Playground Safety Tips
Taking your toddler to the local park playground is totally awesome and great for developing skills. But you should always be on your A game to make sure your little ones are safe. Here is a list of Toddler park and playground safety tips that will help keep your family safe and having fun.
Scope Things Out
Always scope out the area when you arrive to a park. Obviously if you see any shady characters or weird adults with no children, then go somewhere else. You can also report suspicious characters by calling the local police non emergency number and they will send over an officer or citizen patrol to check things out.
Do a quick walk around of the playground equipment to check for any dangerous objects or bugs and animals. Always check the slides! There was a local news story not too long ago where a parent found a needle purposely put on a slide. Had she not dried off the slide because it rained, she could have sent her kid down without checking it.
Time to hover. This is definitely a hands on activity. You have to be by your toddler’s side helping them with everything until they earn your trust as a playground pro.
Wearing a hat is a great way to protect your toddlers head when they fall or run under a low pass. It also protects them from the sun and it looks super cute! My toddler has a fall every time we are at the park and that hat has prevented at least 2 dozen bruises and black eyes!
Make sure your little one has good shoes with hard soles to protect their little feet and give them stability.
Show your toddler how to navigate steps, slides, and ledges safely. Start teaching feet first and sit and scoot if you haven’t already. As soon as my little man was good at crawling and cruising, I started teaching how to get off the couch by going feet first on his belly. Then once we started going to the playground, I showed him the sit and scoot (see video). This is a great way to teach your toddler how to go down the slide and steps with the idea that you should always go feet first. The earlier you teach this the better, and it helps develope their brain with awesome new skills!
Never let your child play on the playground with food or drink. This is dangerous and makes up a good portion of ER visits for toddlers! Take breaks from playing to enjoy snacks and don’t let your kid play with the sippy cup or CANDY on the playground equipment! I saw a little girl one time playing and jumping off a large play pirate ship with a sucker in her mouth! I almost called the cops.
Fire ants are terrible little creatures that fortunately only half of the U.S. has to deal with. But if you live in the southern states like Florida and Texas, they are a real threat. Fire ants usually have red bodies with black bottoms. They like to build their colonies in the ground close to debris or objects buried in the ground, like perimeter fence posts and playground support posts. Some fire ants have mounds which are easy to spot, but sometimes they don’t. Keep an eye on the ground where your toddler walks and avoid perimeter fences or sitting in the grass by these areas unless you know the park is treated. Once the ant nest is disturbed, it takes only about 3-5 seconds to receive multiple painful stings. A small portion of people are deathly allergic to fire ants. Like my brother-in-law, who said if he gets one bite, his intestines will shoot out of his bunghole in a matter of seconds and he’ll die!
Wasps, spiders, ticks, and other bugs are usually easy to spot but I always check out dark crevices and enclosed corners under the playground equipment (not with my hands) as wasps and some dangerous spiders like the brown widow love to hide there. If you go to a busier park then you don’t run into too many bug issues.
Unfortunately, you will run into kids that don’t have manners or discipline, and don’t interact well with your children. If I see a child doing something not so nice to my kid, I ask that child politely to stop. If they do it again I ask their parents very politely to stop their child. If it happens a 3rd time, I take video and embarrass them on my blog and facebook! Just kidding! It also helps to move your toddler to another section of the playground or redirect to a new activity that separates them from the other kid. As a matter of fact, just 3 hours before I wrote this article my son and I were at an enclosed mall play area where a few older kids were kicking a full size hard soccer ball around where little 1 and 2 year olds were playing. Needless to say I asked the kids mom if she thought it was dangerous and she shrugged her shoulders like it was no big deal. She then instructed her kid to put away the ball. Shouldn’t it be common sense that it’s dangerous to have 6-10 year olds playing full speed soccer while jumping over babies and toddlers?
I usually only say something if it’s my child or a dangerous situation as I don’t want to step on other parents looking out for their own kids. However, I’m here to protect my child, not make friends with bad parents, which brings me to my next topic.
I’m not talking about bad parenting skills. I’m talking about parents that get into arguments and yelling matches in front of the children on the playground. I was at a park when 2 moms started yelling at each other over something their kids did. They almost got into a fist fight and acted totally inappropriately with the entire park watching. While other parents were enjoying the show and letting their children soak up bad behavior, I removed myself and my son to a safe distance while distracting him from the situation. You can do what you want, but in my opinion, it’s best to be far away from psycho, screaming hooligans!
Don’t forget the sunscreen. I put sunblock on my son before we leave the house so that it has time to soak in and won’t run into his eyes when he starts to sweat.
In the words of the famous Towelie, don’t forget to bring a towel! In the mornings (and when it rains) the slides are always wet. It’s also good to have a towel just in case your toddler falls in a puddle, gets too sweaty, or you decide to cool him off at the water fountain.
When it’s time to leave, make a ritual of having your little one say bye-bye to the other kids and parents to help avoid a fit. My son knows that when its time to leave we say bye and then we hit the road. Start the routine early and be consistent and hopefully (never always) you can avoid a crying fit when leaving.
Thanks for reading my toddler playground safety tips! Keep your family safe at the playground and don’t forget to take pictures!