Know your kid's current height and weight.
Before you head to the park, pop the kids on the scale and measure their height and weight so these stats are fresh in your mind. Many rides require a minimum measurement and you'll want to make sure you're abiding by the rules.
Wear a life vest.
Certain water slides and attractions can be tough for beginner swimmers and small children (especially under 48”) to navigate. Although many parks have them available on site, you may want to bring your own life vests for the best fit. Check out the Coast Guard’s guide to choosing the right personal flotation device (PFD) for your child, and don’t just bring it with you—make them wear it!
Be sun smart.
“Apply waterproof sunscreen before leaving home, and don’t forget to reapply throughout the day,” says Colleen Mangone of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Waterproof sunscreen is your strongest weapon, along with UV-blocking sun shirts and hats. Keep track of how much time you’ve spent in direct sunlight.
Wash hands and faces.
Dr. Puthenmadam Radhakrishnan, a Trenton area pediatrician who sees a lot of foot and mouth disease, advises taking extra caution if your kids are playing in a kiddie pool or in more stagnant water—these are places viruses and bacteria thrive, despite a park’s best prevention efforts. When the kids come out of the pool for breaks, make sure you hit the soap before you hit the snack bar.
Wear water shoes.
Water shoes are your best form of protection from viruses that cause warts (the wet pavement at the park can be a breeding ground) but be sure to take wet shoes off as soon as you leave. “Fungal infections are also common, but they only come from wearing shoes and leaving them wet for a long period of time,” Dr. Radhakrishnan says.
It’s easy to forget to drink when you’re in the water all day. Implement a “water schedule” to keep you and the kids on track. For example, break out the water bottles after every-other ride—a few additional bathroom trips might be necessary, but you’ll stay hydrated!
Establish a meeting spot.
Having an emergency meeting place is important. As soon as you enter the park, have the kids pick out a “home base.” Perhaps it’s a certain ride or a favorite ice cream stop. Regardless, it should be easy to find in case your group gets separated. If your group is larger, pair the kids up in a buddy system for extra precaution.
Healthy kids only.
If your child is recovering from an illness, has open cuts or scratches, or is wearing a cast for a broken bone, skip the park altogether, says Radhakrishnan. Don’t give bacteria or viruses any easy chances to enter your kid’s system.