Learning

Safe in houses

Every child needs to play. It not only encourages development; it’s also good fun! But how can you encourage your child to play in a way that helps them grow while keeping them safe? Like most things, learning about safety starts at home. Peter Boast, managing director of kids’ safety equipment retailer Safetots, offers some pointers.

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Play allows children to exercise their problem-solving skills, learn new things and improve their confidence both in navigating the world and building relationships with peers. It’s also the perfect way for young children to develop their physical motor and mobility skills, encouraging movement and exploration.

The home is a great place to begin teaching your little ones how to play safely and they can use that experience when they go to nursery, school, or on play dates with friends. By introducing some simple measures when your children are playing at home, you can set a precedent for the future. Here are some guidelines:

Play dens are a great way of cornering off space for your child to play in, as they are designed to make their own enclosed spaces safe.

CREATE A DEDICATED PLAY SPACE

This can be an excellent strategy to keep your little ones safe, ensuring that you can keep your kids within a space that you know is controllable, such as the corner of a living room or a whole back room made into a playroom.

Whether you choose a corner or a whole room, check that this space contains lots of soft, accessible seating and lounging areas, and some cupboards or other toy storage that your child can safely access. Play dens are a great way of cornering off space for your child to play in, as they are designed to make their own enclosed spaces safe. ­ Kids can get out their own toys and explore more independently within this area. For outdoor playtime, you’ll need to make sure that your garden is enclosed – check that the fencing is up to scratch and has no gaps in it. Deck and driveway guards can also help make your outside spaces safer for little ones and keep them where you can see and supervise them.

Within your child’s ‘safe space’ make sure that any toys containing small parts which may be a choking hazard are stored out of reach. You can still get these toys out yourself for supervised play sessions. If you are unsure as to what is considered a choking hazard, consider buying a choke tester: a simple cylinder device which simulates the size of a young child's throat. If a small part fits within the cylinder, it can be considered a choking hazard.

MANAGE RISK

Although it can be tempting to try to minimise every risk, it is still important that young children are left with some opportunities to explore, make mistakes and take what appear to them to be risks. So, manage your child’s playtime, but try not to be overly controlling. This is especially true of outdoor play when they might want to climb trees in the garden or go on trampolines and slides.

In these instances, establish risks they are allowed to take, such as jumping on the trampoline. Always be available at a discreet distance when they are exploring and show them how to navigate situations safely, such as by sticking to appointed play equipment instead of climbing trees or fences. Be aware of risks while still allowing your children to discover things for themselves.

TALK ABOUT SAFETY

It’s useful to take time to have a conversation with your children about what you are doing and why you’re doing it when it comes to keeping them safe. You could talk through it, or it could take the form of a game — you might appoint them as a safety inspector and get them to point out possible hazards in their play area, or in the game they are playing.

Try to regularly bring up points about safety so that your children get used to the idea and begin to evaluate situations themselves to see whether they are safe. This will encourage useful skills for the future.

...it’s important to recognise that dealing with risk in a controlled environment is a crucial part of growing up and contributes to healthy brain development in the first years of life.

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

One of the most helpful things that you can do to encourage safe play is to show your children how you are taking precautions to keep safe. If you are taking part in one of their games or activities, take time to emphasise how you are performing the activity in a safe way. This will help your children to understand that safety is part of a normal play session. Children often learn by copying and imitating their parents or other adults, so this can also be an effective way of teaching them things that might take longer to learn through explanation.

ALLOW CONTROLLED RISK

As parents, it’s tempting to control all the situations and risks that our children encounter. But it’s important to recognise that dealing with risk in a controlled environment is a crucial part of growing up and contributes to healthy brain development in the first years of life. So try to focus on what your child is learning from their playtime, as well as the things you are doing to keep them safe.

You can take the approach of supervising from a distance, such as doing some gardening and keeping an eye on your children as they play their own game. Or you might be reading a book in your living room while there is a children’s play session happening in the corner. This allows you to feel more comfortable with your children playing more independently, as well as ensuring you are there should they need you.

Visit www.safetots.co.uk

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