Why You Shouldn't Go Down a Slide With Your Child

Little girl sits on her mother's lap going down a playground slide

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Key Takeaways

  • Going down a slide with a child on your lap is not considered safe.
  • Leg fractures can occur if a child's foot gets caught and the adult's weight pulls them down the slide.
  • If a child is scared to slide alone, they may not be ready for that size slide.

The California sun was shining in the sky when Corinne Horsey took her daughter to the playground. Her 18-month-old, Haley, pointed towards the slide and tugged at her mom's sweatshirt. The pair climbed to the top and the daughter took her seat on mom's lap. Horsey called out "Yaaay!" during their descent.

Though they had gone down the slide this way many times, this time was different. About halfway down, Haley started to cry. "It happened really fast, but she was somehow pushed sideways so that her head was off the slide," says Horsey. "Luckily the crook of my arm caught her and stopped her from going further."

It's common for parents to slide with their kids like this. If you haven't done it yourself, you've probably seen it on the playground. But it can be dangerous. Haley was not hurt, but it's possible for children to break a bone or get seriously injured while going down a slide on an adult's lap.

Why It’s Not Safe to Go Down a Slide With Your Child

Going down a slide with a child on your lap may seem like an innocent way to bond, but experts warn against doing this.

When you slide together, the weight of your body increases the velocity at which your child slides. Sliding with this much momentum puts them at risk for injuries, especially leg fractures.

"If their foot gets caught and the rest of their body is pulled along by your weight, they can break a leg," says Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD, a pediatrician and medical consultant at Mom Loves Best.

Slide injuries are common. One study found that in 2018, over 350,000 kids under age 6 were hurt on a slide. Most of these children were between the ages of 1 and 2.

Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

If a child's foot gets caught and the rest of their body is pulled along by your weight, they can break a leg.

— Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD

Types of Injuries That Can Occur on Slides

Leg injuries are the main type of injury that can occur if a child rides on a slide with an adult. In the survey cited above, most of the injuries were breaks.

Full breaks are less common in children because their bones are softer and more flexible than an adult's. More often, kids will have partial fractures—either a greenstick fracture, where the bone bends and breaks only on one side, or a torus fracture, where the bone is twisted, but not completely broken.

A fracture is not always immediately apparent in young children, especially because they don't always have the skills to communicate what they are feeling. Watch for signs of a fracture, including swelling of the area, incessant crying, or other indications that your child is obviously in pain. Sometimes, kids won't be able to move a broken bone, but don't assume it's not broken just because they can move it.

If you suspect that your child has broken their leg, do not move them. Call your emergency number and follow the instructions. You may be advised to apply pressure and wrap an open wound, to create a makeshift splint, or to leave your child as they are and wait with them for the paramedics to arrive. Do not give your child any pain medication.

Sliding together can also cause the child to fall off the slide if they are riding higher than the sides of the slide. "This can lead to a variety of injuries, the worst of which is a head injury," notes Dr. Poinsett.

Even if they don't fall off, legs and arms can dangle off the side, putting them at risk for injuries such as bruises or scrapes. "The adult's weight and speed pulls the child along much too fast for them to hold on or balance," says Krishna Vakharia, MD, a doctor based in the United Kingdom, and clinical director at Patient.

Krishna Vakharia, MD

If a child can sit independently and confidently toddle on their own, they are able to slide down a slide that is appropriate for their height—about four feet for a 2-year-old.

When Can My Child Ride a Slide Alone?

There is no exact age your child can ride a slide alone, but they should be developmentally ready. "If a child can sit independently and confidently toddle on their own, they are able to slide down a slide that is appropriate for their height," says Dr. Vakharia. "This is generally around age 2."

So what kind of slide is appropriate for a 2-year-old's height? Dr. Vakharia says these slides need to be shallow and not too high off the ground—about four feet in height. As your child gets comfortable with this type of slide, they can gradually try steeper and taller slides.

Allow kids to stay on the smaller slide as long as they enjoy it and to explore larger slides when they feel ready. Let them know that they can decide if they want to slide, so they don't feel pressure to try a slide they're not ready for in order to impress you.

"Something I've learned on the playground is that Haley is very in touch with her own ability level if I let her be the judge," says Horsey. "I don't have to encourage her to try things or lift her up to where she can't get on her own. When she can do it herself, she's ready for it."

What This Means for You

For as long as there have been slides on a playground, parents have been going down them with their children on their laps. Maybe the child is afraid to slide alone, or maybe it's just a bonding moment. Unfortunately, though, it just isn't safe.

If your child's foot gets stuck, the extra weight from your body can pull the rest of their body along, leading to a leg fracture. Kids can also fall off the slide and injure themselves. It is safest for children to slide alone. If they are too scared to slide without you, they might need to start with a smaller slide for now.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Maggie Koos, MD; Gerene Denning, PhD; Charles A. Jennissen, MD. The Mechanisms and Injuries Associated with Playground Slides in Young Children: Increased Risk of Lower Extremity Injuries with Riding on Laps. Pediatrics. 2018. doi:10.1542/peds.142.1MA8.726

  2. Pendrill AM. Balls rolling down a playground slide: What factors influence their motion?. Phys Educ. 2021;56(1):015005. doi:10.1088/1361-6552/abbb5a

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Children and Broken Bones.

  4. Schwebel DC, Brezausek CM. Child development and pediatric sport and recreational injuries by ageJournal of Athletic Training. 2014;49(6):780-785. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-49.3.41

By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.