Getting outside and staying active during the summer is incredibly important for kids. Playgrounds are
a great place for kids to combine making friends with some much needed exercise. Unfortunately, they are also one of the most common places for injury. Each year approximately 200,000 kids under the age of 14 will visit the emergency department because of
an injury that occurred on a playground. And about 80% of these injuries will occur from a fall.
However, the benefits of the playground far outweigh the drawbacks, especially if parents take a few extra precautions before heading to the park.
David Roberts, MD, Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgeon at the NorthShore Orthopaedic Institute, shares some easy ways to make the playground safer for kids this summer and all year round:
Supervise, supervise! Go to the park as a family. While there, you can make sure everyone is being safe by supervising play and have a little fun too! Getting outside and staying active is just as important for parents.
Slides are for kids only. Well-meaning parents might think it’s safer to go down the slide with toddlers on your lap; unfortunately, this is a common source of fractures in young children. When little ones go down the slide alone, they only
have their own body weight to contend with. If they go down the slide with a parent and catch their foot on the side, the full force of the parent’s weight is behind them now too. So one at a time down the slide!
Dress appropriately. This doesn’t just mean dressing appropriately for the weather. Avoid drawstrings and loose clothing that could catch on playground equipment and cause falls or other injuries. And always make sure shoes laces are tied.
Make sure playgrounds are safe and age-appropriate. Not all playgrounds are created equal. Many modern playgrounds are designed to have lower height equipment and softer surfaces beneath, like mulch or rubber padding, which absorb the impact
of falls. Try to keep outdoor playtime to these safer spaces. Also look for playgrounds that have separate equipment for older and younger children.
Does your family spend time at the playground in the summer?
Get them when they’re young! Exercise is important for every single member of the family, even the small ones. Physically
active kids are more likely to grow up into physically active adults, which could ultimately reduce their risk for heart disease, obesity and many other health issues. In addition to the long-term and obvious physical benefits, children that are physically
active have better concentration at school, higher self esteem, improved ability to handle stress and greater social acceptance than those who are not active.
Help your kids make a lifetime commitment to health and fitness by making that commitment as a family. Show your kids the way it’s done and you could set them on a path for a healthier future.
Ideally, all children over the age of two should be physically active for at least one hour per day. For toddlers and preschoolers, much of that will be unstructured play, but it’s important, nonetheless. If a child or family is not currently active at
all and one hour per day seems intimidating or unrealistic, it’s perfectly fine to set smaller goals (i.e., 15-20 minutes per day) and build from there.
Leslie Deitch Noble, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares some ideas for family fitness that will get everyone moving and, most
importantly, having fun:
Hiking. A moderately difficult hike can burn approximately 400 calories per hour. If you don’t happen to be near a hike-friendly area, simply go for a brisk walk as a family. It’s a great safe way for the family to catch up, explore the
outdoors and get fit together.
Ice-Skating. Cold weather doesn’t mean the entire family should hibernate. There are many calorie-burning activities that embrace the season and feel more like fun than exercise, including ice-skating, which can burn over 400 calories per
hour. Make sure everyone stays safe by keeping ice-skating confined to skating rinks and not lakes or ponds.
Yoga. The family that does yoga together reduces stress levels together. There is a yoga type for every age and every fitness level. When introducing beginners and children to yoga, help prevent injury by using a certified yoga instructor.
Biking. When roads aren’t icy or snowy, break out the helmets and hit the road. Make sure everyone is up-to-date on safety and the rules of the road before heading out. Biking is a great way to explore as a family, and, it could potentially
awaken a lifetime passion for fitness for your kids.
Dancing. Nothing could be simpler or more fun than turning on some tunes and dancing as a family. If a fitness craze like Zumba can work magic for adults, a little dancing could do wonders for kids too. Dance games for the Wii, Xbox or other
gaming consoles are also a great way to get the family dancing at home during the cold months. Parents and kids, alike, love a little bit of friendly competition when everyone is laughing and grooving together.
How do you stay fit as a family?
Frequent exercise is an important part of keeping your kids happy, healthy and fit. Starting a fitness routine early can be a great way to teach your children how to live healthier lives for years to come. Whether your child is an athlete or just starting
out, preventing injury is the key to keeping fitness safe and fun.
Adam Bennett, Family and Sports Medicine at NorthShore, shares some of his suggestions for getting your kids interested in fitness and
keeping exercise novices and young athletes safe and injury free.
What are some good ways to motivate children to exercise if they are not naturally athletic or have not expressed
an interest in participating in team sports?
Getting kids to exercise is often a tough challenge. Having your child choose a sport, no matter how obscure, may help encourage them to stay active—anything from fencing to yoga to bowling is worth a try. Other parents have had success by allowing their inactive
kids to earn TV or video game time by spending time exercising. That said, most kids like doing what their friends are doing, so consider finding out if their friends play sports and encourage them to participate. Lastly, children learn by example. If you
exercise, your child just might want to join you.
If a child has been fairly inactive, how should exercise be introduced to avoid injury?
It’s best to error on the side of a gradual transition. Kids of all shapes and sizes who have not exercised regularly are at risk for overuse injuries if they rush into activity too quickly. Exercising every other day is a great way to give your muscles,
tendons and bones enough time to recover and prevent injury. Altering the type of activity might also be helpful, with perhaps one day of swimming followed by a game of basketball or a bike ride the next.
How much water should children drink during exercise in the summer? Is water better than electrolyte replacement fluid?
Avoiding dehydration in the summer is very important. If your child is an athlete who will be at outdoor practice regularly during the summer, one easy way to avoid it is to weigh your child before and after exercise, especially during two-a-days. Athletes
need to make sure they are drinking enough water to recover their pre-activity weight. If they haven’t, they might be dehydrated. Athletes should also be told to watch the color of their urine. A light yellow or clearer means they aren’t dehydrated.
Water is fine for exercise lasting 20 minutes or less, but supplementation with water, electrolytes and sugar is essential for optimal performance and recovery when exercising for longer than 20 minutes, especially if the exercise involves intense exertion.
Are two-a-day practices safe for kids?
It’s not an ideal schedule to avoid overuse injuries and dehydration. If there is no pain or sign of injury, it’s a safe schedule, especially if children and coaches are vigilant about preventing dehydration. Most coaches are knowledgeable about proper conditioning
and training programs and choose a program that gets their players fit without causing harm.
What can you do to prevent injury in young athletes?
Soreness that resolves itself after a day or two is common; however, pain that seems to be getting worse with each practice may be a sign of an overuse injury. Any swelling of joints, catching or locking of joints might also indicate a more serious injury.
To prevent injury, a day of rest between workouts is wise. If the young athlete is a runner, mixing things up and trying some biking or swimming to cross train will give joints a break.
If a young athlete is already suffering from some overuse injuries, like tendonitis, how can he or she prevent more serious injury? Can training continue?
Overuse injuries can be a real problem in children who play multiple sports during the same season. During a sports season, dedicated days off from activity will help avoid further injury. In the summer or during off-season, regular exercise that is
similar to the sport played may help avoid overuse injuries once their season starts up again. If injuries persist, physical therapy may be required.
Is a marathon safe for a younger runner?
If he or she is comfortable running long distances and distances are gradually increased during a supervised running program; there is no pain during training and there are days off to recover, it’s likely safe for a younger runner to participate in
a marathon. Keep in mind, however, that a marathon is an intense endeavor which puts the body through unnatural stress. As such, a 10k or even a half marathon may a good alternative for younger runners before undertaking a marathon.