You don’t have to watch your kids every second while they play outside. You also can’t prevent all potential accidents. You can make sure they play as safely as possible, though, by taking a few simple precautions to make your yard safer. Follow the below tips to increase outdoor safety for kids.
Benefits of Outdoor Play for Kids
Outdoor play should be a crucial part of young children’s lives, due to its health and developmental benefits. Playing outside provides exercise and fine-tunes motor skills. It can also jump start imagination, organizational abilities and creativity when coming up with games to play. Using all of their senses in outdoor play enhances other cognitive skills. Children also develop an appreciation for nature. Playing outside often happens with other kids too, so the social benefits are myriad. Kids learn cooperative play and how to work with others, whether it’s waiting for their turn on the slide or participating on a team.
Keep reading for more outdoor safety tips for kids at play. Remember that this advice doesn’t guarantee accidents won’t happen — watching your child play is the most effective way to reduce potential risk.
How to Make Outdoor Play Safer for Kids
Step 1: Keep It Tidy, Keep It Safe
Outdoor safety for kids can start by analyzing the surroundings they will be playing in while outdoors. Take a walk around your property and look for things that could injure a child. Pick up any rocks, branches, broken glass or debris that might be lying around the yard. Place any waste in a heavy-duty trash bag. Keep an eye out for any insect infestations around the house and yard. Use a good insect spray to get rid of any wasp nests or beehives.
Don’t let children get bitten by insects. Employ a safe, high-quality insect repellent to protect your children from biting insects. See the project, Choose an Insect Repellent.
Make sure your yard is free of poisonous plants that small children may accidentally ingest or otherwise come in contact with. Keep your lawn and surrounding vegetation neatly trimmed using a lawnmower and string trimmer. Insects and potentially dangerous animals, such as snakes, like to hide in tall grass.
Any ditches in or around your yard should be filled up or covered and secured so children cannot accidentally fall in. Ask for a neighbor’s help if the ditch is not on your property but accessible to children. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make the neighborhood a safe place.
Put away lawn equipment, garden tools and other things you use around the yard that could cause an accident. In the garage, keep chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, automotive oils and fuel locked. Keep tools in a secure place and remember to keep all ladders out of children’s reach. These items don’t always seem dangerous, but they need to be kept where little hands can’t get them. Lock tools and chemicals in a shed or in a storage cabinet in the garage.
Be sure all buckets — and any other large containers that can collect water — are empty and put away. Even a five-gallon bucket can hold enough water to be a hazard to children. Stagnant water also attracts mosquitoes.
If your children are playing at a park or other type of public space, follow these same guidelines before letting them play. Check the area for any potential hazards.
Step 2: Check Play Equipment
Another valuable way to promote outdoor safety for kids is to check their outdoor play equipment. The elements wear on playgrounds all year, so give your play equipment a quick, annual tune-up before the kids start playing. Look over slides, swings and other pieces of equipment for any breaks, sharp edges, weak spots and loose or missing hardware. Tighten any bolts, screws, etc. with a wrench or screwdriver. Cover any exposed bolts with protective plastic or rubber caps. Make sure playground equipment is anchored properly so it won’t tip over. Once you’re sure the structure is sound, don’t forget to check on and around play equipment for areas where bees, wasps or other pests could hide. Destroy any infestations you find with a spray insecticide.
Place a 10" layer of sand, mulch or wood chips under and around play equipment. This will provide a little cushion in case of any falls from a swing or monkey bars. If you have a sandbox, make sure to clean the sand before playtime. Remove bugs, leaves and other debris that doesn’t belong. It’s a good idea to replace the sand every year to avoid any hidden problems and keep this play area safe and clean.
Step 3: Check Decks, Patios and Walkways
There will be a lot of bare feet running through your yard in the summer. As part of your plan to keep your outdoors safe for kids, make sure your porch or deck floor and handrails are splinter-free. Foot splinters aren’t just painful — they can easily become infected. Use a medium-grit sandpaper to sand down any splintered wood or rough areas. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check wood patio furniture for any splintering or broken parts.
Examine your concrete or stone patio, sidewalks and walkways for large cracks, broken pieces and other tripping hazards. For tiny cracks in concrete less than 1/2" wide, patch with a concrete grout. First, clean the crack and surrounding area and remove any debris and dirt. Adding a bit of water to the inside of the crack will help the grout bond better. Apply small amounts of concrete grout until the crack is filled a bit above the surface. The grout will shrink as it dries.
Slightly larger cracks can be fixed with caulk. Prepare the crack as you would for a tiny crack. Using a caulking gun, apply caulk to the crack in small amounts until it is level with the surface. The largest cracks — those that are larger than an inch — need to be repaired with concrete patching compound. Prepare the area the same as if you were patching a tiny crack, cleaning the area of dirt and debris. Mix the patching compound with water, adding water to the crack and the surface. Use a trowel to apply the compound to the crack in small amounts until it is filled. If you have any kind of breaks that are larger in size, you may need to call a professional to do more extensive repairs.
After you’ve repaired the concrete in and around your yard, check your lawn for protruding tree roots near play areas. If you see any roots that might be a tripping hazard, you may have to use an axe or hatchet to cut them down so they’re level with the ground. But take care so you don’t damage the tree — check with a local horticultural expert before you cut any roots.
Step 4: Keep Swim-time Safe
Since the beach and the pool are many children’s favorite places to be in the summer, water safety should also strongly be considered when thinking of outdoor safety for kids. The number one rule for keeping kids safe around your pool is adult supervision. Keep little ones in your line of sight at all times when they’re playing around water. To keep your kids safe, install fences that are at least 4' tall around the entire pool; all gates should be self-closing and self-latching. Cover the pool when it’s not in use. And, always keep rescue equipment by the pool.
Playing in the pool or anywhere outdoors means kids are exposed to the sun. Be sure they’re covered by applying sunscreen every couple of hours. Nothing spoils fun like sunburn, and continued exposure over the years may lead to problems down the road. Purchase a waterproof product with an SPF of 15 or higher, and at least SPF 30 for those with fair skin.
Step 5: Stay Diligent
Keep an eye on your children while they play. Make sure they’re properly hydrated. Make them take occasional water breaks, whether it’s the middle of summer or the dead of winter.
Kids on bicycles, skateboards, etc. should wear safety gear. Helmets and knee and elbow pads should be worn at all times while they’re participating in wheeled activities. Check the condition of the safety equipment periodically to make sure that they will continue to function properly. When children are riding bikes or skateboards, use your discretion how much they should do this in the street. Some neighborhood streets are safe for play; others are busier and not ideal for kids to play in.
Be sure that your children understand the concept of “stranger danger.” You don’t have to scare or alarm your children, but teaching them how to respond to people they don’t know will give them and you peace of mind.
That’s it! Your focus on outdoor safety for your kids will help give you piece of mind, while keeping your children safe. Your yard should be that much safer for your children to play in.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.
- Heavy-duty trash bags
- Insecticide spray
- Insect repellant or insecticide
- String trimmer
- Storage cabinet
- Rubber caps (for exposed hardware)
- Mulch or wood chips
- Medium-grit sandpaper
- Concrete grout
- Caulking gun
- Concrete patching compound
- Protective helmet and pads