When we wake up tomorrow, we will be able to go back to the playground with our kids…Yah!

It will be important to continue social distancing and excellent hygiene practices whilst enjoying our parks and outdoor areas again to prevent a second wave of Covid-19!

With the restrictions further relaxing this weekend, like a lot of Australian families, I will be stopping by our favourite coffee shop then heading to the playground with the kids. I have two very excited young ladies that can’t wait to go down a slide again and catch up on their climbing skills.

The National Cabinet has a three-step plan to roll back restrictions and each State and Territory Government is different in their timings so please check your individual State or Territory websites for further information.

Here in Brisbane as of midnight Friday the 15th of May playgrounds, council libraries, outdoor gyms, BMX tracks, and skate parks will re-open.

With our parks having the danger tape and “park closed” signs removed it is a good time to remember safety and being sensible whilst enjoying our parks. Not only do we want to prevent COVID coming back it is important to know that in infants and young children fall injuries account for the highest number of hospitalisation rates out of any cause of injury (1).

Falls involving playground equipment is by far the most common cause of a child falling followed by a fall on the same level from slipping, tripping or stumbling then followed by a fall involving ice skates, skis, roller skates, skateboards, scooters & other pedestrian conveyances (1).

Infants and young children are in a period of rapid growth and developmentally they don’t fully understand the dangers present in relation to a fall or how far a distance is that may cause a critical injury (1).

Here are some important tips to keep safe whilst having fun

Planning for hygiene

Make sure you have enough

  • Hand sanitiser
  • Wet wipes / baby wipes
  • And if you have the option to go to a park with toilets then take some hand soap to wash the kid’s hands after being on the equipment or in the dirt. And remember hand washing is especially important after going to the toilet, before eating, after coughing or sneezing into hands, after blowing your nose or if hands are visibly soiled.
 Safety Tips Whilst Enjoying the Park
  • When you arrive do a quick visual scan for any hazards – such as broken glass, fallen branches or broken equipment
  • Look for fenced parks
  • Look for shaded parks (sun damage from UV radiation can still occur in the cooler months)
  • Supervision is key in keeping your young children safe at the park
  • Adhere to any signage
  • Only use the equipment in the park for what it’s intended purpose is i.e. sliding down tunnel slides instead of climbing on top of them
  • Report any necessary park maintenance to the local council. Look for a nearby sign that has the relevant information for contacting council some parks will have these signs
Surfaces
  • Check the surfaces of the park equipment for any moisture as this could make it very slippery
  • If it is a sunny day check the park equipment for any hot surfaces that could cause a burn to a child’s sensitive skin
The ground

It is a requirement for local councils to maintain all parks in Australia and this includes the ground. It is particularly important that there is absorbent material in the fall zone of a raised platform. This could include sand, small wood chips or rubber. Keep in mind that due to the weather and children playing some of these materials could move therefore wouldn’t be as thick and as absorbent as it should be in the fall zones.

It is also worth mentioning that we have a local park that has rubber under the swings and slide and sand everywhere else. This isn’t a good mix because the sand on the rubber makes it super slippery so watch for this. My daughter had been making a dash for the swing and her feet kept on sliding once she got to the swing. Ouch! This could be a disaster for a pregnant Mum pushing her child on the swing if she ends up slipping.

Fall prevention

Australian Standards allow open platform up to 3 meters which is very high for little ones and some parks have open platforms where there is a possibility for a child to fall 2 meters or more. Children can sustain serious injuries if they fall from more than 1 meter particularly if they land on their head sustaining head and neck injuries.

For younger children keep them away from high open areas of the park that are intended for older children. With older children head up to the open edge with your kids and help them get down safely. I know this can be a little tricky the more children you have so try and go with friends and help each other, take it in turns of helping kids up to a higher level of the park. Using a quality, sturdy and damage free baby carrier can be a great help if you need to assist a toddler down a slide whilst having your baby with you. I would wear my baby while I took my 3-year-old up to the high points of the park so she could go down the slide safely.

This isn’t about wrapping our kids up with cotton wool or preventing them from the amazing life experiences available to them, this is about allowing them to explore their world without sustaining a lifelong injury that could be prevented.

Even though our playgrounds are a lot safer than they used to be in the 80’s there is still a risk and they are not hazard free.

I was a child of the 80’s and I remember spending hours at the park. We had a wooden park across the road from our house with a sew saw that could propel the person opposite to you through the air if at the right angle and speed. There was also a platform that you could fall from that felt like it was meters in the air and a roundabout that would spin so fast it would make you nauseous, we would dare our friends to jump off it at the highest speeds usually ending with skin off your knees.

 

The message from this article is let’s get out this weekend, have fun and let our kids be free but be sensible whilst doing it.

For further details about the COVIDSAFE Roadmap to a COVIDSafe Australia. A three-step pathway for easing restrictions please head to:

https://www.pm.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/covid-safe-australia-roadmap.pdf

 

Written by Nicolle Sharkey Founder of Safe Start Australia.

I write:

From Research

From Experience

From the Heart

Where to now?

To attend our program either a public or private session please go to the dates and locations page and we hope to see you soon.

For any further injury prevention information for your infants and young children visit our website at www.safestartausteralia.com.au

References
  • Mitchell R, Curtis K, Foster K. A 10-year review of the characteristics and health outcomes of injury-related hospitalisations of children in Australia. Day of Difference Foundation. University of Sydney. 5th May 2017