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Uncommon Playtime Safety Tips

As video games and streaming services make our world more and more couch-centric, it’s heartwarming to see children want to run around and play the old-fashioned way. Many parents can relate to some version of “back in my day…”, complete with a memory of a simpler childhood pastime, like building a pillow fort, running through a sprinkler, playing with mud, etc. Thankfully, our kids are still often drawn to free, physical play around the house. (This version of playtime is very beneficial for cognitive and socioemotional development – if you want to know more about that, check out my PM Behavioral Health colleague’s latest blog on the perks of unstructured playtime, here!)

However, when kids are free to play around the house, some health and safety tips must be considered to prevent a visit to the local urgent care or emergency department. Let’s discuss some of the less talked about ones today!

Floor Friction – Or Lack Thereof

I know, I know – asking kids to pick their clothes up off the floor can often feel like asking the clothes to get up and move on their own. However, beyond the appearance concerns of cluttered floors, soft items left out to be stepped on pose a risk of slipping and falling. Especially if a child is running around and not being careful about their footing, stepping on a pillow, a hoodie, a soft toy, or even a sock can cause them to go down hard and injure themselves. This is another great reason to keep encouraging tidiness habits throughout the house! Make sure to secure loose rugs to the floor, as well.

Keep an Eye on Grandma’s Purse

It’s easy to think of our personal bags as private property that is off-limits to other people. However, children don’t always follow social rules, and the contents of your purse or backpack are fair game if they’re left out. What could be dangerous about that? Well, think about all the random things that end up in our pockets over time: bobby pins, paperclips, medication, dental floss, jewelry, batteries, reading glasses, gum, etc. If found by an unsupervised child, these items could act as choking hazards, strangulation cords, sharp objects, and toxic/unwanted swallowables. To avoid this, designate a bag spot out of children’s reach for both you and your guests.

Second-Hand Gear

Hand-me-downs can be lifesavers when it comes to budgeting, and it’s always great to pass down a beloved toy from older to younger siblings. However, be careful with items that need to be a specific size to be used safely, like bikes, protective gear, athletic shoes, costumes, etc. In addition, be sure to check for wear and tear, especially with things that are climbable or large. It’s easy to assume that a swing set is sturdy when it’s been in our backyard for years, but we should still check for weak spots regularly to avoid breakage and injury.

Poisonous and Toxic Plants

Whether you are an avid gardener or a lover of indoor bouquets, make sure to do some research before bringing beautiful blooms into the house. Flowers like hydrangeas, daffodils, and lily of the valley contain toxic compounds that may cause harm if ingested. Around the holidays, keep poinsettias and mistletoe out of children’s reach to avoid dealing with upset stomachs. If your backyard is overgrown, weeds like poison ivy and poison oak can easily creep into the brush – know how to recognize these nuisances and deal with them before your little ones find them.

Exercise Equipment

There is a reason that every workout machine features a detailed safety sticker. Most equipment will warn against children and even teenagers using it without adult supervision because of the multiple points of risk throughout the mechanism: pinching, squishing, falling, twisting, etc. If applicable, all exercise machines should be unplugged when not in use. Better yet, they should be set up in a room that is off-limits to children to avoid accidents. Similarly, smaller items like dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and stability balls could cause serious injury if used for casual play.

By all means, children should play independently and actively throughout the house. This decreases the amount of time they spend in front of a screen, helps them stay active and curious, and develops their sense of self-reliance. Having basic safety precautions in place is a great way to allow our kids the freedom to explore their worlds and themselves without risking accidents and injury.