Outdoor safety for kids

Your children will learn and grow from the enjoyment of outdoor activities. From birthday parties in the park, to sport, to camping with the family; the outdoors has so much to offer children. Unfortunately, no activity comes without risk but as a family, you can limit that risk and be aware of possible hazards as much as possible. 

The benefits of children being active in a safe outdoor environment far outweigh the risks. Having strategies to overcome potential risks when outdoors can not only prevent injuries from occurring but can also teach children how to recognise risk.

Playground and equipment safety

The most common playground injuries are falls, often from climbing equipment, swings and trampolines. 

You can make your child’s outdoor play safer by following these safety tips. 

  • Supervise your child around play equipment 
  • Choose play equipment that suits your child’s age - equipment that is over 1.5 metres high is not suitable for children under 5 years of age 
  • Make sure all outdoor play equipment is stable and well-anchored 
  • Have soft material under your play equipment if it is more than 60cm off the ground 
  • Soft material under swings should be 2.5 metres past the longest point the swing reaches, both front and back 
  • The surface under play equipment should either be either:
    • loose-fill material, for example bark, mulch, wood chips or sand, that is 30cm deep
    • impact absorbing material, for example fake grass or rubber 
  • Considerations for other surfaces:
    • hard surfaces such as concrete, grass, dirt or gravel under play equipment should not be used 
    • only certain types of sand are good for absorbing impact – check that you choose sand for playgrounds (not play sand) 
    • rubber is good for absorbing impact but it can get hot with its safety also depending depends on its age and how it was installed. 

Trampoline safety

Trampoline age guide

If your child is under six years old, it is recommended that they don't use a full-size trampoline as their bodies are not developed enough to absorb the continuous bouncing. A mini trampoline or one with a handrail may be suitable for this age group as they do not have as much spring or recoil. 

Most injuries happen on a trampoline due to a fall, landing incorrectly or having more than one child on the trampoline at the same time. This can include both home trampolines and indoor trampoline centres. 

If you are visiting a trampoline park, make sure you check prior to visiting if they are a member of the Australian Trampoline Park Association

Safety tips for trampolines

  1. If purchasing a trampoline, ensure it meets Australian standards including safety netting on all sides and safety padding around springs and steel frames 
  2. Place your home trampoline on even ground and a soft surface such as a grassed area
  3. Ensure there are no hazards within 2 metres of the trampoline including the side of the house, fences, rocks or other toys 
  4. Have at least 5 metres of space above the trampoline to avoid your child hitting their head on objects such as the clothesline or a tree
  5. Only allow one child on the trampoline at any given time
  6. Don’t allow other objects or toys on the trampoline 
  7. Supervise your child when they are using a trampoline 
  8. Teach your child how to get down from a trampoline safely without jumping to the ground 
  9. Do not allow children to do somersaults; if your child is interested in these activities, seek out professional groups who can teach them safety around gymnastics and moving their body. 
  10. Do not allow children to go underneath the trampoline mat, especially when someone else is jumping on it
  11. Regularly check your trampoline for any wear and tear including damage to the safety net or caused by exposure to the sun. 

Farm and recreational vehicles

Farm and recreational vehicles are typically two and four wheeled vehicles such as motorbikes, quad bikes and side-by-side vehicles. They are mainly used off-road and are only required to be registered if they will be used on gazetted roads. 

While there is currently no legislation mandating a minimum age for off-road, private property quad bike and motorcycle use, injury prevention researchers, surgeons and safety agencies strongly recommend that children less than 16 years of age do not use them.

Safety tips

  • Children 16 years and under should not operate or be a passenger on an adult-sized quad bike 
  • Make sure children are wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, such as seat belts and helmets in cars, utes and trucks to prevent or reduce the severity of injury or death 
  • Children and young people using motorbikes, side-by-side vehicles or youth model quad bikes still need to be supervised at all times 
  • Only purchase quad bikes that comply with the mandatory product safety standard including fitted operator protection device (OPD) and which meet minimum stability requirements.

Of the hospital admissions for off-road vehicle accidents across NSW for children aged 0 to 16 years, 78% were involved a motorcycle with 22% involving quad bikes.

Children involved in this study who rode motorcycles were more likely to have lower limb injuries, fractures, dislocations and burns. On the other hand, quad bike riders were more likely to have open and neurovascular injuries. Of those children who presented to hospital after a motorcycle or quad accident, 1.64% required intensive care and 9.17% of those passed away in the intensive care unit.

Bites and stings

Australia hosts one of the most diverse species of plants and animals in the world with around 82% of our mammals not being found anywhere else in the world. Because we have such unique plants and animals, it is important to be aware of the possible dangers of being out in nature and sharing spaces with many different creatures that call Australia home.  

Of hospitalisations, the most common presentations were for bee stings, spider bites and venomous snakes. There are many more insect bites and stings which are not life-threatening. Some of these may contribute to itching and irritation of the skin and do not require hospitalisation, for example, mosquitoes, ticks, flies, sea lice and leeches. However, if you are concerned about your child's reaction to a bite or sting, especially if it is their first time, seek medical advice.

Tips to avoid bites and stings

  • Apply insect repellent to your child’s exposed skin and clothing when outdoors
  • Be careful not to spray repellent near the eyes, nose, mouth or ears
  • If your child is under the age of 12 months, only apply insect repellent on the surface of their clothing and not their skin
  • Cover your child’s stroller or pram with a loose mesh netting  
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions such as:
    • long pants and long socks for bush walks
    • non-slip water shoes for the beach
  • Pull your child’s socks up and over their pants to preventing bites and stings on the lower limbs
  • Be aware of the conditions, for example, snakes look for warm spots on rocks or trails and are more active in springtime
  • Supervise your child and ensure they do not step on or touch anything suspicious in shallow water or rock pools.

 See Water safety for more information about supervision around water sources.

Other tips for the home and outdoor environment  

  • Be aware of and avoid stagnant water as this attracts and breeds mosquitoes
  • Cover exposed food and drinks when outside to avoid attracting insects to your area
  • Place rubbish inside a bag, and remember to cover any bins located near the house.
  • Be aware that insects are attracted to lights when eating outdoors after sunset
  • Fit fly screens to all windows and doors in the house
  • Avoid keeping doors or windows open for extended periods of time, especially if there are lights on in the house at night
  • As a last resort, use insect spray where needed; however be sure to spray well away from people, food, food preparation areas and utensils
  • When travelling in countries or areas with known disease-carrying insects, follow the recommendations for that specific country on Smart Traveller.

If you need further advice on a specific bite, call the Poisons Information Centre (PIC) on 13 11 26.

If your child has any signs of anaphylaxis such as difficulty breathing, is unconscious or fitting, call Tripe Zero (000).

Travel safety

Travelling with children can be an enjoyable and memorable experience for the whole family. While it does have its challenges, with the right preparation and a little patience, your children will have a whole new set of stimuli to keep them developing, growing and exploring. 

Whether you are heading out on a road trip with your children or have decided to take them on an overseas flight for the first time, there are some suggested travel tips to make life a little easier when you’re on the move.

Tips for flying with children

To make flying with children as seamless as possible, you can:

  • book in advance: this will allow your family extra time to pack and book seats on the flight together, ideally at the front to allow for easier boarding
  • arrive early: everything seems to take longer with children, so arriving early gives you a bit of breathing space in the airport before take-off
  • pack effectively: pack what your child may need for the flight in carry-on luggage, including any medication
  • entertainment: bring entertainment to keep your child busy during the flight, such as books, iPads, games or toys
  • speak with flight attendants: usually, they are already aware you are travelling with children, but it’s always good to engage with them in case they have any further suggestions to make your flight easier
  • speak with your neighbours on the flight if you want to: people understand the situation you are in and can empathise with you if they know you’re trying your best
  • be flexible: not everything goes according to plan, so be prepared to rearrange things if needed.

Supporting your child with ‘popping ears’ when taking off and landing

If you’ve ever flown yourself, you’ll understand that your ears often build pressure when taking off or landing. It naturally happens whenever the air pressure changes, such as when you are riding in a tall elevator, scuba diving, climbing a mountain or flying on a plane.

Your ears may “pop” as your body’s natural response to equalising air pressure between the middle ear and the back of your throat. This equalising can be more pronounced in children as they have smaller pathways in the middle ear, which may be a new or foreign feeling for them. If your child is sick with a cold or flu, equalising their ears can be even more difficult.

Tips to reduce issues with your child’s ears equalising or “popping” whilst flying:

  • have water available at all times throughout the flight and encourage your child to drink small sips just before take-off and landing
  • bring some snacks to chew on during take-off and landing to encourage swallowing
  • yawn frequently if ears haven’t equalised
  • for older children, get them to hold their nose, close their mouth and slowly blow out through their nose for 2-3 seconds - this isn’t recommended before trying the above tips but may help move air pressure if other strategies aren’t working
  • if you know your child experiences pain in their ears whilst flying, talk to your doctor before your trip about the potential to take some pain relief medication before take-off.

Many of these suggestions aim to alleviate air pressure in the ears by manipulating the area behind the jaw.

Infectious diseases and travel

Travelling abroad isn’t free of risk for you and your family, and unfortunately, young children are often at an increased risk. Being aware of serious travel-associated health risks, such as infectious diseases, will help you plan and prevent children from becoming infected. 

Infectious diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi and can cause illness or death. Infectious diseases can be spread through contaminated food and drink, animals (particularly mosquitos) and from other people.  

Travellers visiting friends and relatives (VFR)

Did you know?

People who are travelling overseas to visit friends and relatives are at a greater risk of getting severe infectious diseases compared to other travellers.  

Travellers visiting friends and relatives (VFR) often underestimate the health risks for themselves and their children when travelling to their country of origin, as the country is familiar to them. 

As a result, travellers VFR are less likely to seek pre-travel advice to identify appropriate precautions, vaccinations and medications that could prevent many infectious diseases.  

This group also tend to:

  • stay for longer periods of time
  • consume local food and water
  • have closer contact with the local population.

This makes travellers’ VFR more vulnerable to being exposed to and contracting infectious diseases.

Young children are at an increased risk 

Unfortunately, young children are often at an increased risk as their immune systems are still developing. If children are exposed to infectious diseases whilst on holiday, it can have serious implications on their health, as not all overseas health systems reflect that of Australia. Depending on the infectious disease, it can also have long-term health effects years after you and your child get home from the trip.   

Dr Phil Britton, an Infectious Diseases Physician at Sydney Children’s Hospital Network, identifies that “visiting friends and relatives travellers don’t see the risks. But in fact, when we look at the data, it is that group of children that are more likely to get severe diseases that put them into hospital”. 

For more information, visit the Smart Traveller website before you travel

Common infectious diseases

If you are planning on travelling overseas, discuss with your doctor what extra immune protection you may need. The most common coverage may include:

Preventing infectious diseases

Children have immature immune systems, which makes them vulnerable to getting sick more often. 

Infectious disease physician Dr Phil Britton says, “Travel is great, but it is a risk for getting sick, and it’s really important to plan to be healthy while you travel.  Whether you are visiting friends or relatives or a tourist, there are some suggested travel tips to keep your family safe”.

Visit your doctor 6-8 weeks before travel

  • Visit your doctor at least 6-8 weeks before you travel to allow enough time to act based on their advice
  • Even if you have lived in or travelled to this country before – you should speak with your doctor each time to discuss any current health risks
  • Discuss with your doctor what extra immune protection you may need
  • Being aware of serious travel-associated health risks helps you plan and prevent them appropriately.

Vaccinations and medications

  • Some infectious diseases are preventable through vaccination before travelling
  • The three main categories of vaccines associated with travel include:  
    • routine regular vaccines in line with the National Immunisation Program Schedule 
    • vaccines based on overseas destinations and activities
    • vaccines required by specific countries before entry
  • Other infectious diseases are preventable through medication whilst on your trip. 

Practice hand hygiene

  • Good hand hygiene and handwashing can prevent many infections and minimise the risk of your child getting sick
  • Use soap and water to remove germs, dirt and bacteria
  • If soap and water aren’t available, hand sanitiser can be used to kill some germs
  • Closely supervise your child when using hand sanitiser and keep it out of reach from young children to avoid them accidentally swallowing it
  • Try to encourage your child not to bite their nails, especially during overseas travel, as this increases their risk of dirt and germs under the nail being put into their body.

Prevent mosquito bites

  • Apply insect repellent to your child’s exposed skin and clothing - be careful not to spray near the eyes, nose, mouth or ears
  • Cover your child’s stroller or pram with a fine mesh, loose netting
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the activities such as long pants and long socks for bush walks
  • Pull your child’s socks up and over their pants is a good way of preventing bites and stings on the lower limbs
  • Select accommodation that has fly screens on doors or windows
  • Consider mosquito nets and sleep on bedding that is raised off the floor in outdoor areas. 

Food and drink

Some countries may have a higher risk of food-borne diseases and illnesses. 


Some foods are more likely to contain germs, which can make your child sick. You should:

  • avoid raw or under-cooked food
  • avoid food that is cooked and then left at room temperature, such as a buffet
  • choose steaming hot food straight off the grill
  • choose vendors that are clean and popular – look out for places where staff are wearing gloves and have good hygiene practices
  • always wash hands with soap and water before eating.


Research your destination to find out if tap water is safe to drink. If it isn’t safe, you should:

  • avoid drinking, cleaning teeth or washing your child’s face with tap water - use bottled or boiled water that has been cooled
  • avoid ice cubes, as some places may freeze their tap water
  • avoid fresh fruit, vegetables or salads, as they may be washed with tap water
  • consider avoiding swimming in water that could be contaminated, especially with young children who may accidentally swallow water.


Some animals carry diseases that can be spread to humans through close contact, scratches or bites. To reduce your risk:

  • get vaccinated against rabies before travel if it is recommended by your doctor
  • avoid contact with sick animals
  • wash hands after touching an animal
  • don’t eat raw or partially cooked meat or animal products – ensure it is steaming hot right off the grill.

If you have concerns about your child being ill, seek medical advice or support as soon as possible.

Travel safety and injury prevention

Plan ahead

  • Think about travel routes, research your destination, accommodation and where you may have waiting times
  • Pack with purpose and travel as lightly as you can as a family whilst also making sure you have all the essentials is key to peace of mind whilst you’re away
  • Create a checklist of essentials to be packed, and take a good supply of nappies and baby wipes if your child is still young
  • Explain to your child what they can expect from their trip - if you set some early expectations and rough guidelines for you and your children, you’re much more likely to have a good time while away.

Sun protection

  • Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours or more regularly if your child is sweating or regularly swimming in water
  • Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under six months of age - it’s better to use other sun protection methods such as protective clothing, hats and shade.

See Sun safety  for recommendations.

Heat exposure

  • Children don’t regulate their heat as well as adults, and their activity rate is usually higher when away on holiday
  • To ensure your child has the energy to have fun, be mindful to:
    • take regular breaks from activities
    • ensure they are well-fed
    • stay hydrated with clean water.

Accommodation and furniture

  • Select accommodation that is child-friendly
  • Select accommodation where pools, pool fences and balconies are safe and meet Australian standards
  • Consider calling ahead to confirm some of the amenities in and around your room and hotel 
  • Where possible, childproof your room for children when staying at the accommodation – see Home safety for more information
  • If hiring cots, prams or car seats, ensure equipment meets Australian standards
  • If utilising accommodation facilities, such as the playground, always supervise your child closely as these may not have the same safety standards as Australia.

Child protection

  • Follow child protection recommendations and ensure close supervision at all times
  • In busy and foreign environments, be extra attentive to your child
  • If using child minding services, be mindful that standards may vary - plan ahead and research details about the provider, such as qualifications and screening of staff, protection strategies against child abuse, accreditations and the ratio of staff and children. See Travelling with Children (Smart Traveller) for more advice.

See Protecting your child for more information.

Travel insurance

  • Holidays don’t always go according to plan
  • Prevent unexpected travel costs by purchasing travel insurance
  • Travel insurance can cover you for cancellations, delays, stolen items and more
  • Try book travel insurance through a trusted provider as soon as you know your destinations and travel dates
  • In most countries, you are unlikely to be covered by national healthcare systems unless it is to a country with reciprocal healthcare; however, this may not cover all costs and doesn’t include other unplanned travel-related events or accidents so travel insurance is still strongly recommended
  • If travelling to a country with reciprocal healthcare, bring your medicare card.

See Health Insurance on the Smart Traveller website for more information.

Road safety

  • When travelling by road, select vehicles that have seat belts
  • Always wear your seatbelts
  • If travelling with a child under seven years old, use the correct car seat for their size and age
  • Ensure children aged under seven years don’t sit in the front seat of a vehicle
  • Avoid overcrowded vehicles that require passengers to hold on; this can be difficult and unsafe for children
  • Understand the road rules, such as keeping to the left or right; this will help when looking before crossing a road
  • Cross at designated crossing areas for pedestrians; don’t jaywalk.

See Safety around cars for more information.

Water safety

  • Closely supervise your child in or near any body of water, including beaches, lakes, rock pools or shallow water
  • Make sure they do not step on or touch anything suspicious in shallow water or rock pools
  • Wear non-slip water shoes.

See Water safety for more information.

Last updated Monday 6th May 2024