All parents love taking their babies to the park, but your expectations should reflect what your baby can safely do. Around her first birthday, you can let her crawl or toddle around a grassy area. You can also push her in a "baby" swing. The sandbox can wait until she's about 18 months old. "You can't expect a 1-year-old to sit in the sand without putting it in her mouth," says pediatrician Ari Brown, M.D.
At around a year, your toddler may also be climbing on play structures and going down a small slide by herself. At 2, she will most likely be OK on a bigger slide (just make sure she doesn't get "overrun" by larger kids). Brown suggests these additional playground safety tips for kids of any age:
- Inspect grass, sand and all other play areas for dog waste, glass, choking hazards and similar potential dangers.
- Make sure the "fall zone" under playground equipment has a soft surface, such as sand or rubber.
- Don't let your toddler go on slides or play structures if the landings don't have railings.
- Always keep an eye on your child, and stay close enough to catch her if she falls from the equipment.
- Wash your child's hands after she plays on older (pre-2003) wood equipment; it may be coated with a form of arsenic.
- On sunny days, test the temperature of the metal slide before letting your child go down it.