By Mary Beth Gibson
Ah, summer. Long, warm days filled with endless fun and opportunities to wear out even the most energetic toddler. The opportunities for ice cream, splash parks, and park visits seem never ending, but so do the opportunities for scraped knees, sunburned cheeks, and lost children. With all the extra activities available for children during the summer, it’s important for parents to be aware of the basic safety precautions they should take when engaging in those activities.
Swimming and Water Sports
The most important thing to know when your toddler is in or around the water: never leave your child unattended! When you are finished playing with water, empty the pool/bucket right away. If your child is wading or swimming in water that comes above his waist, put him in wearable floaties or a lifejacket. Life jackets should always be worn if your child is on a boat (that goes for parents, too!). If you have an independent child who prefers to sprint away from you constantly, learn to come prepared and embrace it as you can. Put grippy water shoes on your child so he doesn’t slip around the pool. Stay off your phone when your child is in the water. Avoid large and crowded water parks where your child can dart easily out of your sight.
Crowded Parks and Sightseeing
Speaking of water parks, visiting large attractions, parks, and fairs is an excellent way to spend a summer day, but it can also be a source of stress for parents of young children. The most common problem in crowds is lost children. Before you enter the attraction, take a picture of each child with your phone so you have a current photograph of your child in that day’s clothes. Write your cell phone number on your child’s arm with a Sharpie so it can’t come off (it won’t last forever). Make sure you know where the security office is located in case you need to go there yourself.
Hiking and Camping
Perhaps you prefer nature over crowds in the summer months and you enjoy taking your children on hikes and outings. Toddlers and infants are especially vulnerable to heat, so keep your child cool and hydrated. Bring plenty of water for every person outside. Choose shaded areas and paths as much as possible, and stick to short trails or trails with cool rest areas along the way. Apply bug spray and dress your child in lightweight clothing. Put a ball cap or sun hat on your child to protect them from the sun and ticks. Apply sunscreen (at least SPF 15) to any exposed skin and reapply if you are outside for an extended period of time. Cover as much skin as you can while also keeping your child cool. This is the most effective way to prevent sunburn. Learn to identify plants such as poison ivy, oak, and sumac, and never allow your child to eat berries, mushrooms, or leaves he finds along the path. Invest in a well-made, structured carrier if you really enjoy hiking and being out in nature. This will allow you to carry your child over more difficult terrain with both arms free, and will allow him the chance to rest or nap if he becomes too tired to continue on.
Who doesn’t love grilling anything and everything outside in the summer? When grilling, remember to keep all matches, lighters, and light fluids away from children. Never allow your child to touch any part of the grill, even when it’s off. Be sure there is at least one adult to attend the grill at all times and one or more adults to attend any children at all times. Do not position your grill near the main play area for your yard or patio. If your outdoor area is extremely small do not allow children outside while the grill is hot.
Summer brings many opportunities for fireworks with it.; however, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend home use of fireworks of any kind. If adults and older children choose to set off fireworks, please do so after younger children are already asleep or safely inside. Public displays for ball games or the Fourth of July are excellent opportunities for young children to safely enjoy fireworks.
Knowing how to prevent the most common safety concerns in the summer time can help every member of the family relax and enjoy their favorite summer activities!
Mary Beth Gibson graduated from Wichita State University in 2007 with a BA in Creative Writing and blogs at Bright Sycamore. She enjoys most things natural, but with a healthy dose of practicality and affordability. You can most likely find her wearing her toddler around Target as she hunts for great deals in the dollar bins. She lives in Kansas with her husband and 1-year old son.
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