There are many things parents love to picture before their child is born. You might have imagined them smiling for the first time, being dropped off for their first day at school or even discovering their new favorite foods.
Another common first-time event that kids get to experience is their first time at a playground. It's a chance for them to have fun and let their imaginations run wild, all while enjoying some time outside the house with their friends.
If you think your child is ready for their first playground trip, read these tips so you're prepared before you get in the car. A little preparation will make the day much more fun for everyone involved.
1. Supervision is Essential
Older kids who love to walk and run on their own may prefer to not be watched closely on the playground, but don't think it's okay to hang out on the nearest bench with a good book.
Supervising your child while they're at the playground is essential to keeping them safe. They may attempt climbing the monkey bars because they don't know they're not ready for it. Or they could fall from a higher structure without intending to.
Keep an eye on your child as they play so you can run to help them if they need to.
2. Bring Plenty of Sunscreen
Sunny afternoons are the best times to go to the playground, but your child's skin will be extra sensitive to the sun. Bring the best sunscreen for them and apply it before you ever leave your home.
The car ride or walk there will give the sunscreen time to dry and be even more effective. If you plan to stay at the playground for longer than a half hour, set timers so you remember to re-apply sunscreen regularly.
3. Be Aware of Bees
Parks usually have lots of plants, and those plants will be blooming during the spring and summer. That means your child will be outside playing around areas where there could be bees.
Some bees will be harmless and others won't. It's important to know the difference between pests so you can identify the best solution if your child gets stung. Yellow jackets and hornets will leave much nastier stings than regular bees, so be prepared to possibly head to an emergency room for treatment if you see these more harmful pests flying around the playground.
4. Carry First Aid Supplies
Your child will want to have fun and explore the playground, and kids are notorious for getting carried away with their fun. They might trip and fall, resulting in scrapes that will need immediate attention.
It's always a good idea to carry around first aid supplies in your car, especially if you're going to the park. A quick band-aid will fix a scrape and let your kid get right back to swinging or climbing the playset.
5. Enforce Closed-Toe Shoes
One of the benefits of visiting a playground is that your kids will get to run around as much as they want. If they're wearing open-toed shoes like flip flops, that could be dangerous.
Studies have shown that closed-toed shoes like tennis shoes prevent accidents with children, such as tripping. Tennis shoes will also protect them from potentially dangerous playground features like wood chips. They're also more likely to fall if they're running quickly and accidentally bend their flip flops or sandals underneath their feet. If they try to fight to keep their flip flops, let them know that wearing tennis shoes is a hard rule they'll have to live with.
6. Take Extra Water Bottles
No matter how long you plan to be at the playground, everyone is going to be out in the summer heat. A trip to the local ice cream shop may be something you're looking forward to, but keeping your kids hydrated is important to keep in mind while they're hanging out outside during the summer.
Bring extra water bottles in a cooler full of ice. One for each kid will be enough to give them a good water break for those longer playground trips. Keep the cooler in your car and you won't have to worry about lugging it out to where you usually sit at the playground.
7. Create Safety Rules
Some safety rules often go unsaid, but younger children won't think of situations that could potentially turn risky. As the adult, it's important to create safety rules you can go over with your kids before they get to go to the playground.
- Some ideal safety rules to remind them of could be:
- Never leave the park with strangers.
- Don't accept food from strangers.
- Be nice with other kids.
Other safety rules could depend on the playground you visit. Your kids may be too young to climb across the monkey bars or not old enough to run across the soccer fields just outside the playground fence.
Think about what your kids will want to do at the playground depending on their personality and create safety rules that they'll understand and know to abide by.
8. Refrain from Hovering
You keep an eye on your kids every day, so it's natural to feel a little hesitant to let them run off into a playground. You might be tempted to follow them around the playset at a distance, but it's smarter to resist hovering.
Playgrounds are built within a fence so parents can hang out on the sidelines for a few minutes. It's smart to know where they are, but if they head down a tube slide, you don't necessarily need to be waiting for them at the bottom if you think they're old enough to handle it on their own.
Using these tips will also help you from hovering. Your kids will understand what the safety rules are, know they have cold water waiting for them in the car and trust that you can take care of them if they get accidentally hurt or stung by a bee.
After you have a quick talk with your kids about your playground expectations, you'll feel much better about taking them there for the first time. The playground is a place where everyone should feel safe, so keep that in mind and try to enjoy this big first moment as much as they will.