When you become a parent, the great outdoors can become a scarier place. Your child could fall over and skin their knee, get a painful bite from an insect, put something in their mouth that they shouldn’t—the list goes on. All of these worries and fears are valid, but your child will need to explore the outdoors to learn and develop.
Most children will know what they can and cannot do while playing outside at a certain age with minimal supervision, but this fact may not be enough to calm your anxieties. If this is the case for you, here are some tips that you can apply on how to ease parental anxiety while letting your child explore the outdoors.
Childproof your backyard
The first outdoor experience that your child will probably have is in the backyard. Here, they can play and dig and examine the greenery within the safety of your fences. Still, there are a lot of things that can harm them in what seems like a relatively safe space, such as biting bugs, sharp garden tools, and thorny bushes. To childproof your backyard, here are some things you should do:
- Remove harmful plants. This includes thorny bushes and plants that are toxic when consumed.
- Store dangerous equipment. Keep garden tools, chemicals, cleaning apparatus, and other dangerous equipment in the garage, safely out of reach of children.
- Check the locks. Make sure that your fence gates can be properly locked and are difficult for children to unlock.
- Cushion sharp corners. Just like when babyproofing indoors, put padding or cushions on the sharp edges of furniture and architecture, such as your deck, patio seats, and garden tables.
Protect your child from insects
Children’s skin is very sensitive to bug bites, and they can easily develop a rash when bitten by a nasty bug. If you have a mosquito problem in your backyard, contact a mosquito control service right away. The same goes if you have pests such as termites or fire ants around the property—get rid of them first before allowing your child to play outside.
Have a thorough discussion with your child
At a certain age, children aged three to four will be able to retain and follow simple rules. At eight to ten, you can start relying on them to follow your rules without much help in most situations. All children are different, but it is still important to explain the rules when going outside even to a child as young as two years old.
The first rule you should establish for your child is to not go beyond your line of sight or to stay in one area unless they have permission to move to another. Instill this rule as early as possible so that you are less worried every time you go outside, especially to a public park or a playground. Moreover, you will also want to train your child not to touch visibly dirty things and, most importantly, not to put their hands in their mouth while playing outside. Children love to do this and establishing this rule early on can save you a lot of tummy aches.
Take concrete precautions
No matter how careful you are, your child can still get hurt while playing outside. Nevertheless, you can prevent most catastrophes by taking concrete precautions. For example, you can put a tracker on your child’s clothes so that you will always know where they are. If you are going swimming, invest in swimming lessons for your child and put floatation devices on them even then. Or when they go outside to bike with friends, make sure that an adult is with them to supervise (and don’t forget the protective gear)!
Determine the cause of your anxiety
Sometimes, parental fears and anxieties can be irrationally overwhelming. If a simple camping trip or a visit to the beach is already stressing you out so much, it may be more than just a normal fear as a parent. Perhaps you have experienced something negative in similar situations as a child? Or you’ve seen someone else go through it? Whatever the case, it may be wise to talk to your partner or even get professional help to ease some of your worries.
As a parent, the fear for your child’s safety may not ever go away. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t reduce it to a rational amount. With these tips, you can help work on those parental anxieties and let your child satisfy their curiosities about the outdoors. After all, spending time outside is vital to their growth and development, and giving them a lot of time outside can ultimately help them flourish.