Pediatric: Safety tips for babysitters (part 3): keeping outdoor play areas safe
When the weather is nice or the children are rambunctious, you may spend some of your daytime babysitting outdoors. Outdoor play equipment—swings, seesaws, and slides—can be fun, but can be dangerous too. You'll need to keep a watchful eye on the little ones in your care.
Here are some tips on keeping outdoor play areas safe for children.
Children often do the unexpected on playground equipment. They are naturally curious and adventurous. Common hazardous behaviors include:
- Standing, rather than sitting, in a swing
- Climbing to the top of the swing set and sitting or swinging on it
- Jumping off or in front of swings, seesaws, or gliders
- Walking in front or in back of a moving swing
- Putting too much weight on a piece of equipment and toppling it
Hanging rings are particularly dangerous to small children. Their heads may be small enough to go through the ring, turning it into a noose.
All children should be supervised when playing on playground equipment. Take some time to look over the playground in advance, before you bring the children, so you can get familiar with the equipment, location, and potential situations you may encounter.
Here are some pointers for your next trip to the playground:
- Look for damaged equipment or fixtures that have hidden hazards (like a sandbox with broken glass).
- Make sure rails, walls, and fences are secure.
- Limit children to equipment that suits their age.
- Keep children a safe distance from one another.
- Make sure the slide is not in direct sunlight, especially if it's metal.
- Don't let them hang or swing upside down, or go headfirst down a slide. It will help reduce the risk of a head or neck injury.
- Keep your eyes on the children at all times. Falls and accidents can happen quickly. You may not be able to prevent one if you're distracted.
Explain the following hazards:
- Walking in front or in back of a swing
- Pushing other children off of the swing
- Swinging empty seats
- Twisting the swing chains
- Climbing up the front of the slide
You may encounter some resistance if their parents let them do things you won't. Explain that it's a temporary restriction while you're watching them.
You can also enlist the help of children. Talk to older children about certain safety rules and why they are important. Ask them to assist you in watching the younger ones. It will help them to understand these rules better. Let children know that any bad behavior, such as stunts or misuse of equipment, is unacceptable.
Last reviewedMarch 2013by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.