Today's Playground interviews America's newest children's icon
Slyde the Playground Hound may not be on the tips of every child’s tongue yet, but the fastest rising star in playground safety education is set to take the world by storm. Slyde, the victim of a nearly fatal playground accident himself, has made it his life’s mission to educate kids of potential dangers on playgrounds.
Armed with a comprehensive playground safety curriculum, complete with catchy safety sayings, coloring book, board game, stickers, patches, posters and more, Slyde is ready to spread his message of safety to those who need to hear it most: the children.
For too long playground safety has been the concern of only teachers, parents, and administrators, but now, with a message built especially for kids, Slyde has the tools and the know-how to make kids experts on playground safety.
Today’s Playground caught up with Slyde between appearances at elementary playgrounds to learn more about the important role he plays in making playgrounds safer for children.
Today’s Playground: Slyde, I understand that you were involved in a nearly tragic accident on the playground when you were a pup. What happened?
Slyde: Before I was knowledgeable about playground safety, I ran rampant in the neighborhood park. Now, I wasn’t wolf-crazy rampant, but I was “adventurous”. I was with some friends and I was the first one down the chute slide. I had my designer leather short leash around my neck and it caught on the top of the slide. It was my lucky day.
Some guy helped me get loose and I was left with a mark on my neck. That’s when I decided to find a way to spread my message to all children.
TP: That was a close call Slyde. How can children learn from your experience?
Slyde: My injury could have been prevented. Every time I see or feel the scar around my neck, it is a reminder of how dog-gone lucky I am to have a second chance. And they say only cats get extra lives. I wish I’d had SLYDE PRIDE before my accident.
TP: What exactly is SLYDE PRIDE?
Slyde: Since my injury, I have dedicated endless hours practicing safe playground behavior and studying what kids need to know about playing safe. SLYDE PRIDE is the awareness kids have when they have been taught safe play and safe play behavior. It is a lot of work, but I’m glad to help however I can.
TP: Can you give us an example of something that kids need to know to be safe on the playground?
Slyde: Before my playground injury, I didn’t know that having my leash on while playing on the equipment was a bad idea. Now I say, “TUCK IT IN OR TAKE IT OFF.” Remove draw stings from jackets. Do not slide or play with scarf’s or ropes around your body. Yes, remember to “Tuck it in or Take it off”. I have a whole list of SLYDE PRIDE sayings.
TP: What are some of the other things you teach to children?
Slyde: Well we could sit here and visit all day, but I have a Frisbee game to play in a few, so I will tell you that we have a great program that addresses bullies, strangers, surfacing, entanglements, protrusions, weather and much more. I have tried to be creative and fun in my approach to teaching these concepts. I love children. They are so eager to learn and have fun. Us guys that work with playgrounds are cool. I mean it’s a tough job testing all those hundreds of slides and spinners.
TP: Slyde, what are, in your opinion, the most overlooked or dangerous area of a typical playground?
Slyde: Hand me that bone would you? …now what was that you said? …oh, dangerous playgrounds…
Well in the past twenty years, designers, manufacturers, contractors, and owners have done great things to remove hazards from playground equipment. For instance, you can see a lot of slides that are one piece of plastic or metal without seams that could protrude or entangle. These are the kinds of things that are going on with the grown-ups part of playgrounds. They are starting to be aware of playground hazards and most people are doing something about the problem. You hardly ever see a new playground built on asphalt or dirt anymore. I would like children to be aware of their part in playground safety. Have fun, be challenged, be daring, but be smart. Play safe. Awareness is the best way to help children do their part.
TP: What response do you get from the children when they meet you?
Slyde: Well, most people think I’m an overnight sensation. But I’ve got a long line of playground safety testing hours. You don’t just do one spiral, one tube, and one chute slide and become a professional. But, yes, at my first national appearance in the National Recreation and Parks Association Congress and trade show, I was available to have pictures taken with people. I think that parents respect me, EROOO…(happy bark) and children, of course, they love SLYDE.
You can see from the photos that children love me and love to learn my message. I made a recent appearance at a school in Idaho and it was snowing, but the kids didn’t mind one bit. They were thrilled to learn my message of playground safety.
TP: Are you buddies with Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl, and McGruff the crime dog? What are you guys all about anyway?
Slyde: I have never met any of those guys, but you must know, they are all heroes and mentors. I became especially fond of Smokey Bear. I actually got the idea to teach playground safety from the idea that the prevention is the best medicine. Somewhere out there a forest did not burn down because Smokey Bear teaches fire safety awareness by telling us that “Only you can prevent forest fires.”
I can help children be safe because I teach a friendly playground safety program.
TP: Are there other cartoon characters that teach playground safety to children?
Slyde: In the playground safety family, as I like to call it, there is Arthur, Pazi the parrot and some other characters. I think I am the only one who is taking the message of playground safety to the entire world though. That’s my mission. What’s important though is the kids learn to use these programs when they are faced with real situations, a playground without safety surfacing for example. Our goal is the same and we have a great time teaching children. They warm up to characters like myself, that they know and trust.
TP: Slyde do you see yourself as becoming as famous as, say someone like Smokey Bear?
Slyde: It’s not about me, it’s about my message. I’m happy just hanging out overhead. But, if children and grown-ups remember SLYDE and my message to play safe, we can make a difference.
TP: Well, Slyde, it looks like our time is about up. Do you have any last words you would like to share with our readers?
Slyde: Why yes, thank you Today’s Playground and remember, play smart, play safe, and come back tomorrow.