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GNWT Clarifies Use of Playground Equipment for Child Care Operators

The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) would like to clarify its stance on the use of playground equipment for Northwest Territories (NWT) licensed early learning and child care operators during winter months.

A letter dated November 24, 2022 from the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) to licensed early learning and child care program operators, requested that operators refrain from using playground equipment during the duration of the winter season.

The GNWT wishes to clarify that the letter was not meant to restrict children’s access to playground equipment. However, winter conditions can render playground equipment unsafe in certain situations, which increases the risk of serious injury. ECE has been made aware of incidences in the NWT, including serious injuries to children, resulting from playground equipment that was unsafe due to winter conditions.

As such, ECE does not recommend the use of fixed playground equipment such as monkey bars, climbers, slides, etc. when the ground below the equipment, which is protective surfacing for shock absorbency and injury prevention, is frozen and/or when the equipment does not meet manufacturer’s instructions.

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ECE has sent a letter of clarification to program operators. This is intended to serve as a reminder of their continued responsibility to follow manufacturers’ instructions for play equipment. If playground equipment is used in the winter, strict supervision is required, and consideration must be given to the hazards presented by the winter clothing children are wearing and the effect of freezing temperatures on the protective surface.

Risky play is an important part of learning and development. Collectively, it is important that those of us in roles of responsibility for children’s safety distinguish between risky versus dangerous play situations. ECE will be providing professional learning opportunities for interested early childhood educators and licensed program operators to support safe indoor and outdoor play experiences for young children. This will include topics related to risky play in safe environments.

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