Although the days are getting shorter and the air is getting colder, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to hibernate. Winter is a great time for children to get outside and be active. The following tips will help to keep your time with little ones outdoors safe and fun:
- Proper clothing is a must. Children should be dressed in warm, thin layers with an outer waterproof layer for playing in the snow. Warm boots, dry socks and an extra change of mittens will ensure that fingers and toes stay comfortable throughout the day.
- Beware of hypothermia and frostbite. Minimize the amount of bare skin exposed to freezing air. Children can get chilled faster than adults. Make sure to take frequent breaks from the outdoors when the temperature drops. A great way to do this is by having a snack or warm drink to increase energy levels that will also keep children warm during outdoor play.
- Don’t forget sunblock. Although it’s cold, the sun’s rays are still powerful and can reflect off the snow. Winter sunburn is no fun and can be just as harmful this time of year!
- Think safety first. Nobody wants to spend winter break in the hospital. Safety equipment should be worn at all times, not just during organized sports. Equipment including ski bindings, ice skates, and sleds should be checked by an adult before enjoying these winter activities to make sure everything fits properly.
- Reduce risk with protective head gear. The National Pediatric Trauma Registry reports that almost half of all winter sports injuries are head injuries. Protect children from traumatic brain injury, disability, and possible death by having them wear a properly fitted helmet when sledding, ice skating, playing hockey, skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling.
- Sled feet first. Sledding feet first makes sledding safer. Children should also always have adult supervision while sledding. Make sure the sled route is clear of trees, rocks, and others who are sledding. Never sled near roadways or heavily trafficked areas.
- Wear wrist guards when snowboarding. It’s a good idea for new ice skaters to protect their wrists as well since falls are more likely to occur when first learning to skate.
- Know your limits. Children and teens should only ski or snowboard on terrain that is suitable for their skill level. Extra time on easier terrain may mean the difference between spending the season on the slopes versus spending the season in the lodge watching.
- Fitness and Finesse. As with any sport, proper fitness including core and leg strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health go a long way in preventing injury. Proper technique and alignment both on the slopes and in the rink, keep joints safe. Consider having children take lessons from a qualified instructor to better prepare them for the challenges of a winter sport.
Finally, have fun! Stay active and safe by making good decisions so that this winter is one to remember. For more helpful tips see healthychildren.org, an education resource from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Maureen Suhr is a doctor of physical therapy and board certified pediatric specialist.