For children, play is not just about fun and games, it is an essential part of their physical, mental and social-emotional development. When children play, it helps get them their recommended 60 minutes a day of exercise, while also exercising creativity and building relationships with friends, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
But outdoor play “does not come without risk of injury,” said Dr. Michael Alfonzo, an emergency department physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital and NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital. From 2019 to 2021, there was an annual average of approximately 155,900 playground-related injuries to children under the age of 16.
To ensure that children remain safe while playing outdoors, Dr. Alfonzo shares his playground safety recommendations for parents and caregivers, as well as what to bring with them when heading out to play.
1. Always supervise
There should always be a pair of eyes on a young child as they play outdoors. Keep track of where they are and make sure they play on age-appropriate equipment.
2. Be up to date on vaccinations
Playgrounds can be filled with germs. A child may touch a slide and then touch their mouth or get a cut or become injured while playing outdoors. One of the best ways to prevent kids from becoming sick is to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic and flu season.
3. Wear non-slip shoes
As children navigate their way around a playground, it is important for them to wear shoes that can protect them from slipping. Water on playground equipment, for example, such as on slides or on stairs, creates a risky environment for them to slip and fall.
4. Be prepared for the weather
During the winter months, children generally need one extra layer of clothing more than their adult counterparts. But rain and snow can affect the playground equipment, increasing the risk for injuries. It is best to come to the playground on a nice, clear day, not one with bad weather.
In the summer, stay hydrated and apply sunscreen on children with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 to 30 or higher. Summertime also brings out bugs. Good preparation would also include insect repellent with 10 to 30 percent DEET to apply as instructed by the bottle. Sunscreen, which should be reapplied every two hours, is safe for kids six months or older, and most bug repellants are safe for children two months or older.
5. What to bring
For a safe outing at the playground, parents and caregivers should come prepared. Don’t forget: