21 Tips to Keep Your Kids Healthy After a Trip to the Playground

Little girl on climbing play equipment

Trips to the playground are an important part of keeping your kids healthy and happy. Kids get physical exercise, fresh air, sunlight and the opportunity to be around other kids. The benefits of all these factors are clear. A little preparation before heading to the playground can help you avoid germs, improve playtime and enjoy a more convenient playground trip.

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Benefits of Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is an important part of a child’s development. There are so many reasons to encourage outdoor play and exercise. It improves physical and mental health and can help develop your child’s social skills. Kids need outdoor play to experience new things, have opportunities for unstructured play and interact with new people.

Physical Health

Playgrounds provide all kinds of equipment that benefit child development. Having a variety of play equipment allows kids to use many different physical skills while getting aerobic exercise. Exercise is imperative to maintaining a healthy weight and preventing disease.

Staying active helps kids maintain a healthy body mass index and reduces their risk of becoming obese. The physical benefits of outdoor play are vast. It can promote muscle growth, strong bones, advanced motor skills, vitamin D levels, mental health, strong immune systems and much more.

Mental Health

Playing outside helps reduce stress and promotes feelings of well-being. Studies show that spending time in nature can improve mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. Kids who play outdoors are also more likely to develop strong reasoning and observation skills.

Outdoor play is a lot more unstructured than indoor play, which gives kids multiple choices for interacting with the environment. This can help them build confidence and self-awareness. Unstructured play also promotes creativity and using imagination.

Social Skills

Playing on the playground gives kids a place to develop their social skills. Your child will learn how to meet new people, communicate with others and develop friendships. When kids play together, they learn to cooperate, share, communicate and positively interact with others.

Even if they play by themselves, kids can develop an awareness of those around them and learn new things. They’ll have to play near others and take turns using the equipment. Social skills are an important part of child development that will benefit them for their entire life.

Outdoor Play Benefits

Things to Watch Out For

As fun and as beneficial as they are, trips to playgrounds and other outdoor play spaces can come with a few concerns. Knowing what to look out for can help you make the right decisions and keep your kids healthy.

Some things to consider during your trip to the playground include:

  • Infections: Like any public space, germs can spread at playgrounds. Kids tend to be very tactile in their play, so pay attention to any bugs that are going around in your community and follow best practices for hygiene on a playground, like using hand sanitizer, wiping down surfaces and teaching kids to keep their hands out of their mouths.
  • Falls: Playgrounds are designed to be as safe as possible, but there’s still a chance that kids could fall while playing around or on the equipment. Check out our tips below for finding a playground with soft surfacing and sturdy structures, and always supervise kids closely to make sure they’re using equipment as intended.
  • Sunburns: Sunlight and vitamin D are vital to our health, but too much of a good thing can lead to sunburns. Wearing sunscreen provides good protection against sunburn, even on cloudy days. If you’re going to the playground when the sun is highest at midday, plan to bring hats and try to play in the shade.

9 Tips for Before Your Playground Trip

You will need to prepare for your trip to have all the resources you need for a successful and health-conscious trip. Let your kids know what to expect and pack all the items you’ll need. Preparation is key here.

1. Set the Expectation

There’s always the possibility that you’ll have to cut your trip short due to undesirable conditions like bad weather. Tell your child that you may have to go to a different park or do another outdoor activity at home if the park doesn’t work out.

Also, let them know that they need to stay where you can see them. They should come and check in with you if they need to find water, a bathroom or another place to play. Let them know what the rules are and what will happen if they break them.

2. Create Rules for Your Kids

Many playground signs are about using the equipment properly, but you’ll need to create some of your own rules for the playground, as well. Before you head to the park, establish some rules to help keep them safe, including:

  • Check-in with you often
  • Come to you first if they want to play somewhere else instead of wandering
  • Come to you first before going to a bathroom, a water fountain area or somewhere else outside of the playground
  • Don’t talk to adults who are strangers
  • Stay within an area where they can still see you and you can see them
  • Come to you if they’re having a disagreement with another child on the playground

If you create some guidelines and communicate those with your kids often, you’ll be able to relax a bit more during your visit to your playground.

3. Dress Appropriately

Make sure your child is dressed for outdoor play. Their wardrobe should include:

  • Closed-toe shoes: Closed-toe shoes can help protect your child’s feet. Closed-toe shoes help keep playground materials, mud, bugs and more out of your kids’ shoes, so they can play comfortably and avoid cuts or bites. Have them wear comfortable sneakers or walking shoes if you plan on walking before playing on the playground. Check that everyone’s laces are tied tightly before they head off to play, as well.
  • No loose clothing: Kids shouldn’t wear anything that could get caught on equipment, like necklaces, scarves, drawstrings and loose shoelaces.
  • Weather-appropriate clothes: If it’s sunny out, a hat will help protect your child’s eyes and face from the sun. If it’s cold, make sure they have layers to put on or take off as their temperature changes.
  • Clothes that can get dirty: Dress your child in clothing that’s easy to move around in and easy to wash, even if you just think they’ll be sliding and swinging all day. You don’t want to take the chance of your kids finding some mud to play in when they have on their nice school clothes.

kids on playground spinner

4. Bring Snacks

If you plan to be on the playground for a few hours, it’s a good idea to bring a few snacks along. As kids exert physical energy on various equipment, they may get hungry or need a break. Encourage your child to use hand sanitizer before eating or drinking. Check that your kids have fruit, granola bars or other high-protein snacks to give them the energy to fuel their fun.

Keep your snacks simple and healthy, like an apple or a pack of crackers. They don’t need to be elaborate homemade snacks, but rather something quick that your kids can munch on between playing or on the car ride home. You could plan a fancier picnic lunch, but make sure whatever you bring creates minimal garbage with wrappers or other packaging. Throw everything out or take it with you if your playground doesn’t have receptacles for trash.

Bringing your own snacks can also help you avoid interacting with germs on public vending machines. Depending on certain factors, you may need to bring more or fewer snacks or meals, so think about:

  • What time you go to the park.
  • How long you plan to be there.
  • If you have plans before or after.
  • If your kids ate before visiting the park.

5. Bring Water

Playing on a playground will tire out any kid, and if it’s a hot day, staying hydrated is more important than ever. Frozen treats and finding some shade will cool you and your kids down, but water is best after plenty of exercise and sun exposure.

Keep some extra water bottles in a cooler in your car for after playtime and have water bottles for you and your kids on you at the playground. If your park has water fountains, bring reusable water bottles to stay hydrated and eco-friendly.

6. Pack Sunscreen, Bug Spray and Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes can help you minimize the spread of illness since kids often put their hands in their mouths. Wipe down high-touch surfaces such as tables, chairs, handrails or doorknobs before touching them.

Sunscreen is very important in preventing skin damage and sunburn. A study found that 67% of public playgrounds are exposed to full sun during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Remember that ultraviolet rays are still there, even if it appears cloudy. Make sure to apply a high-SPF sunscreen and encourage breaks in the shade.

They’re crucial to our ecosystem, but bugs can cause problems during a playground visit. Bring skin-safe bug spray to help prevent bites or illness from mosquitoes, ticks and other pests.

7. Prepare a First Aid Kit

If you aren’t sure what to take to the park, a first aid kid should be at the top of your list. These supplies are handy to bring anywhere, not just the playground, especially if you have kids who love to play. If you already have a first aid kit, you probably have everything you need, but double-check or create your own with supplies like:

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Alcohol or disinfectant wipes
  • Ice packs
  • Children’s medicine, such as pain relievers and antacids
  • Creams for relief from bug bites

For kids with allergy concerns, be sure to have all the necessary supplies on-hand, especially if your child is allergic to bees or other bugs. Add other first aid supplies you know your kids will need based on how they play and what first aid help they often need.

8. Choose the Right Park

Different playgrounds have equipment for different age groups and physical capabilities. Find a playground with proper surfacing, like engineered wood fiber or poured-in-place rubber surfacing. Read all the signs around the playground to make sure your child is the right age to be playing on that equipment. Check the handrails to make sure they are sturdy. If the equipment doesn’t look like it’s in good shape, consider finding another place to play.

If you’re heading to the park in the winter or after some rain, take some time to clear off any snow or ice and only allow kids to play on dry equipment. Wintertime also comes with early sunsets, so look for a park that’s well-lit if you’ll be going after dark.

Girl on Champions Trek Climber

9. Bring Games or Sports Equipment

Your packing list for the park doesn’t have to be all practical supplies. Throw in something fun with sports equipment or other outdoor play items. Playgrounds often have plenty of thrilling equipment for kids to enjoy, but if your park has other play areas for sports and activities, you’ll need some supplies like balls or frisbees.

It’s also a good idea to keep some of these outdoor toys in your car just in case the playground is crowded or your kids decide they want to play somewhere else. The extra supplies you bring don’t have to be for just games — pack a blanket or camping chair to sit on in case the benches are taken, or bring other activities your kids like to do.

7 Tips for During Your Playground Trip

While you’re at the playground, there are a lot of factors to keep in mind so you and your child can stay healthy and have a great time.

1. Apply Sunscreen and Bug Spray

As soon as you get to the park, apply sunscreen. Cover all exposed skin, including their face, ears and neck. Read the instructions for how often to apply it, and remember to utilize shade. Encourage your child to take breaks and hang out in the shade for a few minutes. You can also apply bug spray to prevent bug bites.

2. Frequently Sanitize Hands

Keeping hands clean, especially for little ones who often touch their face or put objects in their mouth, can contribute to keeping everyone healthy on a playground. When you get to the playground, your child should sanitize their hands. This will prevent them from potentially spreading germs at the playground. While there, your child will be touching equipment, toys and other kids. It’s up to you to know how often to give your child sanitizer, but consider how often your child touches high-touch surfaces and their own face.

If your playground has a public bathroom, you and your child can also wash your hands with warm soap and water. If you are using hand sanitizer, the CDC recommends an alcohol-based formula with 60% alcohol or more to effectively kill germs. When giving your kids hand sanitizer, make sure that they have enough to cover the front and back of their hands generously and keep it away from their eyes and mouth.

3. Cover Your Mouth and Nose

Kids tend to be unaware when they are openly sneezing or coughing into the air or onto a surface that other people touch. Playgrounds have many high-touch areas. Teach your kids how to cough or sneeze into the inside of their elbow instead of their hands.

Using their elbow will help them learn not to project their cough or sneeze, especially if they are nowhere near a tissue. It will help them avoid transferring germs from their hands to their face when they scratch their nose or wipe their mouth. This technique can reduce the chance of droplets landing on handrails or other equipment on the playground that many other kids interact with, helping minimize the spread of illness.

4. Encourage Proper Play

When watching your kids have fun on the playground, it’s important they use the equipment correctly and properly — as they were intended. Don’t allow them to go down a slide the wrong way or try to hang off a swing in a silly position, as this can lead to injury. Kids are naturally curious, imaginative and playful. It’s normal for them to want to try new things and push the limits, but it’s important that they don’t put themselves or others in danger.

While it’s essential for kids to explore things on their own, you also want to ensure they are not putting themselves in harm’s way. For instance, multiple kids using a structure meant for only one person can be dangerous.

5. Social Distance While Eating or Drinking

If there’s any illness going around, make sure you and your child socially distance when eating or drinking on benches, tables and chairs. Keep open food or drink containers away from other people who may accidentally cough or sneeze around them. Choose a picnic table farther from other families. Remember to bring your own water so you can avoid public water fountains.

6. Always Supervise

It’s important that you always supervise your child while they are playing at the playground. It can help you anticipate accidents and make sure everyone uses the playground equipment correctly. Younger or adventurous kids who like to wander off may need extra attention, but you should always keep an eye out regardless.

Supervision also helps you make sure that your kids are taking turns and sharing with others to avoid unfair play or frustrated little ones. Many unexpected things can happen, so you always have to be aware.

You want your kids to make friends on the playground and have a fun time, but that can be difficult with a parent who's always hovering.

It’s important to walk the line between supervision and hovering, especially for older kids. You want your kids to make friends on the playground and have a fun time, but that can be difficult with a parent who’s always hovering. Unless your child asks you to play with them or they need help, feel free to stand back and watch them have a good time while keeping an eye on them to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Pay attention to your kids’ surroundings, too. Watch for anything from strangers to bees or biting insects and take your kids to a better area if anything is wrong.

7. Follow Signs and Rules

Playgrounds and parks have rules posted for visitors to follow. Go over them with your kids and keep them in mind as you watch them play. Remind them of the rules if your kids come close to breaking them, and refresh their memory every time you visit the playground, especially if you have younger kids.

You should also respect signs of closures or other warnings telling you to stay away from areas of the park or playground. These signs go up for various reasons, like weather or environmental concerns, but no matter the reason, be sure to stay out of the posted area. If you live far from a playground and don’t want to make the long drive or walk only to find an area closed, check online resources when planning your visit to make sure everything is open

8 Tips for After Your Playground Trip

Keep your kids healthy after your trip by making sure to wash their hands. There are several other general health tips to keep in mind so that your kids and family can stay healthy.

1. Wash Hands Often

When you’re finished at the playground, make sure your child washes their hands thoroughly. They should be washing their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Make sure they wash all parts of their hands, including between their fingers and under their nails. Washing hands frequently is an important part of disease control and staying healthy.

2. Clean Clothes and Shoes

While kids’ hands are primarily touching every inch of the playground, their shoes and clothes are also interacting with slides, swings, merry-go-rounds and other equipment. When you get home from the playground, ensure everyone places their clothes in the wash and removes their shoes.

Kids should change their clothes because they may be tired after playing for hours on the playground and want to head straight for the couch or bed to lie down. This is not a good idea, since dirt, sweat and germs can remain on their clothes. You can also wipe down your kid’s shoes with a sanitizing wipe to kill any lingering germs and reduce the chance of them tracking around your house.

3. Encourage Kids to Stay Active

Kids should be staying active all week long, not just when at the park. According to the CDC, kids ages 6 through 17 should have 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. Most of this time should be spent doing aerobic exercise, which gets their heart pumping faster. However, some of this exercise should include muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. Encourage kids to try different physical activities to exercise different parts of the body.

little girl on playground balance beam

4. Reduce Screen Time

When kids have too much screen time, they can be at a higher risk for developmental issues like obesity and sleep problems. Limiting screen time and promoting staying active and participating in educational activities are good ways to keep your kids healthy.

5. Support Healthy Eating

Kids also need balanced, healthy meals. Provide a variety of veggies, fruits of all colors and healthy proteins if your child’s diet allows it. Eating a range of foods is recommended because you need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Remember that foods like french fries can affect blood sugar in an unhealthy way, so opt for unprocessed vegetables and fruits when possible and limit excess sugar and sodium.

6. Ensure Adequate Sleep

Kids and adults need adequate sleep to be as healthy as they can be. Having enough sleep leads to improved attention, behavior, learning, memory and overall health. Kids ages 3 to 5 years need 10 to 13 hours of sleep a day, including naps. Kids ages 6 through 12 need nine to 12 hours of sleep. Teenagers should have eight to 10 hours of sleep every day.

Following these guidelines regularly will help maintain your child’s physical and mental health.

7. Make Play Dates for Your Kid

Arranging times for your kids to play with others is a great way to give them an opportunity to learn about others and themselves. Social play allows kids to develop important skills like cooperation, compromise and conflict resolution. Seeing the same kids over and over again also allows them to build friendships and learn more about each other, building lifelong bonds and valuable relationships. Being around new kids, like at a public playground, will help your child develop new skills and push their comfort zone.
children playing with mini city equipment

8. Advocate for New Playground Equipment

Playtime is vital to your child’s development. Playground equipment gives kids a variety of activities to do while also building muscles, strength and motor skills while having fun. If your park or school has old, outdated or potentially unstable equipment, you can advocate for an upgrade.

Some older playgrounds may not be able to accommodate every kid and may not include sensory equipment. Miracle® Recreation offers inclusive playground options that allow kids of all ability levels to participate. Build some community support and reach out to the organization to see if they have any resources available to help you accomplish your goal.

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Make the Most of Play Experiences With Miracle Recreation

Make the Most of Play Experiences with Miracle Recreation

Nothing is more important than keeping kids healthy and happy during play. Miracle Recreation manufactures exciting playground equipment that promotes overall child development. We have a commitment to quality equipment, education and the environment. Our playgrounds are designed to bring thrilling experiences to outdoor play. Check out our featured products to see some of the innovative playground equipment we can provide.

Every piece of equipment is tested against rigorous standards. We offer unique handrails with textured surfaces designed to provide kids with a supportive and comfortable grip. Our textured coatings are also slip-resistant and even provide insulation against high temperatures.

Our playgrounds offer stimulating experiences with endless learning opportunities. If you’re planning a new playground or renovating an existing playground in your community, check out our planning resources. For a quote for your playground, contact us today!