Safety in Your Neighborhood
Author: Krista Flack, MS OTR/L
To continue our series on June is National Safety Month, which focuses on reducing leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities, today I am writing about a few outdoor safety topics, including bike riding, pedestrian safety, and safety at the playground.
One of the most important safety tips for bike-riding is to wear a properly-fitted helmet. It is the best way to prevent head injuries and death. Properly-fitted helmets can reduce the risk of head injuries by at least 45 percent – yet less than half of children 14 and under usually wear a bike helmet. Make sure the helmet fits and your child knows how to put it on correctly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward, backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. Safe Kids recommends kids take the Helmet Fit Test:
- EYES check: Position the helmet on your head. Look up and you should see the bottom rim of the helmet. The rim should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
- EARS check: Make sure the straps of the helmet form a "V" under your ears when buckled. The strap should be snug but comfortable.
- MOUTH check: Open your mouth as wide as you can. Do you feel the helmet hug your head? If not, tighten those straps and make sure the buckle is flat against your skin.
There are many great links with resources about safe bike-riding for the whole family!
Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19. Teenagers are now at greatest risk. Teens have a death rate twice that of younger children and account for half of all child pedestrian deaths.
- Teach kids at an early age to look left, right and left again before crossing the street. Then remind them to continue looking until safely across.
- Teach kids to put phones, headphones and devices down when crossing the street. It is particularly important to reinforce this message with teenagers.
- It’s always best to walk on sidewalks or paths and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
- Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.
- Be a good role model. Set a good example by putting your phone, headphones and devices down when walking around cars.
For young children, start teaching commands like “stop,” “freeze,” and “walk.” This is very important in situations where your toddler or child may run off in a parking lot or near a street. Playing games like ‘Red Light, Green Light,’ ‘Mother, May I?,’ and ‘Simon Says’ can teach these skills in a fun way, so children are ready to use the skill when it matters most! More tips can be found here and here!
Safety at the Playground
Playgrounds can be a wonderful place for children to explore, play, and learn. It is important for children to have opportunities to practice new gross motor skills and experience new sensations, like climbing, jumping, swinging, and sliding. This blog talks about how exploring at a playground, and even “breaking some rules” (like climbing up the slide), can help foster important developmental skills and teach important life lessons. Of course, practicing these skills can also pose a safety risk. Sometimes it is hard to find a compromise between keeping kids safe and fostering exploration and developmental play. The National Safety Council reports that emergency departments see more than 20,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related traumatic brain injury each year. The link above has numerous tips about keeping playground play time safe, and warns of potential dangers to consider at the playground. While these two sources have some contradicting information, it is most important to consider your child’s skills, and always supervise your child’s play. There is no reason that playground play can’t be both safe AND full of exploration!