Burns, scrapes, falls, cuts...not an ideal trip to the playground with the family. While accidents happen, there are some areas of the playground that are truly red flag places for parents. Any playground that you visit should be quickly inspected and assessed before allowing your children to play on it. County, city, and state agencies do provide maintenance to parks. Cleaning, repairing, painting and landscaping all fall under their care. Realistically, they cannot be 100% on top of all of their facilities. The last thing you want to do is assume that a park is automatically safe for your child. Adults doing drugs or participating in elicit acts overnight at a park often leave behind unsavory and unsafe items for children to find the next day.
First consideration is the posted sign that is stuck somewhere on the underside of the play equipment or on a post. Oftentimes the sign says that the child must be at least 5 years old to play on the equipment. Very few parks have equipment that is appropriate for toddlers and even if it does, YOUR toddler will inevitably want to be on the older kids' playground. Allowing your child to play on older child equipment is usually ok as long as there is close adult supervision.
Second major thing to check for is the type of features on that particular play set. Check what is expected of your child (climb a ladder or climb stairs or climb a rock wall) and whether YOUR child can really handle doing that feature on his/her own. Many children can't be trusted to go down a ladder the safe way and may still need to be shown. Very small kids may stand at the top of the ladder looking down like they are considering jumping down. Down is the biggest concern. Falls from the equipment onto the playground floor surface could result in some serious injuries. Look for major gaps on the upper areas of the equipment and stand guard at them when your child is up there. Check the floor surface for unsavory items or to see if it is in need of repair.
Proper supervision by an alert adult is one of the best safety measures to take. Put down the phone and stay close if you have a child under 5 on the equipment. Kids can run off in a split second and get into trouble swiftly. Many parks have no barrier between it and the street/parking lot. Many times older children are playing a little too fast or rough without looking out for younger children nearby. In South Florida, regardless of the time of year, you also need to be aware of the heat. South Florida also has quite a few critters out there that like to make SAND into their own litter box so watch out for skat around the play area. Check for wear and tear on the equipment and be sure to call and report any issues. Maintenance may not be quite up to snuff. Look for sharp edges, rust, and un-repaired broken equipment.