With their high levels of energy, endless curiosity, and remarkable ability to bounce back from stumbles and falls, children often put themselves at risk of injury. This can be especially true when they’re exploring the great outdoors. Learn how to keep your child safe while they’re:
- playing sports
- spending time near water
- spending time outdoors
Whether played as a team or alone, sports are a great activity for kids. Playing sports can help them:
- get outdoors
- make new friends
- exercise regularly
- develop new skills
- learn how to work on a team
But organized sports do come with the risk of physical injury. To lower your child’s risk of getting hurt, teach them basic, sport-specific safety strategies, and share these general guidelines:
- Always wear the proper gear, such as supportive footwear, a helmet designed for the sport you’re playing, and protective eyewear if necessary.
- Learn the rules of the game, and don’t push yourself to play above your skill level.
- Play on a well-kept court or field, and check for hazards before starting.
- Warm up before playing to avoid sprains or strains, and cool down when you’re done.
- Report injuries right away, because staying on the court or field when you’re hurt can worsen an existing injury.
Bicycle riding offers children a sense of freedom and mobility like little else, but it also comes with the risk of falls and collisions. Teach your kids how to stay as safe as possible while cycling. First and foremost, they should wear a bike helmet that fits properly. Teach them how to adjust the straps and pads to keep it snug; a poorly adjusted helmet will do little to protect your child’s head during a fall. It’s important to ensure that your child has mastered basic bike-handling skills before they venture into areas where they’ll be sharing the road with cars, given the threat that automobiles pose to cyclists.
It’s also important to teach your child the rules of the road. These rules include:
- riding in the same direction as cars
- stopping and obeying traffic signals
- watching closely for cars that are turning, leaving driveways, or opening doors
- not riding on sidewalks
Teach them that bicycling can be lots of fun, but it’s important to pay attention. Horsing around or getting distracted while riding can lead to serious accidents. Riding at nighttime is also risky.
The most important safety tip for camping and hiking is to be prepared, because you never know when the weather may shift, the trail may peter out, or your kid may take a tumble in the woods.
Help your child dress and pack for their trip. Don’t forget to pack:
- layers of condition-appropriate clothes to keep them warm, dry, and shielded from the sun in all weather
- an extra blanket or layer of clothes
- comfortable hiking shoes
- basic first-aid supplies
- water and food
Getting lost in the woods is scary and dangerous. Children can sometimes get excited and rush ahead, without keeping an eye on their surroundings. Help them understand the importance of staying on the trail, paying attention to their surroundings, and looking for landmarks along the way. Teach them how to react if they do become lost. They should stay calm, stay put, and send a loud signal for help. Give them a whistle and flashlight to carry, just in case.
Help your kid learn about common poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, before hitting the trails. They can limit their exposure to problem plants and bugs by staying on cleared paths and wearing long sleeves and pants. Check them thoroughly for ticks at the end of every day in nature. Ticks can spread dangerous infections, including Lyme disease, and they’re often found in areas where children love to play: bushes, tall grass, and sand dunes.
Teach your child not to drink untreated water while they’re out in the wilderness. They should always assume that water in nature is contaminated. To avoid becoming ill due to drinking dirty water, your child should pack sufficient bottled water for their journey or carry some means of purifying water, such as a filter or iodine tablets.
Whether your child is spending time near a lake, creek, or wading pool, water safety is essential. Even if they don’t plan to get wet, they could accidentally fall in. One of the best ways to keep them safe is to teach them how to swim. Swimming lessons can help them learn how to tread water, move in water, recognize dangerous situations, and recover if they accidentally fall in. Remind them not to swim alone or without adult supervision.
Even if your child knows how to swim, they should always wear a well-fitting lifejacket when they’re in a boat.
Each season has its own set of fun outdoor activities, weather conditions, and safety concerns. Always check the weather before your child heads outside for the day. Help them dress and pack for the conditions.
In fall and spring, allergy symptoms can become a problem, especially if your child has asthma, pollen allergies, or insect allergies. Ask their doctor how to avoid their allergy triggers, and make sure their allergy medication is readily available whenever they are in nature.
In winter, ice and snow can make accidents much more common. When there’s snow on the ground, remind your kids to take extra care when they’re playing outdoors. Help them dress in layers, including a waterproof outer layer, to stay warm and dry. Exposure to the cold can lead to frostbite or hypothermia.
In summer, your kids need to know how to manage the risks of sunburn and heatstroke. It’s essential to teach them how ultraviolet rays from the sun can harm them. Help them put on sunscreen before they go outside to play, and remind them to wear sunglasses and a hat. Have them pack a water bottle to help them stay hydrated.
Prevention is the best medicine
The great outdoors are an ideal place for your kids to get active, learn about the world, and have fun with friends, but they also present their own set of risks. Teach your kids basic strategies for staying safe while spending time outside. Help them pack the clothes, equipment, or refreshments they need for a fun-filled day, and make sure they have adult supervision until they’re old enough to play outside alone. Accidents and injuries happen, but many of them are preventable.