Sledding Safety Tips for Winter Fun


By Katy M. Clark

There is no better way to spend a winter’s day than swooshing down a sledding hill with your 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 those layers can be removed as the kids work up a sweat.

Head protection is important, especially for children ages 12 and younger. 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 prevents 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 a parent.

Sit in a feet-first position and discourage any sledding while standing up or going face-first. The latter method greatly increases the risk of a head or neck injury.

The safest type of sled can be steered by hand and includes brakes for coming to a safe stop. Try to avoid substitute sleds like lunch trays or cardboard boxes.

Kids should be coached in how to fall off their 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. If 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, you and your family will have a frosty good time. T

Katy M. Clark is a writer and mom of two who embraces her imperfections on her blog Experienced Bad Mom.

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