Parents worry. We can’t help it. Our antennas are on high alert when it comes to common hazards like swimming pools and busy intersections. We expend a lot of anxiety weighing the dangers of safe zones, too.But before you go into full helicopter parent mode and encase your child in bubble wrap, know that there are ways to help your little ones stay safe and have fun at the same time.
Read on to learn more about the potential dangers of five playtime activities, how to make them as safe as possible and just how much parental guidance is required for each one.
Many kids get their first taste of freedom when they learn how to ride a bike. But before your youngsters pedal off into the sunset, make sure they know how to stay safe.
Make sure your child wears a helmet and that it fits correctly: It should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps should always be buckled, but not too tightly.
Use a helmet with reflective strips to increase visibility. It’s also important to gauge your child’s skill level in determining where he can ride.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, it can be hard for kids to judge the speed and distance of cars until about age 10, so limit riding to sidewalks, parks or bike paths. No matter where they ride, teach your children to stay alert and watch for cars and trucks.
Swimsuit? Check. Goggles? Check. Floaties? Check.
You’ve got the family geared up for a day of fun in the sun, but before you dive in, be sure you know basic water safety. When on, in or near water, an adult must be actively supervising the kids at all times. Any water—even kiddie pools—can be dangerous, and you can’t rely on things like arm floaties to save a life.
This holds true even after kids learn how to swim. They still need to be closely watched in the water. Whether it’s a backyard pool or a nearby lake, teach kids to never swim alone. Insist that they only go in the water when an adult is available to supervise.
Playing Team Sports
Joining a sports team offers multiple social, emotional and physical benefits for kids. It also gives parents reassurance, knowing that another responsible adult (the coach) is keeping an eye on things. But organized sports aren’t without risks. Each year, 2.6 million children receive medical treatment for sports injuries. Keep your kids in the game by helping them prevent injuries.
Before the season starts, make sure your child gets a physical exam by a doctor. Many leagues require this, but even if yours doesn’t, it is still a good idea to rule out potential medical conditions. Teach your little athletes the importance of staying hydrated. They should take a water bottle to practice and to games; help them remember to hydrate before and after activity, not just during. And make sure enough time is allotted to the activity-appropriate warm up and cool down.
Jumping on a Trampoline
Few things have more of an allure for kids than the oversized trampoline. Jumping, flipping, flying—you can’t beat it. But as the saying goes, it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, and on trampolines, kids get hurt far too often.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 98,000 trampoline-related injuries occurred in 2009, the most recent year for which statistics are available, resulting in 3,100 hospitalizations.
Don’t allow multiple children on the trampoline at once and only use trampolines that are enclosed by a safety net.
There aren’t many activities with a higher cool quotient than skateboarding. But along with the increased balance, agility and coordination this sport provides comes a risk for injury. More than 82,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for skateboard- related injuries each year. Parents can take preventive steps to ensure their kids roll safely.
Every skater should wear a helmet, no matter what. Pads on elbows and knees are also a good idea, and mouth guards will help protect those pearly whites in case of a tumble.
When heading out to ride, kids should stay on a smooth, dry surface in a well-lit area far from traffic. Teach your kids to check their boards for problems before each use. If any cracks or broken parts are found, hold off on riding until after repairs.
And while most kids want to imagine themselves as the next Tony Hawk, make sure they know how to fall correctly, because even the most skilled skaters take a spill from time to time.
Play It Safe
Children with special needs or disabilities may require more supervision, but don’t deprive them of play time at the park. “They need the social interaction and physical exercise kids get on the playground,” says Kristen Ferguson, a physical therapist at Beaufort Memorial HealthLink for Children, an outpatient center specializing in pediatric rehabilitation. “And it helps both typically developing and differently developing children learn to respect and value other people regardless of ability.”
It’s fine to offer assistance to children with physical limitations, but let them choose the activity. “Don’t push them to climb up a ladder if they’re afraid of heights,” Ferguson says. “It’s more important for them to have a positive experience.”
Defend the Dome
A helmet is only as good as its fit. To make sure your kiddo’s head is safe and secure, learn how to fit a helmet in three easy steps. Visit safekids.org/video/bike-helmet-fit-test to watch the video.
Images courtesy of Spring 2014 Living Well