I’m a parent who worries about everything. In fact, I might just be a catastrophizer. That’s a made-up word, but you know the type - the parent who’s standing ankle-deep in the ocean but has got her head on a swivel checking for great white sharks who theoretically could torpedo in and attack her splashing toddler. (That’s probably not scientifically sound at all, but it gets my point across.) I’m a worrier and I’ve got a creased forehead to prove it. But it’s summertime! That’s when the living’s easy, right? Everything’s breezy and chill and I can let my guard down a bit. Well, while there is a definite summer relaxation of things like flossing, bedtimes, and popsicle consumption around our house, there are a few things we as parents should be vigilant about for the safety of our kids. This summer, we have the added layer of a pandemic, but things look better than last summer so let’s put that one aside for now. Here are some of the top concerns and tips for kiddo summer safety.
Pools and Water
According to the Red Cross, drowning is the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children aged 1-14. Well that’s serious. (Motor vehicle crashes is the first.) Knowing this, it’s incredibly important to brush up on your water safety with kids. Sites like the Red Cross have great basic information along with instructional videos and courses to either give you a refresher or a complete rundown on water safety with kids. Here are some basic takeaways.
- Never leave a young child unattended near water and maintain constant supervision - Yes, this can get tedious when one of your toddlers needs to use the restroom like four times within 30 minutes, but you need to bring everybody with you each time. (Hey, at least they’re not peeing in the pool, right?)
- Have inexperienced swimmers wear US Coast Guard approved life jackets in and around water - These can provide you a sense of security, but should not be used in place of supervision.
- Stay within an arm’s length of young children in the water - You need to be able to react quickly with a young child in the water.
- Assign a “water watcher” at parties or gatherings - It’s easy to get distracted with friends, and around water, that is not a safe bet. Assign an adult responsible to keep constant watch on kids in the pool. Take shifts doing so.
- Always use life jackets while boating - While the age requirements vary by state, laws require children to wear (not just have handy) life jackets while in boats. They save lives!
Things with Wheels
Whether you’ve got a little one already breezing around on a scooter, a pedal-less training bike or tricycle, or you’re riding your own bike pulling a trailer or have an attached child bike seat, there are some basic safety ideas to keep everyone safe and sound while they feel they wind through their hair this summer.
- Helmets, helmets, helmets! - Far and away, this is the number one thing to remember. Buy your little one a brightly colored helmet for high visibility that fits well. Don’t buy one your child can “grow into” as it doesn’t offer enough protection. Additionally, avoid secondhand helmets because the foam lining begins to break down after five years reducing the helmet’s effectiveness. And remember to set a good example by always wearing your own helmet when riding!
- Practice riding with a bike trailer or attached seat before you ride with your kiddo - You wouldn’t hook an RV to your SUV trailer hitch and merge into some freeway rush hour traffic saying, “Welp, here goes nothing!” Take a trial ride with your bike trailer attached to get a sense of how it moves and turns before you load it up with precious cargo...I’m talking about your kiddo here.
- Even in a trailer and especially in an attached child seat, your child should wear a helmet - Again, helmets are the hot summer accessory!
- Fasten the harness securely around your kiddo in both a trailer and attached child bike seat - For safety reasons, you wouldn’t let them bounce around the back of the minivan unsecured. Same holds true for a trailer or seat.
- Use a bike flag on your trailer to increase visibility - Help cars or other cyclists notice your trailer which sits lower than your bike.
- Make sure that your kiddo’s hands and feet can’t reach your wheels, spokes, or other moving parts - Eek. Keep those limbs and fingers safe!
- Always choose a cautious route - Trailers especially are wider than the bikes pulling them and will take up more roadway in areas with traffic.
Babies don’t need base-tans, mkay? Matter of fact, the American Academy of Dermatology notes that ideally, parents should avoid exposing babies younger than six months to the sun’s rays. To keep your little guys from getting toasty, keep the below ideas in mind.
- Park them in the shade - The best way to offer protection from the sun is to hang out in the shade with your littles. Plus, it’s a lot cooler temp-wise for those babies.
- Rash guards for the win - Sure, some people may make comments about your kids swimming in clothes, BUT, the less skin exposed directly to the sun’s rays, the more protected your kiddos. You do the math on that one!
- Sunscreen, like a lot of sunscreen - Kids love to have sunscreen applied. Especially when they are standing three feet from the splash pad watching other kids play. Oh how I wish that were true. But yes, applying sunscreen ought to be a non-negotiable for kiddos. Avoid applying it to babies younger than six months. (Find some shade.) And sadly, one whiney, squirmy sunscreen application session per day at the pool is not enough. Sunscreen should be reapplied about every two hours. Or, follow the label directions if different. (Hot tip: Remember those rash guards? Well, the more covered your kiddo’s skin is, the less sunscreen you have to rub or spray onto a wriggling, whining little body.)
- Big hats and sunglasses - Yasss! Channel your baby or toddler’s inner J.Lo-and-paparazzi vibe and cover her up with a big ol’ floppy hat and some baby aviators. Not only will she give off that elusive, glamorous energy, but her face will be shaded and her eyes protected - win win!
- Sunscreen can expire! - One last little tidbit. Remember to check those expiration dates on your sunscreen. They do expire and will not be as effective if past date.
So this one feels like it kinda comes out of left field, right? Well, according to healthychildren.org, over 9,000 children in the US go to the emergency room each year for lawn mower related injuries. While mowing can seem like nothing more than a weekly chore, mowers - both the push behind and riding varieties - are powerful machines and can be incredibly dangerous to young kids.
- Children should never be passengers on riding mowers - We’ve all seen cute pictures of grandpa and his grandson riding around the lawn. But kids can easily slip off or distract the operator and be injured.
- Children should be inside when the lawn is being mowed - Mowers can eject debris that could seriously injure a toddler or young child. Additionally, the mower operator can’t hear a child over the engine and could accidentally harm the child in not knowing where he is.
- Only use a mower that has protection over the sharp and hot parts - Kids can easily be burned or cut by mower parts.
- Never leave a running mower unattended - A running mower is enticingly dangerous to a toddler trying to be like mom or dad.
So there you have the top offenders. I can probably let the great white shark attacks, bear mauling, lightning strikes, and anaphylactic shock due to poison ivy fall from my list of worries occupying brain space. Keep these larger safety concerns in mind this summer, and things should be ok. And use the newly freed up worry space for some fun stuff - like which shop has the tastiest mint chocolate chip ice cream. Hooray for summertime!