21 Tips to Keep Your Kids Healthy After a Trip to the Playground
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.
However, there can be risks to playground trips. High-touch surfaces can harbor germs and bacteria, and other kids could have a contagious illness. The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely exacerbated these concerns. Kids can also get other injuries and sunburn. Follow these health tips for playgrounds to help keep your kids healthy.
Read the full article or jump to a specific section:
- Benefits of Outdoor Play
- Risks of Playground Trips
- 6 Tips for Before Your Playground Trip
- 6 Tips for During Your Playground Trip
- 9 Tips for after Your Playground Trip
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 unstructured opportunities and interact with new people.
Playgrounds provide all kinds of equipment that benefit child development. The 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 children maintain a healthy body mass index and reduces their risk of becoming obese. Obesity can lead to many other long-term health issues. Climbing and other activities also help promote muscle growth and stronger bones. Outdoor play contributes to advanced motor skills, like coordination, balance and agility. Playing in the sun also builds up kids’ vitamin D, another important part of staying healthy.
Playing outside helps reduce stress and promotes feelings of well-being. Spending time in nature has been shown to 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.
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 other children.
Even if they play by themselves, they will develop an awareness of the kids 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.
Risks of Playground Trips
Trips to playgrounds and other outdoor play spaces can come with certain risks. Knowing these risks will help you make the right decisions to minimize them as much as possible and keep your kids healthy.
Other infections can also spread at playgrounds. The University of Arizona conducted tests of environmental surfaces in public areas and found playground equipment among the most contaminated surfaces. Norovirus, E. coli, hepatitis A and salmonella are common bacterium that can be found in playgrounds.
Falls and other injuries are also risks of playing on playground equipment. More than 220,000 children under the age of 14 are treated in emergency rooms in the United States every year due to injuries on playgrounds. Your child could fall, get cut, get stuck between bars or get entangled. You have to supervise your kids at all times to make sure they are using equipment for its intended purpose.
Long exposure to UV rays can be harmful to your child and impact their long-term health. Sun exposure and sunburns as a child have been linked to adult skin cancers. On a summer day at peak hours, a short amount of time in the sunshine is enough to damage a child’s skin. Go during off-peak hours or find a park with a good amount of shade.
6 Tips for Before Your Playground Trip
You will need to prepare for your trip to have all the resources you need to have a successful and health-conscious trip. Let your kids know what to expect and pack all the items you’ll need. Preparation is the key here.
1. Set the Expectation
There’s always the possibility that you’ll have to cut your trip short due to undesirable conditions. Tell your child that you may have to go to a different park or do another outdoor activity at home if the park is too busy. 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. Dress Appropriately
Make sure your child is dressed for outdoor play. They need to be wearing closed-toe shoes that protect their feet. They should also wear clothes that can get dirty and aren’t so loose that they could get caught on anything.
They shouldn’t have anything on them that could get caught on equipment, like necklaces, scarves, drawstrings and loose shoelaces. 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.
3. Bring Sanitizer and Snacks
Hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes are also important things you should bring to the playground to minimize the spread of contagious illnesses. Kids often put their hands in their mouth more than adults do. Wipe down high-touch surfaces such as tables, chairs, handrails or doorknobs before touching them.
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 plenty of water and fruit, granola bars or other high-protein snacks to give them the energy to fuel their fun. Bringing your own snacks can also help you avoid interacting with germs on public vending machines or water fountains.
4. Pack Sunscreen and Bug Spray
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 UV rays are still there, even if it appears cloudy. Make sure to apply a high-SPF sunscreen and encourage breaks in the shade.
Bug bites are another factor that can harm your child while outside. Bring skin-safe bug spray to help prevent issues that mosquitoes, ticks and other pests can cause.
5. Prepare a First Aid Kit
Bumps, bruises and cuts are all possibilities when playing outside. Bring cleansing wipes, disinfectants and bandages for cuts and scrapes. Instant ice packs and children’s medicine are also helpful to have with you.
Don’t forget to bring water, too. Water is important for staying hydrated, but you should also have extra if you need to rinse some dirt out of a scrape or cut before bandaging it. It’s also a good idea to bring something for bug bites. Know where the closest urgent care center is in case of a more serious injury.
6. 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. This could help reduce injuries in the event of a fall. 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.
6 Tips for During Your Playground Trip
While you’re at the playground, there’s a lot of factors to keep in mind so you and your child can stay healthy. You have to consider sun exposure, contagious illnesses, social distancing and injuries. Always stay aware, as there can be other factors to consider.
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, but also 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. Biting insects can be a severe nuisance as well as putting your kid at risk of other problems.
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 kids 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
Even as an adult, it’s difficult to always have a tissue at the time of need. However, 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 that is meant for only one person is unsafe and could inspire other risky behavior.
5. Social Distance While Eating or Drinking
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’s the only way you can anticipate any accidents and help reduce them. Make sure that your kids are taking turns and sharing with others to avoid unfair play or frustrated little ones. Keeping an eye on them is important because if an injury occurs, you’ll only be able to attend to them immediately if you’re watching. Many unexpected things can happen, so you always have to be aware.
9 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. This is one of the best ways to prevent illness. 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. 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 lay down.
This is not a good idea, since dirt, mulch, 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. These extra steps can help you and your kids stay healthy during COVID-19.
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.
4. Continue COVID-19 Precautions
Check current guidelines for your area on how to reduce your chances of contracting COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses. Let kids play on outdoor playgrounds with plenty of open air to minimize droplet transmission. Social distance from members of other households whenever possible, and remember to wash your hands frequently.
5. Reduce Screen Time
When kids have too much screen time, they are more likely to get less sleep. Higher screen time has also been linked to worse grades and a higher risk of obesity. Limiting screen time and promoting staying active and participating in educational activities is a good way to keep your kids healthy.
6. 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 variety of foods is recommended because you need a variety of nutrients to stay healthy. Remember that potatoes and fries don’t count as vegetables because they have a negative impact on blood sugar. Limit processed foods and foods with excess sugar and sodium.
7. 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 over a 24-hour day. This time includes naps throughout the day. Children 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
Make the Most of Play Experiences With Miracle Recreation
Nothing is more important than keeping kids safe during play. Miracle Recreation is a manufacturer of 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 a textured surface that are designed to provide a supportive and comfortable grip for kids. Our textured PVC coating is also slip-resistant and even provides 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!