Keeping kids safe in the home and outdoors

Children love to play, especially outdoors. It’s natural for them to want to, and need to, take risks while playing. It’s important to offer children stimulating, challenging environments where they can explore and develop their abilities.

When children are born, they are generally fully protected. But as they get older, they need to be taught how to stay away from harm until they can protect themselves. The potential for being injured in an accident while playing is always present. It’s essential that they are not exposed to unacceptable risks that could cause injury or even death. Almost any environment can be hazardous and cause harm.


  • Always assess the risks present in areas where children are playing
  • Provide controlled opportunities for children to encounter and manage risk. Preventing them from accessing risk will deny them the chance to learn valuable skills. It will also tempt them from seeking play in uncontrolled environments.
  • If children are old enough to play by themselves, set clear rules for their play.
  • Teach children to always let caregivers and parents know where they are.
  • Create and develop designated safe play areas. Teach children where those areas are and warn them of dangers in unsafe areas.
  • Make sure you always know where children are playing and who they’re playing with.
  • Create care groups of responsible adults who take turns to supervise children at play.
  • Supervise pre-school children at all times during play.
  • Identify dangers in the neighbourhood. Notify the council and insist that those dangers are made safe to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Lobby the municipality to make safe areas where danger is present. These could include: open water outlets, drains, canals, deep holes, rubbish dumps, old buildings, discarded fridges, abandoned cars, sand dunes, building rubble, unsafe or poorly maintained play equipment, busy roads, electrical points, unfenced sub-stations, among many others.
  • • Keep children busy with organised, safe play time.
  • Toys should always be appropriate for the child’s age and developmental stage.
  • Don’t let children under three play with toys that have small or removable parts that could be swallowed.
  • When buying toys, think about the Four S guidelines:
    • Size: the smaller the child, the bigger the toy should be
    • Shape: no sharp or rough edges
    • Surface: should be nontoxic and non-flammable
    • Strings: there should be no cords, ropes, ribbons or strings on a toy for a young child
  • Toys should be interesting and involving, to maintain the child’s attention and keep them calm.
  • Be aware of age recommendations for toys. They are there to ensure children’s safety, especially children under three, who are more likely to place small objects in their mouths, which present swallowing dangers.
  • Be aware of any parts that can be broken or detached from a toy and might be swallowed. This means anything smaller than a ping pong ball and includes items like stickers and labels.
  • Avoid toys that could break or come apart easily, for example buttons that could come loose. These present swallowing hazards.
  • Do not buy toys with moving parts that could pinch, cut or trap parts of a child’s body. Toys should be solid, strong and well made.
  • Do not buy toys that need constant supervision. If a child always needs help with a toy, or has to be watched because the toy breaks easily, they should not play with the toy.
  • Remember that everyone has to live with toys in the house. If a toy is very noisy, it may become family-unfriendly.
  • Toys for older children can be dangerous for younger children. Keep the toys separate.
  • Check children’s toys for wear and tear. If they’re broken, mend or discard them.
  • Tidy away toys when not in use, including wrapping, packaging, ribbons, plastics and other covering.
  • Bicycles and bike helmets go together. If a child receives a bicycle, they should receive the helmet too.
  • Always ensure sports equipment is accompanied by the right protective gear; for example, roller blades or skateboards should come with a helmet and wrist pads.
  • Do not buy toy guns that could be mistaken for real guns or that fire potentially dangerous objects.
  • Outdoor play equipment needs impact-absorbing surfaces. Trampolines should be set in the ground.
  • Do not buy toys that may be a one-day wonder. Toys should have lasting interest.
  • Toys should not be intelligence guides for younger children. They should always be age-appropriate.

Acknowledgement: Kidsafe, Summer 1995. The Magazine off The Child Accident Prevention Foundation of Australia.