Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Keeping Kids Safe at the Beach and Playground

By Christina VanGinkel

With summer fast approaching, keeping your little ones safe at the park and beach are concerns that you should not take lightly. While these places are overflowing with fun, there are also dangers lurking. The best way to keep the fun at the forefront, and the dangers at bay, is being aware of what many of the dangers are, and taking simple precautions to keep them from becoming issues.

Put sunscreen on your child as needed, make use of a large umbrella when appropriate, and be sure to keep them hydrated. Sunburn and heatstroke can happen quickly. A bit of prevention goes a long way towards avoiding these two hazards.

Always make sure your little ones are wearing shoes when at a park or the beach. Broken glass and other debris are of course concerns, but so are natural objects such as sharp stones, ground bees, and other insects. Shoes are your little one's best defense against issues such as these.

Just because something is at a park or beach, does not mean that it is safe. For example, bike racks are often heavy, unstable objects that are just accidents waiting to happen. While many new ones are secure, and not likely to fall over, many old ones are near collapse, or no longer, if ever, secured to anything. Do not let children crawl on or around anything that might topple over and cause harm.

Look for play areas that have soft material such as wood chips beneath the playground equipment. Ground, grass, asphalt, cement, etc., below and around the play area are common causes of injuries. Also, be sure that the soft ground cover extends out from the playground equipment far enough that if a child falls, they will land on the soft area, and not on harder ground. My young grandson recently went down an innocuous looking slide. The pants he was wearing were great for sliding, almost too well, and he went flying off the end. He luckily landed on a scattering of wood chips, though not thick enough to cushion the fall completely. He was not hurt seriously, but it was a painful reminder to take the issue of ground cover, and how far it extends out from the equipment, to heart each and every time we visit any park or play area in the future.

Avoid dressing kids in sweaters or sweatshirts that have cords around the neck area. They can become tangled in slides and other playground equipment causing a risk of strangulation. While this might seem like an extreme statement, sadly, it has occurred and there is no way to sugarcoat it.

Strangers are of course always a concern in the world we live in, and with beaches and parks being such serene places, we can too easily let our guard down. Letting young children run to a snack stand alone, or to the restrooms or changing rooms, should never be allowed, even if it is just around a corner. Always keep them in your sight. It is just not worth the risk.

Never allow young children to play in or near the water's edge unless you are right next to them. Waves can be erratic, and there is always a chance of a current or undertow sweeping a person in the water away. Because conditions can change quickly with water, so be sure you know when it is safe to wade, and or swim, and take all safety precautions available, including a swimmers vest. However, never rely on a vest to save your child's life. Although a swimming vest is definitely something that you should invest in for your young child, do not think that it is a babysitter. It should only be used with adult supervision. While lifeguards are definitely an asset to a beach, do not rely on them to watch your children. You are still the adult in charge where your own kids are a concern.

Teach kids that it is never safe to dive into shallow water. Diving should only be done under proper supervision, and only in depths that are deep enough that a person does not accidentally hit the bottom.

Having fun at a playground or the beach is one of summer's greatest pleasures, especially for kids. So keep the fun factor at the top by making sure safety comes first.

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