Winter is a great time for kids to be outdoors. Snow allows for all sorts of activities that are not possible in the summertime. However, winter conditions also introduce new risks. Here are some winter precautions you can take to safely enjoy winter with your children.
1) Apply sun protection. Even in chilly temperatures, the Sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause sunburns. Snow also reflects the rays, making it even more important to protect all exposed skin. Pediatricians recommend applying a broad-spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreen with a SPF rating of 30 to 50. Since children will be playing outside in the snow, look for a water resistant version. Reapply every few hours if your children will be spending lots of time outside.
2) Keep skin safe. On the opposite end of the spectrum from burns is freezing. Children lose body heat faster than adults do and thus are at higher risk for frostbite, or the milder frostnip. If a person gets frostbite, the affected area will become very cold and turn white or yellowish gray. Frostbite and frostnip most commonly occur on fingers, toes, ears, noses, and cheeks. Dress children in warm layers and cover as much skin as possible. Use wool clothes, not cotton, for insulating, and dress them in waterproof outer layers. If you can, bring extra mittens and socks in case your child’s get wet.
3) Avoid slope side obstacles. Sledding, skiing, and snowboarding are staples of outdoor winter recreation. The rush of zooming down a hill can abruptly end if children collide with each other or obstacles. Make sure the hills they are using are away from roadways and that they are clear from rocks and trees. Be sure that children have a properly fitting helmet. Children who snowboard should wear wrist guards too.
4) Stay clear of snowbanks. Snow piled high by plow trucks looks like an amazing place to build a fort to many children. However, digging into those snowbanks can be particularly dangerous with cars and plows passing by. A better option is to pile the snow high in a backyard or park, away from traffic. Shoveling snow to build a fort may take more time, but the structure will be much safer and last longer. Try building a quinzee.
5) Make sure ice is nice. The safest ice is in rinks. If you are planning to skate on frozen natural bodies of water, check to make sure the ice is at least 4 inches thick. Avoid moving water like streams or rivers. Water currents can make ice thickness vary greatly; what is safe in one spot can be too thin in another. Local outdoor recreation retailers can help identify typically dangerous areas and you can use an ice chisel or auger to find out the ice thickness. A helpful rhyme to remember is, “Thick and blue, tried and true; Thin and crispy, way too risky.”
6) Don’t lick the pole. This seems obvious to adults, but children, particularly very young children, experience the world through their mouths. Warn older kids that getting their tongue stuck to a pole can be painful and keep a close eye on toddlers too young to understand. If they do get stuck, use warm, not boiling water to remove.