The weather is getting warmer, and if your house is anything like mine, the kids want to be outside. Here are a few reminders to help keep them safe and healthy when outdoors:
Being a strong swimmer does not mean a child can’t get into trouble, but it is still one of the most important aspects of fun in the water. I recommend parents seek out formal swimming lessons for younger children, and making sure kids of any age that spend time in the water know how to handle themselves in water over their heads is very important. Remind kids to have a buddy or friend along when they are in the water whenever possible, and teach them to recognize their limits. Kids who are cold, tired, or worn out from too much sun are at higher risk to get in trouble. Keep close watch on children in or near water, important for all ages but especially the younger ones! Swim in supervised areas, and every child should ALWAYS where a Coast Guard approved PFD (Personal Flotation Device or “life jacket”) while on a boat, skiing, rafting, or paddling.
Usually this is pretty obvious, but remember the weather can change quickly and it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on weather reports, local radar, and even just an “eye on the sky” when outdoors. It’s great to be curious about nature, but it’s important to respect it! Take the time to educate yourself and your kids on the local wildlife where you are. This can include larger animals like bears, but more commonly the smaller stuff like snakes, insects, spiders, bees/wasps. Remind kids not to approach wild animals, and to seek adult supervision when they are curious about something they see outdoors.
Require your child to wear a helmet when riding anything with wheels. (Bikes, scooters, skates and skateboards, hoverboards, etc.) Head injuries are not the only kind of injuries children can have, but they are potentially the most serious. I personally also recommend wrist protection when riding scooters, skates, or hoverboards. Falling onto an outstretched hand/arm is a common way to break a wrist.
Insects and bugs
Insect bites can be a frustrating source of irritation and discomfort, and uncommonly also a source of certain infections. It is recommended to avoid playing outside in early morning and late evening hours when mosquitoes are most active, and to dress your child in loose fitting comfortable long sleeves and pants to help protect from bites. Insect repellents can be used on the cuffs of clothing and on hats or collars if desired in order to discourage bites without necessarily having to put it on their skin. Although typical repellents are generally considered safe, some natural repellents are available as alternatives to DEET, but effectiveness may vary. Remember to check your child for ticks at the end of the day when they have been outside.
It is important to try to prevent sun damage to the skin. This is particularly important for the younger children. Babies and toddlers should be kept in the shade and protected with clothing, using sunscreen as a backup method but not the primary method of protection from sun. Make sure the kids are drinking plenty of water and taking periodic breaks in the shade when playing in the hot sun!
Enjoy the warm weather and the outdoors, just remember to be safe and practical about it! Have fun!