With iPhones, Kindles, and Xboxes in the hands of even the youngest children, we’re thrilled when kids want to head outside and gallivant until the sun goes down. Use our safety tips to help ensure your child’s outdoor playtime is as safe as it is fun!
7 Simple Ways to Keep Kids Safe When Playing
7 simple ways to keep kids safe while playing
1. Gear up
Although youth sports-related deaths aren’t common, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons reports the leading cause of fatal sports injuries is traumatic brain injury.1 Get your toddler in the habit of wearing a helmet to protect their noggin, and you’ll have a lot less trouble getting them to do it as they gain independence. Whether they're riding their first scooter or headed off to a game of Pee-Wee football, proper head protection is non-negotiable.
See our list of the best bike helmets for kids for some safe and stylish ideas.
2. Play by the buddy system
Playing outside exposes your child to dangers. When your child is playing outside, insist they have a playmate and that they stick together at all times. It’s also a good idea for your child, and the children they play with to know the location of “safe houses”—neighborhood homes they can run to should a stranger approach them or if someone gets hurt.
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3. Provide a confined play space
Older children may be mature enough to walk to a nearby friend’s house or play basketball in the cul-de-sac, but younger children need protected spaces to play. Provide a secure space (like a fenced yard) where little ones can’t easily wander off and intruders are deterred from entering.
As your child develops, you may have to adjust the locking mechanisms on gates and fences; it won’t take your little one long to figure out how to break out of the backyard!
Enjoy a walk around the neighborhood and set clear boundaries on how far older kids can stray from home. Create geofences with a kids GPS tracker so you get an immediate alert when your child goes too far.
4. Play playground inspector
Like all equipment, playground equipment deteriorates over time. If no one is keeping close watch and making repairs, your child could easily get injured.
When you arrive at the playground, check to be sure the equipment is in good condition, and then inspect the surrounding area for dangers. Rocks and tree roots are tripping hazards, and broken glass, nails and bottle caps can cut your child.
It’s a good idea to have a first aid kit in the car, or a mini kit stored in the stroller just in case. Here are some tips for picking the best first aid kit.
5. Create a kid-friendly zone
If you’re like most parents, when your kids yell they’re headed out to the backyard to play, you don’t give safety a second thought. But even your own yard can present a myriad of dangers. Keep these common hazards in mind.
- Tools left astray and garden hoses left unreeled present tripping hazards. Take five minutes to put these items in the shed or garage.
- Kiddie pools should be put in a secure place immediately after use and hot tub covers should always be latched to prevent drowning. Always keep 5 gallon buckets inaccessible to young children.
- Ladders left popped up to the house are begging to climbed and present a falling hazard.
- And don’t overlook Mother Nature’s hazards, including poison ivy, fire ants and low hanging tree branches. Be especially vigilant about checking playhouses for bee and wasp’s nests; the stinging insects are notorious for making home there.
Learn more about making your backyard a safe place to play.
6. Sun safety and frostbite blues
Before your child heads out the door, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, sunscreen takes about 15 minutes to become effective, so plan accordingly.2 The Academy also advises being especially attentive to sunscreen application when your kids are playing on sand or concrete because UV rays bounce back off both surfaces. Reapply sunscreen about every two hours, and use waterproof sunscreen if they'll be taking part in water activities.
Remember that even on cloudy days and during the cooler months your child needs to be protected from the sun’s harmful rays. And with winter around the corner, you’ll want to be sure your child is properly protected from the cold to avoid frostbite. Keep a basket of cold-weather gear near the door, and your child will be more likely to put on a hat and mittens on as they head out for a day of sledding.
7. Stay hydrated
No matter what the season, your child can easily become dehydrated when playing. Have them drink 8 ounces of water before they take off for a game of flag football, and give them a refillable water bottle to take along.
Encourage your children to drink a small amount of water often while playing (about every 20 minutes) and have them cool down with water when playing is done.
Alert your children to the signs of mild to moderate dehydration. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several signs:3
- No tears when crying
- A dry mouth
- Yellow urine
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