Playing in nature is no more dangerous than many other things that kids often do — like running down stairs, playing football, riding in a car, or jumping on a trampoline! Bumps and scrapes heal, clothes wash. Here are a few tips
Insects: Have your kids use insect repellent and wear long sleeves, long pants, and shoes; tuck the pant legs into socks to keep out ticks. Teach them to be especially alert for yellow jacket hornets, which aggressively defend their underground nests. Have your kids watch for “bees” coming and going from a spot on the ground, and then avoid that area!
Poison Ivy: Help your kids learn to recognize it. Poison Ivy grows in leaflets of 3, leading to the rhyme: “Leaves of three, leave it be”… and has a hairy vine, leading to the follow up rhyme: “Hairy vine, no friend of mine.” If exposed, wash the area with water and strong soap, but don’t scrub too hard. Over-the-counter lotions usually help, but if blisters form, call your doctor
Stinging Nettle: This common plant causes a burning itch, but it only lasts a few minutes. Teach your children to recognize it.
Other Poisonous Plants: There are many species of poisonous plants in the U.S., though most cause only skin irritation or stomach distress. Nevertheless, teach your kids not to eat any plant part you haven’t approved, and learn the poisonous plants in your area. Search at Purdue Extension.
Water: Get your children swimming lessons at a young age, and teach respect and caution for all water bodies
Weather: In very hot weather kids should avoid outdoor play in midday, wear light and loose clothing, and drink lots of water. In cold weather they should dress warmly with a good hat and be sure to promptly change out of any clothes that are soaked through.
Wildlife: The danger from wild animals is very small, but teach your kids to respect wildlife and to stay away from any animals that act strange or sleepy, seem too friendly, or look ill.
Stranger Danger: All kids should be taught to be cautious with any unknown person, and how to react if attacked. However, crimes against children are no more common than a generation ago, and excessive fear is uncalled for unless there have been crimes against kids in your neighborhood. Playing outside with friends, either at or very near to home, will remove most of the danger.
Germs: Germs travel from person to person. The things your child will probably handle while playing outside are less likely to transmit germs than a doorknob at school or a toy at a store! Do teach your children, though, to never touch mushrooms or litter, to avoid handling turtles, and to wash their hands well if they have had contact with water that might be polluted.