Play Together. Play Smart. Play S.A.F.E.™

The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) engages in research and advocacy to educate at the local, state, and national level the importance playground safety.  NPPS efforts are a comprehensive view of child well-being and the safety of the entire play environment. NPPS research informs decisions for best practices and outreach.
NPPS led a field-testing study for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to examine the general safety status of playground equipment and conditions. Thousands of impact attenuation tests were conducted on different types of playground surfacing materials. The report is a summary of playground-safety data collected at public playgrounds and includes playground safety resources. 


NPPS partnered with Standards Council of Canada (SCC) and Health Canada to develop a technical report, Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds. NPPS describes ideas behind play space design to create thermal comfort at playgrounds.  It is a collection of research and ideas for planning playgrounds in different geographical regions.  It offers suggestions to reduce risks from extreme temperatures and solar exposure.  Several planning strategies are available for renovating and maintaining a playground area, including suggestions for natural and artificial shade features, equipment and surfaces material and color selection, and playground equipment placement.

Thermally Comfortable Playgrounds

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:

  1. Olsen, H. & Kennedy, E. (2018). (In Review).  Safety of school playgrounds: Field analysis from a randomized sample. Journal of School Nursing.
  2. 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.
  3. Olsen, H. & Smith, B. (2017). Sandboxes, loose parts, and playground equipment: A descriptive exploration of outdoor play environments. Early Child Development and Care.  
  4. Olsen, H., Hudson, S., Thompson, D. (2016). SAFE and Fun Playgrounds: A Handbook. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. Olsen, H., Hudson, S., & Thompson, D. (2009). Science in the outdoors: Building engaging science labs outside. Texas Child Care Quarterly, 33(3), 30-37.
  8. Olsen, H., Hudson, S., & Thompson, D. (2008).  Developing a playground injury prevention plan. The Journal of School Nursing, 24(3), 131-137.
  9. 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.