When the weather is nice or the children are rambunctious, you may spend some of your daytime babysitting outdoors. Outdoor play equipment—swings, seesaws, and slides—can be fun, but can be dangerous too. You'll need to keep a watchful eye on the little ones in your care. Here are some tips on keeping outdoor play areas safe for children.

Playground Equipment

Children often do the unexpected on playground equipment. They are naturally curious and adventurous. Common hazardous behaviors include:

  • Standing, rather than sitting, in a swing
  • Climbing to the top of the swing set and sitting or swinging on it
  • Jumping off or in front of swings, seesaws, or gliders
  • Walking in front or in back of a moving swing
  • Putting too much weight on a piece of equipment and toppling it

Hanging "rings" are particularly dangerous to small children. Their heads may be small enough to go through the ring, turning it into a hanging "noose."

Supervision Tips

All children should be supervised when playing on this kind of equipment. Here are some tips:

  • Tell children to sit in the center of a swing.
  • Explain the following hazards:
    • Walking in front or in back of a swing
    • Pushing other children off of the swing
    • Swinging empty seats
    • Twisting the swing chains
    • Climbing up the front of the slide
  • From the start, stop any bad behavior.

You can also enlist the help of the children. Talk to older children about certain safety rules and why they are important. Ask them to assist you in watching the younger ones. It will help them to understand these rules better. Let children know that any bad behavior (eg, stunts, misuse of equipment) is unacceptable.

Pool Safety

Daytime babysitting can also include time in or around a swimming pool, wading pool, or spa. Children are naturally attracted to water. Therefore, you must take precautions at all times to prevent accidents.

Facts About Children and Drowning

Nationwide, ]]>drowning]]> is one of the leading causes of accidental death of children and adolescents. Many children are treated each year in hospital emergency rooms as a result of ]]>near-drowning]]>. Drowning is a silent killer. When a child drowns, a babysitter won't hear a cry or even a splash. It can happen very quickly.

Ways to Prevent Drowning

Seconds count. In seconds, a child can leave the house and walk to the edge of the pool. In seconds, a child can drown in only a few inches of water. A child can drown in the few seconds taken to answer a telephone in the house.

To help prevent drowning, do the following:

  • Never leave a child alone with any body of water (eg, pool, bath tub, spa).
  • Do not allow a child to swim alone. You should be within arm's length of infants and toddlers who are swimming. You should know how to swim, be able to rescue someone, and do CPR. The American Heart Association offers CPR classes.
  • Remember that even a child who knows how to swim is still at risk for drowning and will need constant supervision.
  • Do not allow children to play around the pool.
  • Be sure that all gates or doors leading from the house to the pool area are locked.
  • If the pool is above ground, remove the ladder to prevent access.
  • Empty wading pools and buckets when you are done using them. Also, if you are babysitting small children, keep the lid on the toilet down and the bathroom door closed.
  • If you discover a child to be missing, first check the pool, wading pool, spa, or hot tub.
  • Know the telephone numbers to call for emergency medical service. In most cases, this is 911.

As a babysitter, you can teach children that safe play can still be fun play!