Five ways to encourage safe play in your home

Play is an extremely beneficial part of your child’s development. But how can you ensure that your child is playing safely while still allowing them to grow to their potential?

Both parents and teachers have recognised that play is extremely important for children’s development. It helps your little ones to develop their problem-solving skills, improve their confidence, and learn new things, all in a fun, memorable context.

The NHS has also found that play can be a good way for young children to develop their physical mobility and coordination skills, because it encourages movement and exploration of the world.

But when you’re letting your child play, it can be tricky to find the balance between letting them explore and keeping them safe.

To help you, Peter Boast from child safety equipment provider Safetots shares five tips for how to find this balance. By introducing some simple measures when your little ones are enjoying their activities at home, you can make sure that they are getting the experiences they need to grow while setting your own mind at ease and keeping them safe.

1) Allow children to make mistakes

Before you go head-on into safety measures in your home, it’s important to recognise that children also need to be able to make mistakes, and to take risks in a controlled environment. This is all part of their learning and development, however much you instinctively want to eliminate all risk and make sure that your little one is looked after. This is especially relevant when considering outdoor play when your children want to go on trampolines and climb trees.

To find this balance, establish what specific risks you are allowing your children to take and then communicate this to them simply and effectively. This way you can let your kids explore, but still supervise them to make sure they are safe.

You can also try appointing play equipment that you are happy with your kids using, and ensure that they stick to these pieces to keep them from climbing things like fences or trees that might be less stable., Especially when children get a little older, it can also help to watch them from a little distance rather than following them.

Try sitting at one end of the garden and watching your little ones as they explore the rest of the garden to keep an eye on them while letting them play semi-independently. If you’re having trouble getting to the point of independent play, you might get a lot out of taking an independent play course that will help teach you the ins and outs!

2) Have a specific play space at home

As well as having your kids stick to specific play equipment that they can use, you can choose an area of your house to be a dedicated play area. This is a way of ensuring that your child is within a space that you know is safe, which might be a whole pay room or just a corner of the living room.

Include lots of soft, accessible seating and lounging spots for your child to enjoy, as well as some toy storage. This might be cupboards, kids’ furniture pieces, or toy storage boxes.

If you are using a corner of your living room or another space at home , you might also want to install a play den, as these are a great way of cornering off a space for your child to have their play sessions. This way, they can take their toys out and have their play time independently within a set area.

In terms of outdoor playtime, you could also section off an area using deck and driveway guards to keep your kids within an area that you’re happy with. And while it might seem obvious, you should also check that all the fencing around your garden is secure and doesn’t have any holes or gaps in it.

Whatever play space you assign for your children, it’s important to also ensure that you also store any choking hazards out of their reach and keep a watchful eye on them while they are playing with smaller toys. Only getting these smaller toys out for designated, supervised play sessions ensures that your children are still able to experience playing with all sorts of toys, while staying safe. 

It is a natural part of a child’s sensory motor development to put objects in their mouth — to assess how small or large an object is, what it feels like and more. It is therefore essential to assess if any small items lying around where your child may play could be a choking hazard.

Purchasing a choke tester is recommended: this is a simple yet extremely effective product which is designed to simulate the dimensions of a young child’s throat and therefore enable the user to assess is an item is safe around a toddler.

3) Teach your child about safety

Making learning about safety part of playtime will help to ensure that they build their own knowledge about keeping safe, and this will set them up much better for independent play. So, take the time to have conversations with your children about the safety precautions you’re taking as you go along, and involve them in making their play area safe.

One option is to make it into a game – start each play session with you and your child making their play area safe, and end it with tidying up. This type of integrated approach will help your child’s development as well as keep them safe. 

You might also prefer to just have a quick chat with your child about safety measures and how to stay safe while they are playing. Whatever method you choose, this can be a great way to encourage your kids to evaluate situations for themselves and put your own mind at ease.

Explaining things to children can also make them feel more comfortable with following rules and more empowered to make their own decisions when playing. It’s also important to ensure they stay safe while online.

4) Make your home child-safe

You can also make your child’s play safer by making your home safer in general . There are a number of ways to do this, including stair gates and fire guards to stop the risk of your child taking a fall or getting too close to a fire. Having a few play dens situated around the house is also excellent for ensuring that your home is prepared for little ones to play.

With a combination of measures, you can make sure that your home doesn’t just have a play area in it, but is also prepared for your child to explore safely. Making these modifications also ensure that you can rest at ease knowing that your little one is accommodated for safely. 

5) Set an example for your child

While it may sound obvious, setting an example can make a huge difference to your child playing safely. This is because, to an extent, our little ones tend to copy us, so ensuring that you show them how to stay safe every day can encourage your child to follow suit. Show them how to put their toys away and assess safety risks for yourself before you do things too, so they can see this is normal.

Establishing a routine for when you tidy the toys up after playing, and how you take them out again, can ensure that your child sees you enacting the things you talk about. It can also be more memorable and normal for your child when they see you doing it each day.

Finding the balance between letting your little ones explore and also taking measures to keep them safe can be complex. But by using these tips you can make a start and ensure that you are prepared with the right equipment to make a safe play area and a safe home.

Photo by Annie Spratt