Playing outdoors this winter? Follow these safety tips for kids sledding

One of the best ways to make winter fun for the entire family is to truly embrace the colder weather and snow and spend some playtime outdoors. One of the most enjoyable ways kids spend time outside during the winter is sledding, but it can also be one of the most dangerous ways, too. Sledding safety is truly important for everyone involved because while kid sledding can be a great way to spend the day outdoors, it’s important they know how to keep kids safe.

It may be hard to believe but over 20,000 children on average under the age of 19 are treated in the hospital every year for sledding-related injuries, according to a study done by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. You can follow these sledding safety tips to make your trip to the toboggan hill an enjoyable and safe one.

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Getty Images / Ariel Skelley

Sledding safety and supervision

It can be tempting to drop the kids off with a group of friends at the local toboggan hill but experts say all children, especially those under 12 years old, should be supervised the entire time they are sledding. Should an unfortunate injury occur, having an adult present can make a big difference in getting timely treatment. Adults can also curb reckless behavior before it becomes dangerous. Children under the age of 5 should always sled with an adult, while those under 12 should be monitored at all times.

Having the right equipment

Nemours Kids Health notes that proper equipment can help ensure safe sledding. They advise parents to choose a sled that not only has brakes but one that can be steered so your child has maximum control while sledding. Ensure the sled is in good working condition and doesn’t have any cracks or sharp edges. Those old-school saucers and “krazy karpets” are no longer recommended because of the lack of ability to control them. Children should also always wear a helmet. If you don’t have a hockey helmet or other winter sports helmet, a bicycle helmet is a great option.

Wear the correct clothing

Ensuring your child is dressed appropriately for a day of sledding is also important. Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh states that children should be dressed warmly in hats, heavy boots, and gloves to help avoid any cuts or even the risk of frostbite. Have an extra set of dry clothes and gloves for children to change into if they become wet, or encourage them to take a time-out and warm themselves indoors.

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Getty Images / Stephen Lux

Location is key

Regardless of their age, the location of where you go sledding is very important in ensuring a safe outing. Nationwide Children’s says to avoid areas with trees, fences, light poles, or other stationary obstacles, as well as rocky hills. You’ll also want to avoid any areas that are near roads or highways or hills that end on roads, like a driveway. The National Safety Council also adds that you should avoid sledding anywhere near frozen lakes, streams, or ponds. Even if the area you are going to sled in looks safe, an adult should always check first to ensure no hidden obstructions exist and that there is a place for the sled to safely stop.

“Two of the main factors that contribute to sledding-related injuries are the environment and locale,” commented Lara McKenzie, Ph.D., one of the co-authors of the safety study. “To reduce the risk of injury, sledding areas should be clear of trees and other obstacles and should have sufficient run-out areas away from streets. In addition, sledding on streets and highways should be avoided to prevent collisions with motor vehicles and other traffic.”

Form is important

It can be tempting to run and jump headfirst onto a sled and ride it down a hill, but that is definitely not a safe way to go sledding. Sitting or laying down with your feet forward is the safest way to sled, and arms and legs should remain on the sled at all times to avoid injury. Going sledding headfirst can risk serious injury in the event of an accident. CHOP also recommends advising children to roll off a sled that may be going too fast or if they feel unsafe.

Never sled behind a moving vehicle

Being on a sled pulled by a car or other vehicle is also extremely dangerous and something parents should warn their older children against doing. The Center for Injury Research and Policy’s study noted that more than one-third of injuries that occurred when a sled was being pulled by a vehicle were fractures, and those injuries are on the rise. “Our findings indicate that the prevalence of this activity may be much greater and the practice more common than previously thought. Given the potential for serious injury, children should never ride a sled that is being pulled by a motorized vehicle of any type including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles, cars, trucks, tractors, motorcycles, dirt bikes, and lawnmowers.”

Follow these kid sledding safety tips to ensure you can enjoy safe sledding all winter long!

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