As childcare professionals, child safety is one of our biggest priorities. With each winter that comes along it can be tempting to keep the children in our care tucked away indoors – but the truth is, for children, the winter weather here in Hawaii provides a rainy world of endless possibilities.
As the seasons change, children are given the opportunity to play in new ways, run around in the middle of a downpour, play in the street – they don’t care about getting wet! So our keiki still want to play outside despite the weather conditions – but what can we do as parents and professionals to protect them when they play in bad weather?
Rain, as you may expect, can cause problems on the playground. Wooden pathways and steps to slides can become slippery. While waiting for equipment to dry fully, adult supervision on winter playgrounds may need to be increased to help children avoid weather-related accidents.
It’s also important to check your playground for any damage it might have sustained during the change of seasons or after a thunderstorm; following a simple checklist can help you detect any problems with your playground and avoid any injuries.
Winter Playground Safety Checklist
- Check for obvious signs of damage or decay, such as loose or broken nuts and bolts or rotting wood in equipment, gates, and fences. Check painted surfaces for chipping paint that would need a coat of primer. Check for holes in fences.
- Check the swings for proper height and stability; make sure the ropes are properly attached and not frayed. Check the slides to make sure the protective surfaces around them have enough sand or mulch. Be sure to clean off bird droppings.
- Check for natural hazards: Fallen tree limbs and branches are obvious, but also make sure there aren’t any damaged limbs that could fall into the playground. Water erosion can expose rocks and other objects that may be dangerous for children, and burrowing animals can leave behind dangerous holes. Finally, insects may build new nests where there were none before.
- Check for human pollution: bottles, cans, and pieces of glass.
- Check the sandbox: Make sure it’s clean and free of debris, such as twigs and glass; also make sure it hasn’t been used by cats as a litter box!
The rainy season can also bring thunderstorms and thunderstorms bring lightning along with them – it is so important that we teach our children to be cautious when playing in wet weather. At InspiredPlay, we always recommend that teachers and caregivers have a lightning plan in place for when children are involved in outdoor activities at school. The plan should contain these guidelines.
- When should activities be stopped?
- Where should people go for safety?
- When should activities resume?
- Who should monitor the weather, and who is responsible to make the decision to stop activities?
- What should be done if someone is struck by lightning?
The lightning plan should also keep in mind how much time it takes to get to a safe place. Small outdoor buildings including rain shelters and sheds are not safe. Activities should be stopped if lightning is visible, thunder is heard or if the time between any lightning and thunder is under30 seconds.
Once the storm subsides, everyone should wait at least 30 minutes after the storm before heading back outside to play because electrical charges can linger in clouds after a thunderstorm has passed.
In the United States, lightning deaths and injuries occur most frequently in open fields, including ballparks and playgrounds. With many so many activities such as recess in athletic fields and on playgrounds, schools should always be aware of thunderstorm safety.
We can’t control the weather, but we can take safety precautions to ensure our children are safe when playing in it. To chat more about weather-proofing your playspace, give us a call!