Winter Safety Tips for Parents and Kids

Winter isn?t a time to just stay indoors. It?s an especially exciting time for families because there are many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed together — snowboarding, sledding, and skating, to name a few. With the cold weather also comes ice and snow, which can present a danger to children and easily cause accidents. But that doesn?t mean kids can?t enjoy their winter wonderland; it just means that parents need to take extra safety precautions when it comes to letting their children play outdoors when the temperature drops. Here are some winter-safety tips that both parents and children can follow, courtesy of the Canadian Pediatric Society and kidshealth.org, an online resource for kids? health information.

IN GENERAL Never allow children to play outside alone. Establish a buddy system with one or more of their friends, and have them look out for one another. Children younger than eight should always be well supervised when playing outside.To prevent frostbite, check from time to time to make sure children are warm and dry. Have younger children take frequent breaks to come inside for a warm drink and to ?defrost.?

CLOTHING? Avoid cotton clothing, because it won?t keep kids very warm. Stick with wool or other fabrics. Dress them in long underwear, a turtleneck, and a sweater and coat. Add more layers depending on the temperature. If they get too warm or the top layer gets wet, they can remove it one layer at a time.

Waterproof pants and jackets are great top layers because they don?t let the wetness seep into the other clothing.? Make sure children wear a hat because most body heat is lost through the head. Have children keep their ears covered at all times to prevent frostbite.? Dress children in warm socks and waterproof boots that are roomy enough for them to wiggle their toes around, to keep feet dry.

SKATINGWhen possible, have children skate in public indoor or outdoor rinks. If this is not possible, children should remember to:? Obey all signs posted on or near the ice. Yellow signs usually mean skate with caution, and red usually means no skating allowed.? Never go on the ice unsupervised.? Never assume it?s safe to skate on a lake or pond. An adult should make sure the ice is at least four inches (10.16 cm) thick and check with local weather authorities for information about ice thickness.? Avoid walking on ice near moving water. Ice formed on moving water, such as rivers and creeks, will vary in thickness and is highly unpredictable.

SKIING/SNOWBOARDINGChildren should:? Take lessons from a qualified skiing or snowboarding instructor.? Never ski or snowboard alone.? With parents, check equipment every year for fit and maintenance. Bindings should be checked annually by a qualified technician.? Make sure they?re in control of their speed. Many injuries result from a loss of control. Stunts and fatigue also lead to injuries.? Always wear a helmet with side vents that allow them to hear.? When snowboarding, wear wrist guards to reduce the risk of wrist injury.? Dress safely. Wear brightly colored clothing and warm hats and mittens.? Avoid icy hills. The risk of falls and injuries increases in icy conditions.? Watch out for other skiers and snowboarders as well as any other obstacles on the slopes.? Stay in designated areas and on marked trails.

SLEDDINGChildren should:? Always wear either a ski or hockey helmet — not a bicycle helmet — while sledding.? Never use a sled with sharp or jagged edges.? Make sure the handholds on the sled are secure.? Always sit up or kneel on a sled. Lying down increases the risk of head, spine, and abdominal injuries.? Never sled on or near roadways.? Look for shallow slopes that are free of trees, fences or any other obstacles.? Avoid sledding on crowded slopes.