There is no better way to spend a winter’s day than swooshing down a sledding hill with friends and family. While sledding may be a fun rite of winter, it does send thousands of children and teens to emergency rooms every year. Injuries range from the serious, like head injuries, to the more common cuts, bumps and bruises.
Check out the following tips to make your next sledding adventure as safe as it is fun.
Location, location, location
- Choose a hill that does not end in a parking lot to avoid colliding with cars or light poles, or a pond, which may not be solidly frozen enough.
- Likewise, make sure the sledding hill is free of rocks, trees or poles that could injure riders.
- Ride during daylight or else choose a slope that is well-illuminated at night. Again, you want to make sure any potential obstacles or dangers are visible.
What to wear
- Dress for the weather. If it is cold enough to sled, then it is cold enough for winter coats, snow pants, hats, boots and gloves. If your kids are older and more serious about their sledding fun, dressing in layers is advisable so they can be removed as the kids work up a sweat.
- Head protection is important, especially for children ages 12 and under. If you don’t have specialized winter head gear, even a bike helmet offers some protection.
- Avoid scarves, if possible, since they can get caught or tangled and increase the chance of injury.
How to sled
- Teach your kids to ride down the middle of the hill and return to the top by walking up the sides. This avoids collisions between those riding down the hill and those walking back up.
- Ride one at a time, unless your kids are younger than 5 years or so. In that case, it is best for the littlest riders to be accompanied by an adult.
- Sit feet first and discourage any sledding while standing up or going face first. The latter method greatly increases the risk of head or neck injury.
- The safest type of sled can be steered by hand and includes brakes to come to a safe stop. Try to avoid substitute sleds like lunch trays or cardboard boxes.
- Kids should be coached in how to fall off the sled to avoid a crash. If the sled is going too fast or a collision seems imminent, teach children to roll off the sled and let it go.
Reminders for the adults
- Always supervise your kids. In case someone does get injured, you will be there to give first aid or take the injured party to a doctor.
- Never pull a sled behind a motorized vehicle such as a car or ATV. Speed and being on a trail or roadway are dangerous combinations.
- Finally, don’t forget to have fun. Sledding is a terrific way to celebrate winter and enjoy the outdoors. Plus, most sledding parties like to conclude the outing with hot chocolate–yum! If you keep these sledding safety tips in mind, then you and your family will have a frosty good time.