Avera Medical Minute: Keeping kids safe on the playground

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - It felt like a long winter that carried into a wet spring for many. But the warmer weather is starting to make an appearance. That means many kids are itching to get outside to play more.

Heather Clay has two kids. Isabell is just about 4 years old and William is 18 months old. She makes sure they are prepared for outside before even leaving the house.

"Making sure they've got the right footwear, appropriate clothing, sunscreen, things like that," she said.

A family life educator for Avera, Doniese Wilcox, said sunscreen should be reapplied every 30 minutes. Kids shouldn't be wearing scarves or jewelry either.

"If they are wearing this, this gets caught on a piece of playground equipment. The child falls. We have a strangulation hazard," Wilcox said. "Many times, older kids wear adult small sweatshirts with the strings. You need to pull these out. If this gets around the child's neck, the child falls. Again, that's a strangulation hazard."

Clay said she checks the playground before her kids even get on the equipment.

"So I always make sure if there's water, we avoid it. You never know what can be in there," she said.

"Watch out for slippery surfaces, and as I said, watch out when that surface material gets washed away and exposes something dangerous," Wilcox said.

When the heat and humidity return, it's important to check the equipment if it's too hot. Kids should also rest on those hot days.

"Between the hours of 11 and 4, make sure the child gets a break, they get out of the sun for a while and into the shade. Get some water and cool off a little bit before they go back out onto the playground," Wilcox said.

Clay even brings a picnic sometimes with snacks and water. She said she does a lot of prepping at home, like cutting up fruits and vegetables.

"I always bring a blanket or a tablecloth to either sit on or put on the table. I also have learned that it's very good to have sanitary wipes so that you can clean their hands and also the surfaces of things that you might be touching," Clay said.

She said she also has her cell phone with her as a safety precaution, but it stays in her pocket for the most part.

"I feel it's really important to stay present with my kids and really experience the day with them because it creates trust and communication as well," Clay said.

This is something Wilcox said parents need to do a better job of, which is paying more attention to their kids.

"It's a danger with the child running off, especially if there are hazards nearby like a pond, a street, a parking lot. That's actually more of an issue than stranger danger," she said.

Plus, Clay mentioned it's not only fun for her kids at the park, but it's also fun for her. And if parents are stuck in their phones, they won't experience those special moments with their kids.

As kids get older, many of them will go to the park on their own. Wilcox suggests talking to them about the dangers of strangers before they do though. Here's a link to a pamphlet provided by Avera with some tips and highlights on what you should go over with your children.