Their growing up years should be fun – for them and you!
My wife and I had gone on a date, leaving our 7-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son at home with a sitter. When we returned, we were surprised to see our neighbor in our home. He was a doctor. He immediately assured us everything was OK. Our son was a bit scraped up, but there was no need for a trip to the emergency room.
Accidents do happen, but this was no accident. No, it was a preventable injury. Without thinking, we had left the treadmill plugged in. While we were away, our son got on it, turned it on and went for a ride!
In a series of four articles, I wrote about hazards in the kitchen, bathroom, living rooms and garage. In this article I cover safety considerations for indoor toys and outdoor play sets. Our part as parents and grandparents in keeping our children safe is primarily a 2-step process – inspection and supervision.
1. Inspection – make sure things are safe for your children
The first step is to carefully inspect all your children’s toys. Here are some guidelines to help you.
- Start by inspecting all the toys they currently have. We have so many toys in our house, so we rotate them every so often – some are out for them to play with and some are stashed away in a closet.
- Only allow your children to play with toys recommended for their age group. Toys for older children might have small parts or small removable parts that could be a choking hazard for younger children.
- Periodically inspect toys for wear and tear. Throw damaged toys in the trash.
- Make sure battery covers are secured, not loose or missing.
- Inspect used toys before letting your children play with them. When in doubt, throw them out (the toys, not the children!).
- All batteries are dangerous and should be kept out of the reach of children. Smaller batteries, especially those that are commonly called “button” batteries, are a choking hazard. Not only that, they can be deadly if swallowed.
- Follow manufacturer’s instructions when assembling toys and indoor play sets. Instructions are not for “a last resort”.
Outdoor play sets
- New out-of-the-box play sets
- Assemble all play sets according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Do not omit any part of the process.
- Contact the manufacturer if you have any questions or encounter any problems. Don’t guess.
- Periodically inspect the play set for loose, missing, corroded, or damaged parts. Repair or replace as needed.
- Used play sets: hand-me-downs, Craigslist, garage sales
- Inspect used equipment for loose, missing, corroded, or damaged parts.
- Before installing or using used equipment, check online for a product manual. Carefully inspect the equipment for evidence of improper assembly.
- New or used
- Sharp or protruding hardware (nuts, bolts, etc.) or parts should be protected to help prevent cuts, scrapes, head injuries, etc.
- Replace cracked swing seats to avoid pinch injuries.
- Check wooden play sets for cracks that can cause splinters.
- Allow plenty of room around the play set so children do not impact other objects – fence, shed, other equipment, other children, for example.
- A large percent of injuries is from falls. Play sets should be set on a soft surface that is at least 12 inches thick. Opinions vary on what types of protective materials are best. It is my understanding that shredded tires, 12 inches thick, are best.
- Openings in equipment should be less than 4 inches or greater than 9 inches to help prevent head entrapment.
- Repair or remove damaged cargo type nets.
2. Supervision – make sure your children are safe
As parents and grandparents, it’s not enough to make sure things are safe for our children and grandchildren. We must also make sure they are safe. We do this by supervising them. Now, supervising children does not guarantee there will never be any injuries. It does, however, minimize the risks and hopefully keep you out of the emergency room.
Indoors and outdoors
- Always be aware of what your children are doing. The smaller they are, the more closely they should be watched.
- Make sure younger siblings do not have access to older siblings’ toys that might be unsafe for them.
- Teach rules to your children early and make sure they follow them
- Teach children to put their toys away so they don’t become trip hazards. Toddlers aren’t too young to start learning.
- Most children have more toys than they know what to do with. Breakable objects such as drinking glasses, coffee cups and knick-knacks are not toys. Remotes are not toys, either. They should be kept out of the reach of children because they often have battery covers that can easily be removed, exposing children to the covers, screws and batteries.
- New toys come in plastic bags, are secured to the carton with screws, or are held in place with zip ties. Keep plastic bags (suffocation hazard), screws and small packaging straps (choking hazards) out of the reach of little children.
- Be careful with large trash bags (suffocation hazard) that are out during birthdays and Christmases. You know – the ones in which we throw all the wrapping paper, boxes and other trash.
- Adhere to the age and weight recommendations set forth by the manufacturer of play sets. Your 3-year-old will be 5 before you know it, so don’t rush things. Falls from monkey bars and swings are all too common.
- Be aware of play set platform openings (areas with no guard rails). There will usually be at least one, otherwise how will children access the platform. Pictured below is the Lifetime Adventure Tower. Besides the opening for the slide, it has two other openings from the top platform. One is for accessing the platform by climbing up curved bars. The other is for accessing the platform by climbing up a rock wall. Our granddaughter is now 5 years old and I still watch her ever so closely when she is on the platform. We do not allow our 2-year-old grandson on the platform.
- Teach children to stay clear of swings. Show them a “safe zone” on both sides of swings.
- Play equipment gets hot fast, whether it’s cloudy or full sun. Be sure to alert your children.
- Have children wear appropriate clothing. Long pants are best for going down slides.
- Tennis shoes, sneakers, athletic footwear – whatever you call them, have your children wear them on play sets. In my pinion, sandals, flip-flops and bare feet are not appropriate.
- Periodically check all play equipment for insect nests. I have found wasp nests under platforms, slides and roofs. Treat as needed. If you see a wasp flying around play equipment, that’s usually a clue that either a nest is present or one soon will be.
- Periodically check the surface area for fire ants, and treat as needed.
A safe home is a fun home
Providing a safe environment for your children isn’t difficult. Apply the tips listed above, mix in a little common sense along with all your love. Stay a “step ahead of the game” by trying to anticipate the outcome of your children’s actions. Don’t forget to help your friends by sharing this post.
Based on your experience with your children and/or grandchildren, what tips or advice can you share that would help each of us? Please leave your comments below and I will reply as soon as possible.