In this post I will share 10 important topics of outdoor safety rules for kids.
Summer is the perfect time to review or teach kids outdoor safety rules. It is a time of freedom and outdoor play.
Many of these rules are common sense to grown ups. To a child, however, they may not be. Even if the child had the guidelines down pat last year, they may have forgotten over the winter. Here are 10 outdoor safety rules to review with or teach to your children this summer.
Because I am no safety expert, I provided links to websites and documents where you can read more on each topic.
Why talk outdoor safety rules now?
Lately in our neck of the woods, we have had bears on the property. The bears have been visiting to eat the chicken feed. We quickly held a family meeting to go over bear safety. Our children are used to rural living, so adding a new wildlife safety rule did not phase them too much. It struck me that summer break is a great time to review some of those practical safety rules for kids during their outdoor play.
Risky Play and Safety for Kids
Research shows that risky play is very important for child development, and time in nature is usually rife with opportunity. A calm and level-headed adult helping to assess risky play and intervening when true hazards arrive is an essential component to keeping our kids safe in nature.
Kids play to learn, so it is essential that they have ample opportunity to play in nature in order to learn their limits.
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Here are my top 10 summer outdoor safety rules for kids:
1. Food & Water
The first of our outdoor safety rules for kids seems like plain old common sense. Big summer outings are great practice at being aware of your body’s needs. It is so easy to become dehydrated during active play, and mom cannot keep track of how much water all the kids are consuming. It is a good habit to train kids to be in charge of their own water bottle and try to be aware of their thirst.
Packing water and snacks together before outings is a great way to teach healthy habits and body awareness.
To check their awareness, ask things like “How is your body feeling right now? Do you think you need some water?”
I am very picky about our water bottles. We love these stainless steel water bottles for kids, but we prefer these ones for babies and young toddlers as the straw is the absolute best I have found. You can also order just the replacement straws, which I have found to be essential. We don’t use sippy cups at our house, so straw bottles are essential!
2. Beware of Poisonous Plants
Living in a place where we experience all four seasons, summer is a time of being surrounded by many wonderful plants we don’t get to see all winter! I try to keep an eye on the property to keep track of what toxic plants are around. I keep a plant identification app on my phone so I can check on the ID of things when we are out and about! This list of common poisonous plants and mushrooms are a great place to start.
As you get to know of specific toxic plants in your area, I recommend quizzing kids on them regularly when they are in season. “What’s the name of this pretty flower with the white bells? Yes, it’s lily of the valley. And what else do we know about this plant? Yes, it’s very poisonous and we should never eat it.”
On the flip side, it is great to teach kids some plants they can eat. Foraging for wild strawberry or dandelions is perfectly safe and can be a very empowering experience for children. Here is an article on foraging if you’re interested in learning more.
3. Beware of Wildlife
We have chickens and a big dog on our property, so we are constantly reviewing how to act around animals. My kids love taking care of the chicks and hens, but they know to steer clear of the fully grown roosters.
Animals are really cool, but they can also be dangerous or carry disease. Teaching children to respect animals, not to approach wildlife, and to alert an adult if they see any unfamiliar or potentially dangerous animals is a simple practice that is important for wilderness adventures!
For example, my kids found a snapping turtle nest last week. Snapping turtles aren’t malicious, but if provoked they could take off your finger.
In related but much larger wildlife news, we also practice Bear Drills now that we have bears coming to visit our house.
It’s a good idea to stay informed as the adult about what to do around animals. This article has a decent overview of what to do in various wildlife encounters.
4. Review Open Water Safety
Open water is a totally different story from pool swimming! Here are some great tips on assessing risks of open water situations do everyone can have fun and cool off but stay safe.
5. Don’t Set Fires (without an adult)
My kids love fire so much! I consider fire skills to be an important part of our homeschool learning. It is always important to review basic fire safety rules, such as to never light fires without an adult present and other basic Campfire Safety Rules.
6. Tick Checks for Kids
Ticks are sneaky little bugs and they are becoming more and more prevalent even in areas that never had them before. It is extra important to do tick checks in summer when you’re likely to be outdoors a lot, but ticks can be around in all seasons.
This handy little tool is the best way to safely remove ticks. I keep a set of these in the family van as well as in our home first aid area.
Here is a handy guide to tick removal so you can make sure to use best practices when removing ticks.
7. Proper Gear, Clothing & Footwear for Safety
Shoes: Your feet are what get you around in life, wear proper footwear! My 9 year old’s favourite all-round footwear are his blundstones. My second-born would go barefoot all the time if he could so he wears his outdoor slippers a lot. It’s a priority to have good quality footwear for all our adventures.
Hats and Helmets: Between sunstroke and head injuries, proper head gear is another really important safety practice to put into place. I am admittedly the worst at reminding kids to wear hats! Having their own individual hooks by the door can help with making this a routine.
For helmets, lately I have been loving these adorable ones from coco village.
Other: We aren’t big sunscreen people, but if we have to have it on, we use this one. More on sunscreens that are safest here. I also always pack our homemade bug spray which you can find an easy diy recipe for here.
My kids are very bright in many ways, but getting out the door with everyone’s shoes on sometimes seems impossible. We are learning. To review what to wear in a fun way, we play a “what would happen if” game around the lunch table. You have to pick some gear or equipment and place it in a location that it doesn’t belong. It’s funny but also demonstrates the idea to children pretty clearly.
What if you wore an astronaut space walk suit on the playground?
What if you wore your snorkel mask at dinner?
What if mum wore high heels at the pool?!
What if you wore flip flops on a hike?
8. Be aware of the weather
… and practice the lightning pose! My friend is an outdoor school teacher, and she told me about this cool squat pose that you can do if you can’t get indoors during a thunderstorm.
Here is an image of the pose from the art of Manliness.
We are all for going out in any weather, but we draw the line at thunderstorms. A rule I have heard is, “If thunder roars, get indoors!”
9. Hiking Safety with Kids
As kids grow and boundaries change, they continue to need reminders. Even if you have been hiking with your littles since they were babes-in-backpacks, they may need to review what to do on the trail regularly. We have one kid in particular who needs to be reminded to stay with the group. As they grow, I aim to continue to teach things like, know how to read a trail map.
10. Tree Climbing Safety for Kids
Here is a great challenge and wonderful example of safe risky play. My kids LOVE to climb, especially my oldest, and they haven’t broken a bone yet so I think they are doing ok. I don’t overwhelm them with tree climbing drills or anything, I just let them climb from a young age and give gentle hints if needed. Here is an article all about the lost art of tree climbing that does have some safety tips if you’re new to the idea.
Bonus: Safety on Bikes, Trampolines and Playgrounds
For some reason, artificial settings such as playgrounds tend to be the scene of more serious accidents. Bikes, playgrounds and trampolines are the setting of many more injuries per year than nature walks and tree climbing, and we aren’t banning those. So don’t be afraid to let your kids play outside!
Thanks for reading along. I’d love to answer your risky play questions on my YouTube channel so let me know below if you have questions! What makes you most nervous to take your kids to do as a parent? Does it surprise you?