By Christina VanGinkel
Keeping kids healthy is always a priority for parents. In the winter, it can be even more so. Cold, flu, and a variety of viruses seem to take hold in even some of the healthiest children. If that were not enough for parents to deal with, they also have the worries that come with many of the winter sports that their kids participate in, such as skiing, snowboarding, skating, sledding, and hockey. There are things parents can do to keep injuries to a minimum, and if the kids know, that the parents are serious about these measures and follow along with the rules, injuries can be kept to even a lesser margin.
Helmets, similar in style to bike helmets, are available in models geared for winter sports, come with liners, or are made to fit conveniently over stocking caps. These are actually becoming as common for snowboarders and skiers as for bike riders.
Proper fitting gear is as important as any item bought specifically for a safety issue. If you put a child into gear that is too large or too small, and stick them out on an ice rink, or on a hill on snowboard or skis, you might as well rent a room at the hospital, as you are asking for an accident to occur. A child is always in a constant learning stage with any physical activity they participate in due to the simple fact that they are adjusting to different height and weight issues as they grow. Having them use gear, that is not properly fitted, will only increase their awkwardness. Imagine a pair of skates that wobble, allowing a child's foot to slide forward and back, they will draw a child's attention to their feet, but lessen their attention on their balance. If you are not sure if pieces of equipment, such as a snowboard or a pair of skis, are a proper fit for your child, ask an expert at the hill or rink for their recommendation.
Talk to your kids about safety issues directly in regards to whatever sport they are partaking. Snowboarders and skiers should be taught to stay on marked trails, obey all hill rules, always go out with a friend, and keep that friend in sight. The smallest of children should not be allowed to go out at all without a parent or other responsible adult. They should be taught by a professional instructor the basics of standing, stopping, getting on and off a chair lift, and the use of a towrope or tow bar. They should be told why loose clothing could be a hazard when doing many of these things, such as riding up a towrope. Common sense will play a big part in many of these issues, but unless we, the adults, help inform them what is sensible and what is not when out having fun in the snow, they have nothing to base their decisions on.
Ice skating should only be participated on a rink with adults in attendance. Skating on ponds should be avoided, as there is no guarantee that the ice will be stable. Wherever the water feeds into a pond can produce weak spots, as can warm weather or not a long enough duration of cold weather. Play it safe and do not skate on bodies of water, keep to the rinks. Sledding around ponds and other forms of water should also be avoided. A hill can be fun, but if it leads onto a pond, an accident is likely to occur. Also, make sure kids know that they should not sled where they may hit or collide with obstacles such as trees, stumps, buildings, etc. Throwing snowballs is a pastime that has gone on since long before recordkeeping began, yet ice chunks, rocks, and other debris can make a potentially safe snowball a hazard. Be sure kids understand the difference between snow thrown in fun, and a snowball that can be harmful.
Winter sports can and should be fun for kids. Go outdoors with them; instruct them on what is safe and what is not. Provide them with the opportunity to learn from your good example, and take the time to explain to them why following rules can be so important when it comes to winter fun.