Though my kids are older now, I remember the stress of keeping them safe when they were toddlers. The vigilance required of a new parent is extraordinary, when hidden foes such as power outlets, electrical cords, and even a whole grape can lurk around every corner. Kids just don’t have the instincts for these dangers, and how could they? It makes sense that toddlers suddenly become picky about new flavors and often don’t want to eat anything unless it comes off of a parents’ (aka royal taste tester’s) plate first. This is from many, many generations of humans practicing being human. But in our modern world? It’s curiousity that rules, the same human quality that came up with power outlets and so many other inventions in the first place.
It’s one thing to child-proof your living room, but that pack and play will get old quick. Because summer is on the horizon, this means kids don’t want to be inside (and neither do their parents). Below are some tips for keeping your little kids safe while playing outside, traveling, and enjoying some of the many fun things to do in warm weather.
In the yard and neighborhood around your home:
- Talk to your neighbors. It takes a village. Make an effort to get to know your neighbors. You can all look out for each other’s children (or furry children) and keep a watch for people who don’t belong there.
- Talk to your kids. Communicate rules and guidelines about where they can play and where they cannot. Tell them who they can trust and what to do around strangers. Make sure they know they must not take anything from a stranger, no matter what this adult or older kid tells them, and that they should never leave with a stranger.Children should never play in a place their caregivers don’t know they’re in.
- Tell your kids how to respond in an emergency. They should know who to ask for help, and where to go.
Regardless of how you travel, remember that you’ll be going through and ending up in places in which your kids will be exposed to new germs. Pack your vitamins, increase hand washing, and use baby wipes and sanitizer for cleaning on the go.
- By air: Talk to your pediatrician if your infant is sick before your scheduled trip, especially if your baby has respiratory or heart problems, or an ear infection. If you’re traveling outside the US, you’ll need to get needed vaccinations for that part of the world.
- By car: Not every country requires infants and children to be in child safety seats. Bring a proper child safety seat anyway, and make sure it’s properly installed. Kids under age 13 should sit in the back seat always. All passengers should wear safety belts at all times.
- By magic carpet: Going to a child-oriented amusement park? Always keep an eye, and ideally a hand, on your child at all times while in crowded places. Wear your little ones, or put them in a stroller, or even use a leash for toddlers. Write your name and cell phone number on your child’s arm in case you are separated from him or her. Carry a recent photo of your child with you, and consider a few hard copy prints you can give to other people, including law enforcement, instead of just the thousands of photos you’ll likely have of your kids on your cell phone. Also, give your kids a picture of you that they can show to a trusted adult in case you get separated.
Understand that small children can drown in very shallow pools of water and that drowning is often silent as the child uses all of their energy to try and catch a breath of oxygen. Irreversible brain damage or death may occur after only four minutes of being submerged under water. Playing in water and swimming are some of the most popular summer fun things to do for kids. Keep them safe! The American Red Cross has some excellent ideas and tips on water safety. Please check out the full article, and read below for some key points.
- If a child is missing, check the water first. Seconds count in preventing death or disability.
- Ensure that everyone in the family learns to swim well. Enroll in age-appropriate Red Cross water orientation and Learn-to-Swim courses. Bellingham’s Arne Hanna center uses the Red Cross learn-to-swim program and also offers a parent/child program for the littlest kids.
More backyard safety
Home playgrounds take extra planning to make kid-safe. Parents must be mindful of the hazards, including accidental collisions, falls and equipment failure.
- Properly install and routinely check the play structure. All pieces must be secured to prevent trip hazards, or equipment moving or coming loose and possibly falling on or otherwise harming a child.
- Openings in the structure should be within the recommended size range to prevent entrapment (less than 3½ inches or more than 9 inches).
- Use padded surfaces underneath the play structure to cushion falls. Rubber is great but natural mulch or gravel does not release toxic fumes.
For many more playground safety tips, click here.
But who needs a backyard play structure if you’re a kid? Armed with their natural creativity and spirit, kids can find nearly unlimited ways to play on a lawn with some friends. So, caregivers, think about what you use on your lawn: chemical sprays, sharp garden tools, rusty nails, and debris can be hazardous in small hands (and mouths). Remove and educate your kids about mushrooms and poisonous plants.