Preparing for Winter Fun

skijumpDo you know what preparing for a ski vacation and getting your children off to school during the freezing winter months have in common? More than you may think! Not only are the elements the same – ice/snow/wind/cold, but the dangers and the precautions needed are really the same. Yet our expectations for how we dress our children are somehow very different. If your family is anything like mine, they look far from artic warriors when they head off to school but could be mistaken for Eskimos on the slopes.

The vast majority of schools in Massachusetts have fairly strict guidelines for outdoor activities that our children are expected to follow at school. Use this to your advantage and expect them to follow these rules all the time, even at home or when walking to school. So, if the children are expected to wear certain clothing at school before being allowed outside, require the same at home or on the slopes. And, if its too cold for outdoor recess, than its likely too cold to build a snowman in the backyard!

Keep in mind that not all accidents are many variables are out of our control. At the same time, paying attention to the areas we can control will not only reduce the chance of preventable injury but maximize your family’s fun.

  1. For sports requiring special equipment, be sure the equipment is well made and fits your child properly. Many outdoor stores do carry a full line of equipment, including used equipment, and can help you outfit your child properly. You may also want to check out the Consumer Product Safety Commission web site (www.cpsc.gov) to be sure any equipment you are considering has not been recalled.
  2. For any winter sport, including sledding, your children should wear a good ski helmet. We only have one brain and it is not as easy to fix as a broken arm. So, if your child won’t wear the helmet, don’t let him participate – the risk of injury is too high otherwise!
  3. Don’t forget eye protection – not only from the snow or ice but the sun. Good eye goggles or sunglasses are crucial for winter sports safety and will minimize the risk of injury should your child fall in the snow or be hit with some snow/ice.
  4. Keep an eye on the local weather and don’t underestimate the danger that extreme cold can cause. The windchill is the number to pay attention to – that is how cold it feels outside due to the blowing, arctic wind. The more below zero it feels, the faster the wind is blowing, the more dangerous it is to be outside.
  5. Avoid the tempation to leave small children in a parked car for even a few minutes when it is very cold – it only takes 5 minutes of extreme cold to cause hypothermia or frostbite. Better to take your children with you than to leave them in a car unattended – even for a few minutes.
  6. Dress your child in layers underneath the snow suit to lock in the heat. Thermal clothing is the best but medium weight cotton clothing will work fine as well. Long underwear, turtlenecks and thermal socks are all essential for most outdoor winter sports. If your child gets too warm, she can always remove a layer.
  7. Finally, don’t forget the hat – most of our heat is lost from our heads so keep them covered!

Here’s to a fun and safe winter.

(Originally posted November 2003; Updated December 2009)