Stories about: free play

Playing it safe in the heat

How hot is the metal at your child's favorite playground?

Slides, seesaws and jungle gyms remind us of carefree childhood days, but as we get older, the allure of playgrounds becomes much less simple. These outdoor havens are great ways to encourage physical activity in kids, but strong summer heat can also cause them to become danger zones. Here, Lois Lee, MD, MPH, director of trauma research at Children’s Hospital Boston, breaks down summer playground safety and suggests ways to keep your outing safe.

Recent reports of children who have burned their hands and feet on hot playground gear underscore the need for shady spots in playgrounds. “Ideally, it would be great for kids to have access to shaded playgrounds to keep cool and out of the sun, but it’s not always realistic,” says Lee. She recommends making sure kids have sunscreen on their faces and bodies, dressing them in lightweight, protective clothing and keeping them out of direct sunlight between the hours of 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun is most intense.

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The power of play: unstructured fun vs. organized activities

Claire McCarthy, MD

Natasha doesn’t want to go to swim camp this summer.

Of course, she waits until I’ve sent out the emails to the other swim team moms discussing weeks and carpools before she tells me that the only thing she really liked about it last year was that I let her have Lunchables for lunch (I never buy that stuff, not sure what got into me). Apparently she didn’t get to spend much time with her friends, the kids in her lane were pushy, and games they played when they were out of the pool weren’t very fun. “They taught us the same stuff I learn in practice, anyway,” she said.

Summer is still a few months away, but now is when we need to start making plans if we want to get the weeks that work at the camps we want. The thing is, I can’t seem to generate any interest in camp among my children. I don’t know if it’s just too hard to think about summer with the piles of snow outside, but there is no enthusiasm to be found.

This may not be a terrible thing. It would be nice not to have to get everyone up and out in the morning. And a cheaper summer would be helpful, with both high school and college tuitions to pay next year. We have a family vacation planned for two weeks in August, and thanks to all the snow days they won’t be out of school until the end of June, so it’s really just July that is blank. Still, it feels weird not to plan anything. Is it okay to say that the kids will just…play?

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