Do you have new snow today? Here, guest blogger Kris Corrigan, Early Childhood Specialist and ERS Assessor, shares some reminders about winter weather considerations.
We all enjoy going outside when the weather is nice, but no one would argue that it’s more challenging in the winter. We must allow extra time for children to get dressed properly for outdoor play, and there are always children who don’t have the proper attire for comfortable outdoor play. Many times playgrounds are covered in ice and snow and the time and energy it takes to prepare the area for safe, outdoor play does not seem worth it. Faced with these challenges, some providers opt for indoor gross motor time. But it is worth the time and energy to get children outside. Children need outdoor time in the winter months (weather permitting) just like in the summer. In fact, research shows that children who have outdoor time in the winter are actually healthier. Here are some reminders that will make outdoor play time safe for the children in your care:
- Many providers in Iowa use loose-filled surfacing under and around playground equipment to provide cushioning in the event of a fall. The U.S. Consumer and Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook reminds us that freezing temperatures result in the protective surfacing in and around playground equipment to also freeze. Even if the first few layers are loose, the base layer may be frozen and will not provide adequate impact absorption if a child falls from the equipment. If these conditions exist, the CPSC recommends that children not use equipment requiring fall zone protection.
- Those howling winter winds can also cause loose-filled like mulch or wood chips to be blown around which can result in inadequate protection. It is important that providers rake the material and check the surface to make sure there is adequate protection when conditions are safe for using playground equipment that requires protective surfacing.
- Ice can make a play structure including the stairs, slides and platforms to be slippery increasing the risk of falls. In the event of these conditions, ice should be removed from the equipment prior to children being allowed to use it. Snow and ice can also build up on trip limbs creating potential hazards if children play under trees.
- Snow on a playground is fun for play, but can also conceal hidden hazards such as, glass or other unsafe items that can harm children. Even if the snow surface looks pristine, it is important to t still do those routine maintenance checks to make sure the playground surface is hazard-free.
What are some of your favorite activities to do with children outside in the winter?
U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission, April, 2008. Handbook for Public Playground Safety, page 18, www.cpsc.gov/…/325.pdf
Playground Magazine, Volume 9 – No. 5 winter, 2009-2010, The Chill Effect: Winter Tips for Playground Surfaces, www.playgroundmag.org
Child Care Weather Watch Chart, www.isbe.net/pdf/school_health/wind-heat-chart.pdf