oung children rejoice from spending time outdoors any given day. Playtime also provides important physical, mental and social development opportunities for young children. Summertime lets kids be outside where they can absorb new skills, discover new activities and learn about safety rules. Safety may not sound fun, but it is necessary for all early childhood educators to teach because they are responsible for the well-being of all children under their care.
Teaching young children about safety requires reinforcement and repetition of clear and consistent rules – especially in an early education environment. Early childhood educators must account for children of different ages, abilities, and outdoor distractions. To help make a walk, field trip, or even a water activity in your backyard safer for little ones, follow these three guidelines.
The Basics (e.g. going for a neighborhood walk or just playing in the front or backyard)
• Hold on to a child’s hand when crossing the street.
• Walk on sidewalks. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the left, facing traffic, while holding the child’s hand. The adult should walk on the side closest to the road.
• When crossing a street, look for the pedestrian crosswalk. Look both ways (left, right, and left – in the U.S.) again before crossing the street.
With a Group (e.g. fieldtrip or walking with a group
• Make sure that each child wears a tag with the name of your setting and phone number on it.
• Carry a list of the names of all the children you are supervising and their emergency contact information.
• Maintain required adult-child ratios for optimum supervision.
• Bring a cell phone and a first-aid kit. Note: you may need other items depending on your activities.
• Practice traffic safety rules with children ahead of time. Tip: Games such as “red light, green light” help young children become aware of traffic lights and safety measures.
Pedestrian safety gives children the basic guidelines they will use throughout the rest of their lives, even when they aren’t at a child care program. Share your guidelines with their families. That will help parents reinforce these rules so kids become more mindful of others, better aware of their surroundings, and look out for one another when in a group.
Riding Toys Safety1
• Children’s feet should reach the ground for riding toys without pedals. A tricycle is the right size for a child if he or she can reach the foot pedals.
• Children should use only riding toys in good repair with seats, handlebars, and wheels firmly attached.
• Children should only ride on flat, hard surfaces, such as designated tracks or blacktops; and, they need to be taught to recognize and obey traffic safety signs.
• Children must wear helmets and have them securely on before riding.
• Bumping other drivers or bike riders should not be permitted.
Riding toys allow children to use their gross motor skills and muscle control when stopping and starting, turning, backing up, and going fast or slow. It even helps them to differentiate a dangerous situation (falling if going too fast) from a safe one (going a moderate speed and being able to stop), and also teaches them to take turns and share the riding toys with other children.
• Do not leave children unattended around any water activities e.g. water table, tub, or wading pool.
• Stay dry by wearing smocks when playing with water.
• Prepare water activity near a water source and on washable flooring (if playing in non-grass area).
• Play with only a few props at a time in a water table, tub, or wading pool.
• Avoid splashing. • Wipe or mop any floors spills immediately (if playing in non-grass area).
• Put away any water toys and props when finished using them.
Water and sand tables are great for children to express their feelings and calm themselves. You can use this activity to teach simple math and geometry skills such as patterning, volume, and shape as they make sand constructions and pour water.
1 Washington, V. (2017). Essentials for Working with Young Children (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: The Council for Professional Recognition. NEED Page references to help the reader understand where the information came from.