Getting outside with your toddler for playtime and exploring your natural surroundings is one of the best ways to teach them about the environment and instill a love of nature in them. But before you head to the nearest park, there are a few things you should know about some common outdoor hazards.
Educating your toddler on outdoor hazards
Talking to your child about the dangers lurking outside is no different from teaching them about being safe inside. When your toddler is two to three years old, they may not be able to fully understand or remember all of the verbal safety tips you give him. However, you can begin to point out any potential outdoor threat and explain (in kid talk) why they should stay away. Starting early with education about things like plants, insects, and animal safety will increase the chances your toddler stays safe and has a fun experience being outside.
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac
The sap of these plants can cause an allergic reaction when it comes in contact with human skin. Before your child spends time exploring outside, show him a picture of these plants and then head to an area where he can see them in person. You don’t have to go into great detail about what the plant is and why he should steer clear. Just tell him that if he touches the plant, his skin may start itching (bad!). Horticulturists recommend parents teach their kids this simple rhyme: “Leaves of three, let them be.” And you can help him stay safe by dressing him in long sleeve shirts and pants before heading out. But if his skin does come into contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, immediately wash the area with cool water.
Biting and stinging insects
The biting insects your child may encounter include mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, chiggers, and biting flies. And depending on where you live, if they spend any amount of time outside, they may be bound to have an up close and personal encounter with a stinging insect such as a bee, hornet, or wasp. Because a few of these insects are so common, you need to be cautious about how you educate them about staying away, or else they will never want to leave the house.
Dressing your toddler in light-colored clothing when playing outside (especially during the seasons where these insects are out), can help keep insects away and make it easier for you to spot ticks. Have them fill a drawer with light-colored long-sleeve shirts and pants they can wear when they go outside. They can even label the drawer with the word “out” so they will know exactly what to put on before heading out to play.
If you live in an area where insects like ticks are more common, have them wear long sleeve shirts and pants when playing outside, especially near tall grass. And show them how to tuck their shirt into their pants, and their pant legs into their socks. Also use an insect repellent and check for ticks nightly at bath time. Explain to them that if they see a bee buzzing around their body, that they should be still like a tree until the bee moves on, since most bees will not sting you unless you swat at them or threaten them first.
Protecting against animals
Teaching your toddler about the danger of wild animals (or any unfamiliar animals) begins with telling them to stay away – always. Talk about how animals work hard to protect themselves and they get scared if people approach them. They also need to know that they should never feed animals that do not belong to their family. And if they are alone and sees an animal that they do not recognize, tell them to stay calm and call loudly for help.
About the author:
Sara Lindberg is a freelance writer focusing on parenting, health, and wellness. She is passionate about all things fitness and health and loves spending time with her husband, daughter, and son.
- “2017 Summer Safety Tips.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved August 22 2017. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/news-features-and-safety-tips/pages/summer-safety-tips.aspx.
- “Bites and Stings: Insects.” Johns Hopkins Medicine. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and The Johns Hopkins Health Center. Retrieved August 22 2017. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/pediatrics/bites_and_stings_insects_85,P01032/.