How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

Living in New York City, I visit public playgrounds on a daily basis, sometimes more than once. As a self-described “worrier”, this is not exactly my favorite activity with a fearless two-year-old. However, I am keenly aware that I can not keep my daughter cooped up in the apartment all summer and needed to find a way to reduce my “playground-anxiety” and learn to make it work for us. In my experience, the following is a list of tips for how to keep toddlers safe in a public playground and also, how to maintain your sanity as a parent.

How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public PlaygroundHow To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

1. Find your comfort zone within the playground
This is especially true for many of the playgrounds we visit in NYC, as there are a variety of activities and structures designed for different ages. When I take my daughter to the playground, I limit her activities to where she really belongs, not to where she thinks she belongs. For example, I generally limit her to the smaller structures – meaning the height from the ground – and play areas that she can handle navigating herself.

2. Set a time limit
Spending hours upon hours chasing a young toddler around the playground can be completely exhausting, especially when they need help with just about everything – our sweet spot is around 45 minutes to an hour. Beyond that time, my daughter starts getting tired and skinned knees begin to appear.

3. Always lock the playground gates
I have what people refer to as a “runner” and my daughter would definitely escape the playground if she had the opportunity. Locking the playground gates and abiding by the rules allows everyone to play safely and enjoy the experience.

How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

4. Be on the lookout for suspicious characters
I hate to even think about such realities, but bad people do exist. In the majority of NYC playgrounds, there are strict rules about needing to be with a minor in order to visit and I would say that parents and caregivers are really on top of this rule.

5. City playgrounds can be isolated, pack a bag
If you plan to visit a public playground in New York City or anywhere else, be prepared with enough diapers, wipes, water, snacks, sunscreen, and know the location of a restroom if available – once you make the trek, you are stuck with what’s immediately available – many of the playgrounds in my neighborhood are isolated.

How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

6. Dress for the playground
There are tons of cute toddlers clothes on the market, but they don’t all “play” well. While my daughter would love to head to the playground in pink rain boots, she would wind up falling every two feet. Grip-soled shoes or sneakers, and comfortable play clothes are ideal – I also make my daughter take off any necklaces or other toddler-esc jewelry before we head outside.

How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

7. A public playground is public
On any given day you will find multiple languages spoken and tourists from all over the world visiting the playgrounds in New York – which means a variety of parenting philosophies and techniques are on display. I generally avoid any confrontations or reprimanding unless something is directly effecting my daughter – pushing, biting, hitting, etc. I wouldn’t tolerate, but if someone takes her shovel I normally let her try to sort it out.

How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

I’ll be honest with you, the public playground is not my favorite place to visit with a young toddler. If you are feeling anxious or concerned, I am right there with you. In keeping with the tips above, I think it’s best to pace yourself and your child – get aquatinted with your local playgrounds and figure out which ones serve your child best {because they won’t all work}. The best advice I can offer in regards to keeping your toddler safe on a public playground is to trust in your parenting skills – you know what’s too high, too fast, or what’s easy for your child to maneuver. Regardless of age or what every other child is allowed to do, you set the rules for your child and never feel bad about that.

Now go outside and have some fun!


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One Response to How To Keep Toddlers Safe in a Public Playground

  1. shalama April 22, 2015 at 9:07 pm #

    I remember those days with a toddler on the playground. I was a worry-wort too. Your thoughts definitely are on point. If I wasn’t playing with him when he was at that age, I made sure that I could always see him.

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