While all of our children can benefit from the opportunities that outdoor play provides to develop skills and challenge their boundaries, appropriate care and safety for children remains paramount. It’s the responsibility of parents, carers and educators to provide a safe and secure environment in which children can engage in exploration, discovery and new experiences. Parents worry about fostering their children’s independence, but also about protecting them from harm, and striking the right balance can be difficult. It’s important to set ground rules, and to teach children to be aware of their own safety.
Here’s some suggestions based on advice from the NSPCC and others:
1. Teach Early
As soon as they are old enough, teach children their full name, address and their telephone number and make sure they know them. As they grow up, teach them to cross the road safely and how to ask for directions from adults.
2. Provide Responsible Supervision
Children under 8 years of age probably shouldn’t be out alone in most situations, especially in busy towns. Let them play outside independently, but always make sure that they are in sight. When playing alone or in groups they should be supervised by an adult or a mature older child.
3. Be Informed
If your kids do go out, make sure they always let you know who they are with, where they are and when they will be there. Ensure that children don’t play alone but travel in groups as much as possible – the larger group the better.
4. Make Sure They’re Prepared
Make sure they know what to do in a situation where they do become lost or separated. When looking for help, they should try to approach a police officer, a shop assistant or someone with a young child. They should never let someone take them away somewhere, even if they know or recognize them, without parental permission.
5. Encourage Confidence
Try to build up your child’s self esteem, and teach them to deal confidently and assertively with adults. Let them know that their personal space should be respected, and they should never have to accept unwelcome physical intimacy or gestures from adults. If someone tries to force them to go somewhere, they should should shout for help and try to draw attention.
6. Listen & Communicate
Always pay attention to your children, especially if it seems like they’re anxious or trying to communicate something difficult.
7. Make A Community Effort
Create a child-friendly environment with the help of your local community. If your children are playing in the street or near other people’s houses, ask your them if they can keep an eye out, and offer to do the same for their kids. You might want to agree on particular areas of play, or times when your children can meet up. Creating this environment may also bring a greater sense of connection between the different members of your community.