Free Play at the Playground

The playground is a great, free place to spend the afternoon or morning or whatever time of day suits your needs. If you have one within walking distance of your house, even better. The playground can be a place to stop for 10 minutes to give the kids a chance to run off some energy (good luck getting them to leave after only 10 minutes, though). Or it can be the destination for a long afternoon. Or maybe it is a place to meet up with other stay at home parents or the local playgroup.

Find a park that fits your needs. For an infant, find a place where you can park the stroller and let the baby play on the grass or on a blanket. If you are outside, make sure there are shaded areas. Baby swings are great. If you have young twins, sit them in the baby swing back to back.

Your toddler might be starting to climb on anything and everything. If this is the case, try out the play structure area yourself. Make sure the steps are safe and if there are places where your enthusiastic little one might tumble, stay with them as they climb. Check out the ground cover around any climbing structure as well. Thoroughly check out any sand play areas, particularly if they are not covered and if there are cats living in the area. Baby swings are still great for toddlers until they get too big. If your toddler is a ‘runner,’ watch for areas where s/he could run off or run toward a street.
Bigger kids might want a more intricate climbing structure. If they are old enough to keep track of their own toys, take a kickball or other toy to keep them interested. You may want to label the toys you take to the playground with your telephone number (not your name or your child’s name!) in case they are left behind.

If you are going to spend a significant amount of time at a park or playground, pack a diaper bag before you go. Include diapers, water or other drinks, snacks and sunscreen. If it has been rainy recently, take an old towel to wipe down the slides and other equipment. If there aren’t benches, take a blanket to sit on. If there are muddy areas in the park, take a plastic bag for soiled shoes and clothes.

Teach your kids from an early age to stay within ‘vision distance’ of you. They should be able to see you at all times. And you, as well, should pay attention to them all you can. Although I know the chance to sit down and chat with other stay at home parents is mighty tempting. If you are taking your child’s friend with you, check with their parents to make sure they don’t have any allergies that you should be aware of. If the play structure is wooden, do a once over for splinter-y areas. If the structure is plastic or metal, check for heat before sending your kids onto it.

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