Keeping Your Toddler Safe Outdoors

Before your child becomes independently mobile, there is not much to do outside. To be sure, young babies benefit from exposure to the sensory experiences of the outside world, but they cannot yet interact with their surroundings. Toddlers, on the other hand, especially those who have mastered crawling or walking, are eager to explore the world, and they drink in the outdoors with an excitement that they may never experience again. So while your child is in this stage of exploration, it is a good idea to get him or her outdoors as often as you can. But as all parents know well, there are many important safety concerns to always keep in mind when you have a toddler. For one thing, many toddlers still enjoy putting things in their mouths. This is natural, as it is part of how they learn about the world, but it obviously raises safety issues. Meanwhile, toddlers who can walk often have little control over their speed and trajectory once they get going. And they can get going surprisingly fast, so parents must be on guard. If you want to let your baby explore the outdoors—whether in a park, a natural area, or your yard—there are some basic safety measures to keep in mind Here are several of the most important ones. Play away from hazards: New walkers are not necessarily slow walkers, and your child might take off and go ten or twenty feet before you even know what is happening. So when you are outdoors, make sure you set up your play area far from potential hazards such as water, roads, bicycle or pedestrian paths, or areas where older kids or grownups are doing things. Protect from temperature extremes: Toddlers can handle high and low temperatures better than infants can, but it is still best to keep your child out of the most extreme temperatures. On days when the temperature is expected to exceed 90 Fahrenheit, go out either in the morning or the evening. And when you do go out in the middle of the day, use sunscreen. On cold days, bundle your child up well. Check the weather forecast, and use your common sense. Know what dangerous plants look like: Harmful plants such as poison ivy and poison oak are not confined to natural areas. They can appear in backyards, in parks, and even on school grounds and playgrounds. As a parent, your best defense against these plants is to know what they look like. Your child will undoubtedly want to play with different leaves, grass, and flowers, so keep a close watch on what she is drawn to when you are outdoors. And of course, since many plants are poisonous, see that your child does not put mysterious plants in her mouth. Watch for tiny objects: If your child is still in the phase where he likes to put everything in your mouth, keep a close eye on the things he picks up from the ground. It is fine to let him examine things, but as soon as he starts to bring an item to his mouth, stop him. The world is full of potential choke hazards. Also watch out for small pieces of litter, especially things like plastic bags and popped balloons, which can be dangerous. By Jamell Williams