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The Ultimate Summer Park Playground Guide

Summer is a wonderful time for playground adventures, and most of us have fond memories of playing pirates or knights while scurrying around the play area. There are plenty of outdoor games for kids to enjoy, but there are also risks unique to the playground. A supervising adult must make sure that the play equipment is in good condition and must make sure that the children in their care understand the rules of safe play. For a safe, fun summer, it's just as important to know playground safety as it is a new game to play, and you can learn all about both subjects below.

Outdoor Games

  • Unique Outdoor Games – There's no need for tag to be the only source of playground entertainment. The Salt & Light Company has a large collection of fun outdoor games for kids to enjoy.
  • Games Around the World (PDF) – In different countries, there are many different versions and varieties of outdoor games. You can find a selection of the most popular ones in this report, along with how to play them and what materials, if any, are required for each.
  • Traditional Street Games – Not all games have to happen on the playground. In fact, until playgrounds were adopted as a government concern by the United States in 1903, most kids entertained themselves with outdoor street games.
  • Go Out and Play! Kit (PDF) – Making sure that kids get plenty of outdoor play can be critical to their mental development. In this kit, designed for parents and educators, there are a variety of outdoor games suitable for young children as well as a safety checklist.
  • The Book of Physical Education Games (PDF) – Aimed at older children, this collection of outdoor games is perfect for use both on the playground and at recess. Some games do require props, like a balloon or a ball, but most can be played with a few players and plenty of room to run around.
  • Outdoor Activities (PDF) – Infants and toddlers are usually not ready for the more rambunctious games that are popular among older children. This pamphlet provides several outdoor games that are safe, fun, and educational for younger kids.
  • Games and Recreation – Ever heard of the game "Baste the Bear?" Kids in the 1940s were quite familiar with it. Take a look back in time at the history of outdoor games with this informational page from Cornell College.
  • Why Children Need to Play Outside (PDF) – It's important for kids to get outside and play, even in the winter! This paper lists just a few of the benefits of directing kids toward the outdoors instead of to the computer.
  • Neuroscience: Outdoor Games for Kids – Playing made-up games can be fun, but there are games that can actually help teach kids about things like neuroscience. This page from Washington University has a few fun variations on popular outdoor games.

Outdoor Playground Safety

  • Safety Rules for Outdoor Recess (PDF) – There are plenty of safety rules that may seem obvious, such as no shoving or running with sharp objects, but there are several that are not quite as easy to recognize. This fact sheet provides an overview of what any supervising adult should know for maintaining a safe environment on the playground.
  • Playground and Outdoor Play Safety – As a parent or caregiver, there are many things that you can do to make sure your child is safe on the playground. The University of Michigan has an excellent article that tells you how to make sure the playground is safe for kids.
  • Playground Daily Safety Checklist (PDF) – From standing water to thorn bushes, there are a lot of things to take into account when assessing the safety of a potential play area. While this list was designed for teachers and supervisors, it can also function as a useful resource for parents.
  • Play it Safe With Outdoor Safety Tips – Playing outside can mean playing at a local playground or running around in the backyard. Regardless of where a child plays, it's important to make sure that the play area is safe and secure. This article from the University of Illinois walks parents and caregivers through an assessment of the potential play space.
  • Safe Kids: Playground Safety – It's a sad truth that more than 200,000 kids require emergency medical attention for injuries received on the playground. This article has some tips to help keep your kids safe as well as some extra reading material on playground safety.
  • Playground Safety (PDF) – Sometimes, the difference between a fun day out and a trip to the doctor is simply making sure that kids know and understand the rules of the playground. This handout helps walk parents through a pre-playground talk with their child.
  • Creating Safe Play Areas on Farms (PDF) – Kids who live on or visit farms may feel like their entire world is a playground. Help them stay safe by creating a specific play area for kids to enjoy.

Precautions to Take Outside

  • Sun Exposure: Precautions and Protection – The sun can be a great source of vitamin D, but staying out too long can result in damaged skin, especially for toddlers and young kids. Learn more about sun exposure and how to prepare kids for a day of outdoor play with this article.
  • Understand the Weather: Child Watch (PDF) – The wind can make temperatures feel much warmer or cooler than they really are. In this handout, parents and teachers can learn about weather analysis for outdoor play and how to prepare kids for any kind of weather.
  • Mountain Lion Safety (PDF) – It may sound silly to those who live in large cities, but the threat of wild animals is one universal to any play area. This handout addresses the risks of play in an area where mountain lions are frequent visitors, such as Arizona, as well as tips to keep the entire family (pets included) safe when outside.
  • Pesticides and Children – If pesticides are used in a play area, it may be worth the time to find out which pesticides are used. Children are still growing and developing physically and are therefore more easily affected by pesticides than adults.
  • Keeping Outdoor Play Safe – Whether they're playing at the pool or in the yard, it's important to keep an eye on kids at all times. This article, designed for babysitters and play supervisors, explains a few of the more common risks associated with playground equipment and provides some supervision tips.
  • Playing Outdoors and Pool Safety – On hot summer days, the pool can be an inviting refuge for kids. Learn how to keep kids safe with some simple safety tips and a drowning emergency guide.
  • Tick Bite Prevention – Tick bites can be painful and unsettling for kids, so teach them how to avoid areas that ticks frequent. This helpful article describes how to dress to reduce the chances of picking up ticks, how to repel ticks, and how to safely remove them.

First Aid

  • Bug Bites and Stings – Insects are a permanent part of outdoor play, and they can be an unwelcome and painful interruption to a game of tag. This article provides a step-by-step guide to bee and wasp stings, spider bites, and scorpion stings.
  • Cuts and Scrapes – Most cuts and scrapes are minor, but it's important to take the necessary steps to prevent infection. The Mayo Clinic has a great article detailing the proper treatment of these small injuries.
  • First Aid Instruction Chart (PDF) – From sprains to a bit of mulch in the eye, there are plenty of playground mishaps that can happen. Print out this handy chart for an immediate, on-hand safety reference.
  • Heimlich Maneuver on a Child – Children, especially young children, are notorious for exploring the world with their mouths. Whether the object in question is a rock or a piece of hot dog, all parents should know this basic maneuver to help their kids if necessary.
  • Basic First Aid Every Parent Should Know (PDF) – While this handout is designed as a supplement to a first aid course, it contains a list of materials that should be part of an at-home first aid kit. It also explains why these materials are important and what they can be used to treat.
  • General First Aid Guide – If you need an article that is all-inclusive, this one is your best bet. has a page that provides a first-aid overview for all of the most common injuries.
  • A Kid's Guide to First Aid – Kids can help keep each other safe if they know what to look for. This page, written specifically with children in mind, can help walk them through what first aid is and how to help a friend who needs medical attention.
  • Heat Illness – There are three main types of heat illness, and each one has different symptoms and treatments. Familiarize yourself with each on this page.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart