It’s wonderful to see your kids put down the video game controller, shut off the computer, and get outside for some fresh air, but there are a number of hazards that can pop up in the great outdoors. These tips help you prepare for common outdoor dangers, and to field unexpected challenges, from bugs and burns, to broken swing sets.
Pack a First-Aid Kit
Before you set foot outside, do a quick inventory to make sure you have everything you might need to prevent — and treat — minor cuts, bites and other injuries. These items don’t take much space, and they can be very helpful in an emergency:
- Hand sanitizer
- Bug spray
- Antibiotic lotion
- Calamine cream
- Allergy medication
Dress for Success
Try to avoid open-toed shoes and loose-fitting clothing, which may get caught in playground equipment, or cause your child to trip and fall over loose branches. Comfy sneakers can protect tiny toes from bees, burs and blisters. If there’s a chance of rain in the forecast, pack an umbrella or raincoats and galoshes for longer excursions. Sunscreen and bug spray add an extra layer of protection against the elements — especially in warmer months.
Play it Safe
There’s nothing quite like pushing your kid on a swing set, watching him or her soar through the sunlit sky with the wind blowing through his or her hair. Swings and slides are standard fare when it comes to playgrounds. Nevertheless, you’ve probably noticed that play yards have changed a lot since you were young. Nowadays, they include safer, softer ground surfaces, and more durable plastic equipment. It’s still best to err on the side of caution. The majority of playground-related injuries happen at public parks, so it’s best to take some preventative measures before letting your kids run wild. Check all the equipment for the following:
- Rusty nails and screws
- Loose bolts
- Jagged edges
- Missing or damaged guardrails
Keep Your Eyes Peeled
Even if you’re reading a book while the kids are at play, be sure to look up frequently to make sure they’re within your field of vision. Inform your children ahead of time about the risks of talking to strangers.
Excessive heat can also be problematic for kids as they frolic outdoors. Keep snacks and water on hand, and watch for signs of heat exhaustion or discomfort. Remind your tykes to rest for a little while and drink some water if they seem tuckered out.
Clean and Safe Surroundings
Forest preserves and parks are generally clean, but you may run across a play area that’s less than pristine. Try to find fenced-in spots, but be on the lookout for discarded appliances that children might try to explore, or even hide in. Here are a few more things to be mindful of in backyards, neighborhoods and wooded areas:
- Abandoned refrigerators
- Open sheds and garages
- Gas and charcoal grills
- Trash and animal waste
Leaves of Three, Leave Them Be
If your kids are playing in a wooded area, make sure you check for harmful plants, and show them how to identify poison ivy, oak and sumac. This handy guide offers a few quick tips to spot leaves that could cause a nasty rash if your son or daughter comes into contact with them.
Make an Emergency Phone List
Write your local numbers for these important contacts down, or program them into the phone for easier access:
- Poison control
- Local police
- Names of friends’ parents
Playing outside should be fun for your children, but it shouldn’t cause you additional stress. If you keep these guidelines in mind, you can reduce the risk of injury and keep things enjoyable and worry-free for everyone involved.