Whether you’re working at a local school, volunteering, or managing a playdate for your own kids, as a parent you’ll eventually find yourself responsible for the safety of a group of children at play. Supervising kids sounds simple at first, but keeping children safe while allowing them to have fun and learn is not an easy task.
1. Work with at least One Other Supervisor
Keeping an eye on one or two kids playing on your swingset in the backyard is doable for one person. When you’re managing a playground, you will need more than one set of eyes. When coordinating with another supervisor, it’s much easier to maintain a direct line of sight to all the kids between you. Not only does that make it easier to see if someone is misusing the equipment, it also means children can always see a supervisor, making them a lot less likely to act out in the first place.
Having help also means you can respond better if something goes wrong and someone is injured. While one person stays with the injured child and managed the situation, the other can call for help or go to collect first aid supplies.
2. Keep the Space Organized
Don’t allow kids to bring bags, balls, or other items near or onto a playset. Backpacks have straps that can get caught on things and can present a tripping hazard irrespective of whatever’s inside them. Balls and other toys are especially dangerous around swings and climbing equipment. The fill material that makes up the base of any modern swing set is designed to allow kids to fall from swings, monkey bars, or other equipment with minimal risk. Slipping from the monkey bars isn’t dangerous ordinarily, but if their fall is broken by a discarded scooter or a basketball, it can mean lacerations or broken bones.
3. Know When Not to Step In
It’s never acceptable to let kids roughhouse or throw violent tantrums. That doesn’t mean, however, that a supervisor should actively manage play to proactively prevent all interpersonal friction. It’s a good thing when there are two swings that four children want to play on, because it gives kids a chance to develop social skills.
Children learn how to share, to solve conflicts of interest, and to work out compromises by playing and practicing with each other at a young age. Playgrounds are a great controlled environment to develop the skills and experience they need to succeed later in life.
4. Watch out for Bullying
When supervising kids, it’s easy to focus on basic physical safety while completely missing a social problem. Bullies learn at a young age that they can get what they want by intimidating their peers. Often, they’ll do that while technically obeying the rules. A bully can quickly turn a playground into a toxic environment for the other kids, even those that aren’t direct victims. If you notice someone using bullying tactics to intimidate, ostracize, or control other kids, it’s your responsibility to notice and resolve the situation.