Harvard Health notes six practical reasons for children to be outdoors on the local playground. Whether swinging on the monkey bars or taking a ride down the slide, kiddos are picking up some essential skills. The online wellness source emphasizes that this continuous experience allows little ones to get a valuable dose of vitamin D, improve their social interactions, develop executive functioning skills and enjoy some exercise.
However, many parents may worry that the outdoor experience could push their children's systems a bit too far, leading to health concerns. Are sugar levels dropping? Is dehydration setting in? These problems are serious issues, and as a parent, you want to know how to avoid them. The following are several ways to watch for warning signs of waning health.
1. Discuss Appropriate Behavior
A playground is designed for many purposes. Many current models act as a maze, permitting youth to climb high, scale rock walls and carefully cross difficult paths. Although they promote critical thinking, risk-taking and watchfulness, some little ones may not understand when trying something too hard.
Openings of rock walls may look like a good jump. The monkey bars may be too spread apart. Spend time talking about age-appropriate equipment and when to ask for help trying new things. Point out where they may play and what isn't quite right for them yet.
Furthermore, some kids may act out on the playground, hitting and pushing others. At first, the action may seem fun, leading others to join in the shenanigans. Talk to your children about the danger of roughhousing and how to appropriately act while out with others.
2. Rely on Health Trackers
Modern technology allows parents to have a thorough understanding of the health of their kiddos. Trackers can check on heart rate to see if they're overexerting themselves. If you look at the application or watch, you may find they have pushed themselves a bit too much while chasing other children around.
In addition, sugar levels may dip during playground time. Parents may not see a visual sign before impacts occur. Instead, they can rely on a continuous glucose monitor device to see the child's sugar levels. When numbers become concerning, you can call a timeout and discuss breaks, meds or snacks.
3. Know Warning Signs of Distress
As a parent, understand the visual cues of possible trouble and be prepared to handle the potential issue or circumvent it. Running around wears down energy, but it also depletes water levels, and kids rarely want to stop the fun to drink. Dehydration could set in quickly if you don't know the early indicators. Children may have a dry mouth, feel dizzy, tired or get fussy. Call them over to sit out and drink if you start to notice cracked lips and lots of moodiness. It may be time to head home and rest.
4. Maintain Visibility at All Times
While helicopter parenting has picked up a bad name, it benefits in warding off injury and illness because the parent consistently monitors the child's actions. You don't have to hover or circle as this philosophy is known for. Instead, you could watch continuously from the side or a bench. Doing so allows your kids to have independence, but for you to understand what is going on.
It's tempting to pull out a phone or book and escape for a bit; however, you could keep tabs on how your youth interact with others and use the equipment during this time. Your awareness signals whether something is amiss and requires assistance or whether you can relax and enjoy the moment as your kids have fun with some freedom.
The playground is a vital part of growing up as a kid. The outdoor experience delivers interactions and allows for personal decision-making. It also has some physical risks. To minimize health problems, know early indicators of concerns, use trackers and maintain visibility. Of course, continue to have conversations about fair play and proper choices.