Thousands of individual drop tests on playground surfacing were conducted, as well as a collection of safety-related observations from each playground.
Beyond the 2017 national study, NPPS and its staff are highly engaged in a variety of professional activities, which go beyond the walls of traditional public dissemination, outreach, and NPPS’s training programs. These activities allow NPPS to disseminate research findings but also engage in contemporary discussions involving playgrounds and play environments with various constituencies - such as standards organizations, injury prevention professionals, school and park officials, nurses, teachers, child-care providers, and more.
NPPS actively contributes to proceedings, hosts workshops, and participates in organizational meetings on playground topics for state, national, and international organizations and conferences.
Peer-reviewed scientific and educational publications are an important part of NPPS’s professional involvement. These publications reflect NPPS’s broad interests in research involving field observations, injury prevention, strategies for playground engagement, and developing models for playground supervision.
Additionally, lessons learned are in the execution of these studies is incorporated into NPPS training materials, ensuring up-to-date information and best practices.
A selection of recent and impactful NPPS publications includes:
- Olsen, H. & Kennedy, E. (2018). (In Review). Safety of school playgrounds: Field analysis from a randomized sample. Journal of School Nursing.
- Olsen, H., Vanos, J. & Kennedy, E. (2018). (In Review). Shade provision in public playgrounds for thermal safety and sun protection: A case study across 100 play spaces in the United States. Landscape and Urban Planning.
- Olsen, H. & Smith, B. (2017). Sandboxes, loose parts, and playground equipment: A descriptive exploration of outdoor play environments. Early Child Development and Care.
- Olsen, H., Hudson, S., Thompson, D. (2016). SAFE and Fun Playgrounds: A Handbook. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
- Olsen, H., Hudson, S., Thompson, D. & Kriess, S. (2010). Creating outdoor early childhood environments: Design strategies and resources. Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, 4(4), 344-360.
- Olsen, H., Hudson, S., & Thompson, D. (May, 2010). Strategies for playground injury prevention: An overview of a playground project. American Journal of School Health, 41(3), 187-192.
- Olsen, H., Hudson, S., & Thompson, D. (2009). Science in the outdoors: Building engaging science labs outside. Texas Child Care Quarterly, 33(3), 30-37.
- Olsen, H., Hudson, S., & Thompson, D. (2008). Developing a playground injury prevention plan. The Journal of School Nursing, 24(3), 131-137.
- Hudson, S., Olsen, H., & Thompson, D. (2008). An investigation of school playground safety practices as reported by school nurses. The Journal of School Nursing (24)3, 138-144.