There is no better way to spend a winter’s day than swooshing down a snowy 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.
- Make sure the sledding hill is free of rocks, trees, or poles that could injure riders. Ride during daylight or choose a slope that is well-illuminated at night.
- Again, 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.
- Dressing in layers is advisable so they can be removed as the kids work up a sweat.
- Head protection is important, especially for children ages 12 and under. Wear a multi-sport helmet used for skiing, or even a bike helmet which will offer some protection.
- Avoid long 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 avoids collisions between those riding down the hill and those walking back up.
- Ride one at a time, unless your kids are younger than five years old or so. In that case, it is best for the littlest riders to be accompanied by a parent.
- Sit feet first and discourage any sledding while standing up or going face first. The latter method greatly increases the risk of head or neck injury.
- The safest type of sled can be steered by hand and includes brakes to come to a safe stop. Try to avoid substitute sleds such as sheets of plastic.
- Coach your kids on how to fall off the sled to avoid a crash. If the sled is going too fast or a collision seems imminent, roll off the sled and let it go.
Reminders for the adults
- Always supervise your kids. In case 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 as a family. Conclude the outing with hot chocolate—or bring it along—to make it extra special.
—Katy M. Clark is a writer and mother of two who embraces her imperfections on her blog Experienced Bad Mom.