Play hard, play safe, nobody gets hurt
Outdoor play is critical for children’s development, but may also present a number of potential hazards.11th Feb 2020
Experts tell us that children should spend at least three hours a day outside – and, indeed, one of the joys of estate living is that kids have literally acres to run and roam. Here’s how to ensure that they enjoy it all safely.
Did you know that outdoor play is essential for building gross motor skills, improving eyesight, developing creativity, lessening depression, building stronger bones and cultivating social skills? It even leads to improved performance at school. These are all highly desirable outcomes, of course – but what about broken bones, dehydration and sunstroke, which may also accompany a day on the playground? These are all easily avoidable, happily, as long as you follow these tips.
First things first: before anyone starts climbing, swinging or jumping, it’s important for you to check that the equipment is in good condition, without any breaks or snags that may pose a danger.
Although it goes without saying that adult supervision is a must, it’s impossible for a parent to be aware of every interaction, at every minute. That’s why it’s vital to remind your little ones of the ground rules: big kids need to make way for little kids (especially on trampolines), while little kids need to keep an eye out for older siblings who might play a tad more roughly. On the subject of rough play: everyone enjoys a tug of war or a tumble, but the place for these activities is on the ground, not on the jungle gym. Tell kids to look out for surfaces that may have become slippery in wet weather or which may be very hot from the sun, and to keep their belongings (like satchels) well away from any play equipment, so that they can’t be tripped over. Finally, children need to keep an eye out for what their playmates are doing: for example, if they can see that someone is about to jump off a climbing frame, they need to step away from it. Likewise, they need to move away from swings that are in motion.
Anyone who has sweated through a 34-degree day will know that South Africa’s sun is no joke. Sunscreen (even for dark-skinned children, and even on overcast days) is non-negotiable, as are hats. And don’t forget to pack a bottle of water – hydration is all-important, especially when you’re working up a thirst with a fast-paced game of catch. If possible, try to schedule outdoor play after the hottest time of the day (between 11am and 3pm).
Bugs might be more of an irritation than a danger, but a coating of insect repellent is a good idea. It’s also wise to include a dose of antihistamine in your kiddie’s backpack, in case of bee stings.
Although kids are always enthusiastic to hit the playground, they need to have the right protective gear before they do so: helmets when cycling, for instance, or some form of flotation around the pool.