Before allowing your mobile child to explore the great outdoors around your home, take a child’s-level survey of any area she might reach. If she’s a skilled crawler, keep in mind how fast she can move while your attention is diverted.
If you have a swimming pool, make sure that a childproof fence surrounds it. (Some states require this safety barrier by law.) If your yard contains a spa, it should be securely covered when not in use.
Check the lawn for mushrooms—if you are not absolutely certain that they are nontoxic, get rid of them because anything a young child finds will likely go straight into her mouth.
Make sure that potentially hazardous items such as garden tools, insecticides, or fertilizer are not accessible to children.
Older children should not use garden, hand, or power tools until you teach them to use them correctly and safely. Give them detailed instructions (including demonstrations, if appropriate) and safety precautions; they should repeat back to you both directions and cautions before they are allowed to handle any potentially hazardous equipment.
Protective eye wear must be used if the any tools will produce flying debris. In addition, ear protection should be used when using loud power tools.
Don’t forget to apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or more if a child is going to be outdoors for any length of time, especially between the hours of 10 A.M. and 3 P.M.—even on a hazy or overcast day. This is particularly important at higher altitudes or around lakes and seashores where the sun’s ultraviolet light (which provokes the burn) can reflect off of water and sand. Special caution is needed for infants, because a baby’s skin can become sunburned after as little as 15 minutes of direct exposure. Sunscreens containing PABA shouldn’t be used on a baby’s skin before six months of age. If you take your baby outdoors for any length of time, keep her in the shade or use an umbrella, and make sure that her skin is covered with appropriate clothing (including a hat or bonnet) if some sun exposure is unavoidable.
- Dress your child appropriately for the outing, allowing for adjustments if the weather changes.
- Carry rain gear in your car.
- Apply sun block (SPF 15 to 45, depending on skin type) before you or your child go outside.
- Take and use hats and sunglasses.
- Make sure your child takes a bike-safety class or teach him the rules of the road yourself
- Stick to bicycle paths whenever possible.
- Children under age six should not ride on the street.
- Make sure that the bicycle is the right size (take the child along when you buy it). When sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebars, the child should be able to touch the ground with the balls of his feet. When straddling the center bar with both feet flat on the ground, there should be at least one inch of clearance between the bar and the child’s crotch.
- Do not buy a bicycle with hand brakes until the child is able to grasp with sufficient pressure to use them effectively.
- Keep the bicycle in good repair and teach your child how to fix and maintain it.
- Insist that your child wear a bicycle helmet and always wear one yourself.
- Discourage your child from riding at night. If it is necessary for him to do so, be sure that the bicycle is properly equipped with lights and reflectors and that your child wears reflective (or at least bright) clothing.
- Provide the protective equipment appropriate for any sport in which your child participates. Make sure it is worn at practices as well as at games.
- Your child must wear a properly fitting helmet that meets the standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation when riding a bike or when sitting in a carrier seat on your bicycle. Wear your own helmet as well, both for self-protection and to set a good example. Critical injuries to the skull and brain can occur during a bicycle accident, and a helmet can reduce the severity of damage by as much as 90 percent. As your child grows, the helmet will need to be sized upward accordingly.
- Make sure that your child uses wrist guards, elbow and knee pads, and a helmet for roller blading and skateboarding.
- Fence off and/or supervise any outside play area.
- Provide a play area that prevents balls and riding toys front rolling into the street. Prohibit riding of Big Wheels, tricycles, and bicycles in or near traffic or on driveways. Hold a young child’s hand when stalking around traffic.
- When crossing the street, teach and model safety measures: Stop at the curb, then look—left, right, then left again—before entering the street.
- Plan walking routes that minimize crossing heavy traffic.
Motor Vehicles Safety
Seat Belts and Car Seats
Over the last 20 years, widespread use of seat belts has led to a steady reduction in traffic fatalities. Proper use of seat belts and car seats decreases the risk of serious injury or death by as much as 50 percent. But in the United States, the leading cause of death in people underage thirty-five continues to be motor-vehicle-related injuries. Most of these individuals were not properly restrained by seat belts or car seats.
Safety on the Road
- Parents and children should wear their seat belts. Do not start the car until everyone is secured in an infant or child seat or properly belted.
- Never hold a child in your lap when you are riding in a car.
- A child under twelve should never be placed in the front seat of an automobile with a passenger-side air bag because deployment of the bag can cause fatal injuries in a young passenger—even during a minor accident.
- For children under 40 pounds (18 kg), use a car safety seat approved for your child’s age and weight in accordance with the manufacturer’s directions. (Make sure you have a safety seat for your infant’s first important ride home from the hospital.) The seat should be secured in the rear seat of the vehicle. For an infant who weighs less than 20 pounds (9 kg), the seat should face backwards. Buy or rent the next size up as your child grows larger.
- Toddlers 40 to 60 pounds should be properly secured in a booster seat.
- When the child reaches 60 pounds, lap and shoulder belts should be used. The lap belt should be low and tight across the pelvis, not the abdomen. The shoulder harness should be placed snugly over the collarbone and breastbone, not the shoulder.
- If your child takes off his seat belt or gets out of the car seat while you are driving, pull over safely and stop the car. Do not attempt to deal with this (or any other) problem while driving.
- Insist that your child wear a seat belt, no matter whose car he rides in.
- Never leave your child unattended in a car.
- Never transport a child in a cargo area that is not properly equipped to carry passengers (specifically, the back of a station wagon, van, or pickup truck).
- Do not allow your child under age twelve to operate a motor vehicle, including a motorcycle, motorbike, trail bike, or other off-road vehicles. An adolescent should operate one of these vehicles only if he is licensed and properly trained, and has demonstrated appropriate responsibility.
- Be very cautious about allowing your child to ride as a passenger on a motorcycle, motor bike, trail bike, or off-road vehicle. Insist on a proper helmet, slow speed, and a mature, sober driver.