Perhaps it’s just that I grew up in Alaska, but there isn’t much from winters of my childhood that I remember more vividly– or fondly, for that matter– than sledding. Sure the long climb back up a steep hill is work, but those few seconds of sledding down are well worth it. As a kid, I rarely considered how dangerous my favorite snowy pastime could even be, which is a bit ironic, being that I was named after a childhood friend of my mother’s who died in a sledding accident. A child can be injured in a plethora of ways on a sled, making sledding safety for kids serious business.
Sledding Location, location, location:
First, it is very important to pay attention to where your child is sledding. The child I was named after sled down a hill, through a fence, into a roadway, and was hit by a car. I knew a small child growing up who sled down a hill onto a frozen creek, broke through the ice, and drowned. Don’t just look at the bottom of the hill, look as far as the incline of the hill could send a sled sliding and anticipate unknowns, like traffic or ice.
Choose your ride:
Second, choose your child’s sled with care. Heavy metal sleds do get great speed, but if you’ve ever slid off and had your sled catch you in the head on the way down, you know why a heavy metal sled is not great for kids. The thin plastic roll-up varieties also slip out from under kids more often, so aren’t ideal for younger kids. Hard plastic choices can sometimes crack, so watch for damage. The safest sledding option, in my opinion, are blow-up plastic sleds and tubes. They’re soft and won’t stab you if they break, though they do sometimes get some rotation on the ride down.
Check out the sledding terrain:
Finally, before anyone heads down the hill examine the track on your way up. Be on the look-out for hidden logs, rocks, and other dangers. An unexpected log or jump built by older sledders can prove dangerous to a child. It can help to be the first one down as a parent that way you know how fast you child will likely go, and what they may hit as they go.
Outside of the above, while sledding remember to periodically check to be sure your kids aren’t having too much fun to admit they’re cold or tired.