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Do your kids have cabin fever from long weeks spent in quarantine? They have happy news to look forward to — you can encourage safe play on public playgrounds. Once they recover from any symptoms, the fresh air will benefit their minds and bodies.
What must you do to protect your precious little ones when you head out into the open? Here are eight safe play tips for public playgrounds to safeguard their well-being and that of others.
1. Evaluate Their Health
Despite their protestations that they “feel fine,” you shouldn’t let your children play outdoors if they show any cold or flu-like symptoms. The same goes if they recently contacted someone infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to advise 14-day quarantines for anyone exposed.
The issue grows more complicated if they have allergies — young children with runny noses might give others pause. However, if they don’t have a fever, feel lethargic or show any other symptoms, check with your pediatrician to confirm the diagnosis. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
2. Observe Local Restrictions
Some jurisdictions require the use of masks in any public setting while others do not. If yours does, please pay attention to the age requirements at your favorite play facility. Some make exceptions for youth under certain limits, and you don’t want to risk offending a fellow parent by criticizing them if one isn’t required.
Some cities have closed facilities in areas with high infection rates. If yours does, please obey the rules no matter how much your child begs. Instead, use it as a teachable moment to share the importance of protecting others.
3. Wear a Mask
If your child is greater than two-years-old, they should wear a mask unless a breathing condition makes it problematic. Experts don’t recommend their use on younger children due to the risk of suffocation. However, severe asthma or other lung problems can present challenges for older kids.
Otherwise, think of the virus-infected droplets like glitter — that stuff gets everywhere. However, the parts of your body covered by fabric sparkle considerably less than those left exposed.
4. Keep Hands Sanitary
Playgrounds abound with tempting surfaces to touch, from the monkey bars to the guard rails on the slide. While the risk of contamination does decrease outdoors, exposure can still spread infection.
Get your children a lanyard and dangle a small container of hand sanitizer from it. You can find adorable, kid-friendly versions with cute animals or cartoon characters as holders. Please also make sure to wash your hands before heading to the park and upon returning.
5. Practice Social Distancing
Even though your little ones might feel lonely, too, you need to observe social distancing rules. Please keep at least six feet away from those you don’t know.
How can your child play if they can’t share the sandbox? Look for games that require no-contact. Tee-ball is fun for even young baseball players, and it keeps participants distant as long as you don’t get close when base-running. Other skill-based games, like Cornhole and disk golf, also allow you ample space.
6. Learn New Ways to Play
Maybe your little one isn’t into sports much. What can you do if you don’t want them building sandcastles in tandem with a stranger?
If your nearby park or playground has a creek, why not let them wade along the shore and look for salamanders and crayfish? Nearly every facility has trees — take a notebook to identify varieties or a blank pad to make leaf outlines. With the holidays on the way, you could gather dried flowers and fruits to make a cornucopia centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.
7. Watch for Bullies
While you don’t want to think about it, unfortunately, bullies torture far too many kids. In the age of COVID-19, their misbehavior raises an additional specter.
Keep an eye on your children and watch for signs that someone is teasing them about wearing a mask or frequently using sanitizer. Use positive reinforcement, like praise or a small treat, to encourage your child to continue taking protective measures even when others claim they’re “uncool” or “wimpy.”
8. Go Elsewhere If Crowds Appear
Finally, while outdoor gatherings are safer on average, that doesn’t mean you want to pack children into parks like so many sardines. Ensure you have a Plan B before you head out to avoid disappointment if your local facility is too crowded.
What if you only have one park nearby? Are there alternate facilities where your kids could play? Greenbelts make ideal spots for tossing a pigskin around, and with winter on the way, any slope can transform into a sledding hill.
Make Your Public Playground Trip Safer With These Eight Tips
If your kid has cabin fever but seems otherwise healthy, it’s okay to take them to the park. Follow these safe-play tips for public playgrounds to protect them while letting them enjoy their fun.