Summertime is full of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with your child and make memories that last a lifetime. By planning ahead to have a safe outing, you can spend your time focused on having fun.
Playing outside with your child is full of benefits. Not only are you increasing your bond with your child through play, but they’re also absorbing vitamin D from the sun, which helps build stronger bones and prevent diseases like cardiovascular disease or type I diabetes. Read our previous article to learn more about the benefits of outdoor play.
To get the most out of your outdoor playtime, here are some supplies that can increase your fun and decrease your risk.
Your Checklist: Essential Summer Supplies
30+ SPF sunscreen
Lots of water (at least one-half cup per every 15 minutes outside)
Snacks that won’t spoil in the sun, such as grapes, whole-grain cereal, or raisins
Fun in the sun can also mean being exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays, an invisible kind of radiation that can damage skin cells and cause uncomfortable sunburns. In the United States, UV rays tend to be strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you can, avoid spending time in the sun without protection during that time period.
When preparing for your trip outside, it’s recommended to apply a 30+ SPF sunscreen to children 6 months and older 30 minutes before going out in the sun. If you’re out for longer than 2 hours, reapply your child’s sunscreen and your own. Light, loose long-sleeved shirts can help limit sun exposure. Hats and sunglasses also protect your child’s eyes and face. If you have an infant 6 months or under, it’s recommended that they remain in the shade at all times.
It’s also important to drink a lot of water. Spending time playing outside can quickly lead to dehydration. Pediatricians recommend children drink at least one-half cup of water every 15–20 minutes of outdoor play.
Swings are the most common source of childhood injury from playground equipment. Children often wander around the front and back of swings when they’re in use. When swings are being used, you can try encouraging your child to play in a different area to avoid the swing set. Help children avoid other swing-related injuries with these tips: use age-appropriate swings, avoid sitting two to a swing, and ensure they sit on the swing instead of kneeling or standing.
Also, metal slides or other metal objects like monkey bars can get very hot during the summer. Check the metal with your hand to ensure it’s not too hot for your child.
With summer comes all kinds of creepy crawlies. To keep curious children safe from bites and stings, check the edge of the roof that overhangs the exterior siding (eaves) and under decks for bee or wasp nests. Some children love to chase after insects and try to touch them. This can be a good opportunity to teach your child about different bugs they might see and how to be a friendly neighbor to insects by not disturbing them. Children older than 2 months can use insect repellent that contains no more than 30% DEET, the active ingredient in many insect repellent products.
Splashing around in the water is a great way to cool off on a hot summer day. But it does require adult supervision at all times—children should be watched by an adult any time they are around or in water.
Life jackets are a great way to help your child have fun in the water while staying safe. Experts recommend that children not use air-filled swimming aids (such as inflatable arm bands, neck rings, or floaties) in place of life jackets. These aids can deflate and are not designed to keep swimmers safe. Bug spray can also be helpful when around water, as many insects, like mosquitoes, live around water.