THE WOODLANDS, Texas – Indoor playgrounds are popular for children, and of course, parents. They are convenient places for kids to have fun, burn some energy, and spend some time with other children.
“That’s why we liked it. It was small and got us out of the house,” explained Magnolia mother, Ashley Taper.
But for Taper and her daughter, their last visit to the Igi Playground in The Woodlands may have been their last.
“A little boy maybe four or five had fallen through the netting and underneath is a four or five-foot drop. I ran over there and tried pushing him up back through the hole, but I couldn’t,” explained Taper. “No one heard me for a few minutes until a dad jumped up and crawled in and was able to pull the boy out.”
KPRC2 talked to management at Igi Playground and they said the hole in this situation was made by another child. They referred back to surveillance video that they say showed him ripping the hole larger. They also note that any damage done to the playground is frequently done by the children.
“This kid was destroying the playground,” noted the Igi manager who did not want to be named.
But Taper says they should have closed off the area or even the gym itself until that hole was fixed.
“She went ahead and put more zip ties on it and didn’t close the section,” noted Taper.
This wasn’t the first time a child fell through a hole.
“My oldest daughter comes screaming at me that my younger daughter has her head stuck. There was a giant hole in there and her head was stuck in the hole and the hole was the same level that the trampoline. Luckily she was a little shaken up, but she thought it was funny,” explained the mother of two, Bree Taylor. “As a mom, I was absolutely furious. This was in August, and now we’re in December and she even told me, ‘yeah that hole your daughter got stuck in, yeah it’s still there.’”
Both Ashley and Bree said these ongoing issues are just being swept under the rug and excuses are being made. But the manager at Igi who has been there for a few years said they love their customers and their business. She says the children and their safety are their first priority.
“We always do something to fix the situation.”
She said they did not close the area with the hole because there were too many children there at the time. She argues that the duct tape and zip ties seen by parents are only temporary fixes until the pieces or parts get delivered.
But Bree and Ashley say they are worried if this happens again, another child may not be so lucky.
“Your counting on people to do their job, and it’s their job to make sure it’s a safe environment for your kid, and it’s not,” noted Taylor.
Since KPRC2 started talking to the manager, they decided to close the establishment and wait until the new netting arrives before reopening to the public. The manager said this was a learning situation and will make the proper adjustments to ensure the safety of the children.
There are certain circumstances in which Health and Human Services would regulate an indoor play gym. If the gym offers childcare services on a regular basis, it would be subject to HHS regulation. They regulate childcare operations to ensure they provide a safe environment for children, and that includes having safe playground equipment. If the gym offers a camp, it may be required to be regulated by HHS, depending on the duration of the camp.
There is no federal regulation for playgrounds, but all children’s products that are designed or intended for 12 years or younger must meet CPSIA requirements (lead, CPC/tracking. Thus, any regulations would be at the state or more local level (such as county childcare regs). State and local governments can adopt the CPSC Public Playground Safety Handbook as they wish (many passed it as state law). While the Handbook addresses many features of playgrounds used indoors, it was developed mainly to address public playgrounds at outside facilities such as parks.
The Texas Department of Insurance has requirements for specific equipment at some indoor playgrounds like this one but Igi does not have anything in their facility on the list.
As for the city/township, Woodlands Township does not maintain standards for indoor playgrounds. The playgrounds The Woodlands Township has in numerous parks, which are all outdoor, are governed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, ASTM and the ADA.
Igi’s manager did say they have people come in to inspect a few times a year but could not get us the name or agency they worked for.