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Safety Tips For Babysitters: Keeping Outdoor Play Areas Safe

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 noose.

Supervision Tips

All children should be supervised when playing on playground equipment. Take some time to look over the playground in advance, before you bring the children, so you can get familiar with the equipment, location, and potential situations you may encounter.

Here are some pointers for your next trip to the playground:

  • Look for damaged equipment or fixtures that have hidden hazards (like a sandbox with broken glass).
  • Make sure rails, walls, and fences are secure.
  • Limit children to equipment that suits their age.
  • Keep children a safe distance from one another.
  • Make sure the slide is not in direct sunlight, especially if it's metal.
  • Don't let them hang or swing upside down, or go headfirst down a slide. It will help reduce the risk of a head or neck injury.
  • Keep your eyes on the children at all times. Falls and accidents can happen quickly. You may not be able to prevent one if you're distracted.
  • 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

You may encounter some resistance if their parents let them do things you won't. Explain that it's a temporary restriction while you're watching them.

You can also enlist the help of 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, such as stunts or 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, such as a pool, bath tub, or 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.
  • 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.

If you plan on babysitting, take courses in first aid, CPR, and/or lifeguarding before you take your first job. Regularly scheduled courses are offered by the American Red Cross and the American Heart Association .


National Safe Kids Campaign

United States Consumer Product Safety Commission


About Kids Health

Canada Safety Council


Babysitting: Playground safety. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: Updated February 2014. Accessed March 12, 2014.

Babysitting: Pool safety. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at: Updated: April 2013. Accessed March 12, 2014.

Safety on the playground. American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website. Available at: Updated December 3, 2013. Accessed March 12, 2014.

5/28/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Weiss J, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence, and Poison Prevention. Prevention of drowning. Pediatrics. 2010;126(1):e253-e262.

Last reviewed March 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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