My kids have never been to a playground that they didn’t like and as urban dwellers, we tend to go to a lot of parks or playgrounds. While we do have a yard, it is small and we have no backyard at all. So we do playgrounds.
We eat lunch at our favorite park at least once a week and
spend a few hours there although since it is getting hotter here in the city, we try to visit during the morning or early evening when it tends to be cooler.
My kids also play hard when they are at playgrounds so I have to set some ground rules to make certain that everyone has a good time while staying safe.
1. Wear proper shoes.
This means no open-toed shoes. In the picture here, my middle child (in blue) is wearing open-toed shoes and was actually in the process of removing a woodchip when I took this picture.
Even the Keens sandals that my son lives in during the summer didn’t stop a wood chip from penetrating them last week. So now, we only wear tennis shoes to the park. Nothing else.
2. Avoid the sand.
Ok this is my own gross hangup but here it is: Have you ever seen stray cats hanging around the park or playing in the bushes? Where do you think they go the bathroom?
Twice I have actually seen a cat using a sandbox as his own personal litterbox so I NEVER let my children play in the sand at the park. You never know what kinds of bacteria or other things are in that sand.
3. Watch out for hot surfaces.
The Don’t Go Barefoot In The Playground, You Could Get Burned article scared me so much that I would never even dream of now letting my child go barefoot in the park. But this is a good lesson. Last week at the park, it was so hot that we actually saw asphalt melting in the parking lot. It was a patch and my foot stuck to it when I accidentally walked over it.
There are also metal surfaces including picnic tables, swing and monkey bars. We bring towels to put down on the picnic tables and just avoid the other hot surfaces.
4. Wear sunscreen and apply it at home.
The rule in our house is sunscreen must be applied 30 minutes before we go anywhere. This is especially true for the park where my kids get sweaty almost as soon as we get there. Applying sunscreen at the park does not always work when it may never have the chance to properly dry and soak into their skin.
A child who gets sunburned or overheated at the park risks sunstroke, dehydration and they can fall or injure themselves from dizziness related to these things.
5. Know your child’s limits.
The picture in this article is of my five-year-old pushing some kids on the merry-go-round. Truth be told, she was a little young to be doing that. She struggled for at least ten minutes and then begged her dad to help her “just one time” to push the other kids. He did and right after this picture, she fell flat on her face. She didn’t cry but she also didn’t push the merry-go-round again. She didn’t grasp the concept of how to jump on once it was going and she could have seriously hurt herself. After this push, she was just a passenger.
My two younger children are not that adept at the monkey bars. The youngest just cannot hold and the middle child almost always falls. As a result, when they head towards the monkey bars, I instead try to steer them to other places on the playground where they will have an easier time.
6. Dress properly.
Also in the picture above are both of my girls wearing dresses. This is not a smart move at a playground, especially if your kids play hard. Those long skirts got caught a few times on the merry-go-round and in the links of the swings. I finally had to tie my youngest child’s skirt between her legs so she could play.
I always recommend properly fitting t-shirts and shorts for kids at the park.
7. Do a safety check.
Before I let my kids play on anything at the playground, I go around and check everything that they plan to play on. I am looking for broken pieces, jagged pieces, loose bolts or anything that doesn’t look safe.
Last week at the park, we found a broken slide piece that could have really hurt someone. Since I have the Parks & Rec number in my phone, I was able to call it on and someone came to check out while we were still there. It was fixed a few days later when we went back.
8. Bring water and snacks.
Since it is important to stay hydrated and even more crucial on those hot, summer days, we each carry our own water bottle. Smart Water is our drink of choice at the park. My kids are playing hard and the electrolytes in the water make me feel like they are drinking the right thing.
I also always carry a small bag with some of my kids’ favorite snacks in case they get hungry while we are out. A hungry kid can mean a cranky child or one who gets distracted. This could lead to injuries and rather than take any chances, I bring things with me.
9. Stranger danger
My children know not to talk to strangers, but this can be tough at the park when all of the kids are playing with each other. While they are allowed to talk to and play with other children, they must let me know immediately if an adult talks to them or asks them to do something. This rarely happens but I remind my kids every time we drive to the park.