Summer calls for adventure with lots of time spent in the great outdoors. But this season is also prime for accidents and other mishaps, many of which are preventable.
You already know to slather on the sunscreen and to stay hydrated (see our blog Summer Safety Tips for Parents for this and more). Here are five additional summer safety tips for families to keep in mind.
1. Make a plan. You likely have plenty of outings on the calendar, from hiking to water sports to amusement parks. Spontaneity is part of the fun, sure — but that doesn’t mean you should forgo plans altogether.
Create a loose schedule for when you’ll arrive, take breaks and head back. Think ahead about everything you might need, such as extra snacks, extra cash, emergency contact numbers and a first aid kit. Choose a clear meeting spot, should anyone get separated from the group. Such plans will help everyone know what to expect, which some children find comforting.
2. Check your safety gear. Summertime activities tend to require lots of equipment, so now’s the time to ensure everything is in order. Does that bike tire need to be reinflated or replaced? Do the kids’ helmets still fit? Does everyone have the right size life jacket? (You might be surprised at how much they’ve grown since last year!)
Safety gear only works if it’s properly maintained and used consistently. While you’re at it, remind your kids to look both ways before crossing the street and to use dedicated bicycle lanes whenever possible. Find more road safety rules for kids here.
3. Practice food safety. Bacteria flourish in warm temperatures, so foodborne illnesses tend to rise amid all those summer barbecues and picnics. Keep raw meat, poultry and seafood separate from other items, and cook them thoroughly. (Check this with a food thermometer, available at most grocery stores!) Once your meal is prepared, keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Refrigerate or dispose of leftovers within one to two hours.
Also make sure everyone washes their hands before serving and eating. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer will work if you don’t have access to soap and running water.
4. Watch out for sensory overload. Everyone loves the beach, right? Actually, some hallmarks of summer can be overwhelming for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD), which means they have trouble organizing and responding to information that comes in through their five senses. The same could be true of children on the autism spectrum or with other special needs. For example, fireworks could be too loud for them or the sun too bright. The feeling of sand between their toes may evoke more “eek” than “aah.”
If a child in your care is sensitive to stimulation, provide them with tools to help make summer activities more comfortable, such as noise-cancelling headphones, sunglasses and closed-toed shoes. Have an exit plan in case they need a break from all the sights and sounds. Some museums, theaters and other venues even offer sensory-friendly showings, so look for those opportunities in your area. After a super-busy day or week, know that your child might need some downtime to recover and get back into their routine.
5. Be vigilant. Speaking of routines, it’s easy for family time to become unstructured during summer break. Still, it’s important to have age-appropriate rules in place at home (again, many children thrive on predictability). With older children, establish boundaries for where they can go in the neighborhood and who they can spend time with. Note when they should be home for dinner and try to keep a consistent bedtime, which will make the return to school just a little bit easier.
Supervise younger children at all times in the backyard, on the playground or anywhere near water. Discourage pushing, shoving or any form of roughhousing. (Did you know? More than 200,000 playground-related injuries are treated in emergency departments each year.) It’s important to always keep an eye on them, because accidents can happen at any moment.
Summertime is for making lasting memories. We hope this season is a happy and safe one for your family.