As the days get longer and the temperature rises, families leave their houses and apartments for backyards and parks. Pediatric therapists look forward to this season as children have more opportunities to interact with family and friends while running, climbing and jumping. Outdoor play offers a multitude of experiences that allow your child to develop strength while climbing, coordination to throw and catch, social skills interacting with peers, among other skills. Of course, children are sometimes prone to bumps and bruises. During this time of year we begin to see more children sustaining different sprains and fractures.
Here are a few tips to keep your child as safe as possible while maximizing all the fun playgrounds and parks have to offer:
- Just like a day at the beach, always apply sunscreen before leaving the house. Bring along hats, sunglasses and light-weight shirts to protect young skin from the sun’s rays. Look out for metal or other equipment that may heat up in the sun.
- The playground is a child’s stadium and just like any athlete he or she needs water breaks to prevent dehydration. A common sign of dehydration from over activity is complaint of sore and achy muscles. Water is the best cure, but for quick relief, massage over the area using broad strokes.
- Leave the flip flops at home. Children should always wear shoes with rubber soles and an ankle strap to assure their feet are well supported. Less supportive shoes increase the child’s risk for ankle and knee sprains, tripping and falling. It is a natural protective reaction for a child to use his or her arms to stop a fall. As a result, the wrong footwear can be the cause of a wrist or arm fracture leading to a summer in a cast.
- Playgrounds are built with a variety of obstacles to engage children of a variety of ages and abilities. Perform a quick once-over upon arrival to see what may not be age appropriate for your child. Be aware of hidden spots and obstacles that might be challenging for your child.
- Swings and slides promote developing an understanding of movement, spatial awareness and visual skills. To ensure safety, encourage one child taking a turn at a time, be attentive to others in the area when your child is on equipment or navigating around others, and always slide down feet first.
- Monkey bars and trapeze bars are great activities for building upper extremity and core strength and overall coordination. However, be aware that these activities require a high level of attention and focus. Be sure that if it your child’s first time trying these activities, spot them at the hips to help prevent falls and possible sprains and fractures.
- Swings and suspended bridges challenge balance and can be fun. However, they may cause your child to become dizzy or disoriented, which may impact his or her body awareness, coordination and visual focus. Jumping up and down or providing your child with a big hug can help alleviate some of these side effects.
- Always supervise play. Accidents happen in a minute, and sometimes a quick shout of your child’s name can prevent one.
- If you are feeling playful, make sure equipment is able to support adult weight and always be aware of the children around you. The first step in keeping your child safe is assuring you are physically able to complete a task as well.
While at the park, encourage your child to try new things. If a task is challenging one day, support your child and encourage him or her to try again either that day or at your next play date. And, as always, have fun!
Reviewed on July 10, 2018