Public Safety Awareness

Snow Day Safety for Kids

Brother and sister playing Snow Angels.

While it’s true that most children prefer summer to winter because of the countless fun outdoor activities that come along with warm weather, there is perhaps nothing quite as wonderful to them as the snow day. A snow day is one of the only times when winter trumps summer and children get to spend the entire day building snowmen, sledding, ice-skating and generally frolicking in the snow. Unfortunately, conditions like extreme cold temperatures, thin ice or poor visibility can create some extremely dangerous hazards.

We know that no one enjoys seeing their own neighborhood as a place that could pose a threat to young children, but with a few precautions every kid can make it through a fun and exciting snow day, completely unscathed.

Dressing Children for Playing in the Snow

  • Children should be dressed in layers in order to properly insulate their bodies from the cold. A general rule of thumb is to dress your child in one more layer than you would wear while out in the same temperature. Recommendations include a thin inner layer in a material that can easily wick moisture, like polyester or polypropylene, followed by 2 middle layers that are not too tight. Roomier layers allow insulating air to circulate in between them. The last layer should be a waterproof and wind resistant coat.
  • The outer layer of a child’s snow day attire should be in a bright, neon or highly visible color. This is not the time to worry about what is stylish, but rather what is safe. Keep in mind that it is much more difficult for car and snowplow drivers to see when the sunlight is reflecting off of the snow, so the more clearly they can see playing children, the better. White is not recommended for winter play gear.
  • Warm socks and gloves are extremely important at this time. When temperatures outside of the human body drop, it begins to concentrate most its heat at the core of the body where it can protect major organs. This makes warming hands and feet a secondary priority and the need for hand and foot protection much more crucial. Since we know our kids will be digging their hands into the snow, the outer layer of their gloves or mittens should be waterproof as well as insulated and the same goes for footwear. Warm, not too tight socks and waterproof snow boots are a must.
  • Most of our body heat is lost through our heads and our ears are especially susceptible to frost bite, so a hat and earmuffs or a hat that also covers the ears is recommended. Drawstrings in hoods can become a strangulation hazard and should be removed. It’s best to rely on a hat for head protection or look for hooded coats with Velcro or buttons.

Before They Head Outside

  • 80% of UV rays are reflected off of snow, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. This can be surprising to most people who tend to think that they only need to worry about sunscreen during the summer, but the risk of sunburn is even greater when everything is covered in white snow. Any exposed skin should be covered with a water-resistant sunscreen with SPF 30 or more and SPF lip balm should be used as well. Eye Protection is also important and sunglasses or protective goggles should be worn.
  • It takes a great amount of energy and hydration to spend a day playing in the snow although most children will not realize that because cold temperatures can actually alter thirst sensations. Before children are sent out to play they should eat a wholesome meal and drink plenty of fluids. Water and hot cocoa breaks throughout the day are highly recommended.
  • Children will grow out of their sports and outdoors equipment just the same as they grow out of their regular clothes and shoes. Snow boots and ice skates should be checked to make sure they are not too tight and new footwear should never be too loose. Either condition will cause unnecessary complications out in icy or snow covered terrains.

Playing Safely

  • Never allow kids to play outside alone. Even if they are right outside of the house they should be with other children or under adult supervision.
  • If temperatures drop too low, exercise reasonable judgement and keep children indoors. You should also avoid allowing play in the middle of a snowstorm and wait until it has settled on the ground.
  • Children should never play in snowbanks, where snow plowers may not see them. Building tunnels under the snow is also not recommended because the snow can collapse and present a suffocation hazard.
  • Sledding should take place during the day on well used hills that are far away from traffic, bodies of water or any objects that can obstruct the path like rocks, trees or buildings. One child per sled is recommended to help avoid injuries.
  • For ice skating, public indoor or outdoor rinks are the safest choice but when using frozen lakes or ponds children and adults should always obey signs posted near ice and only skate if they are green. Yellow signs indicate that skating should be done with extra caution, but it is best to just wait until the ice is more solid and stable. Never approach the ice when the flags are red.
  • When the conditions are safe, children should only be allowed on or near ice under the supervision of responsible adults.
  • It’s true that getting your tongue stuck on a metal pole can actually happen in real life. Children should be taught that attempting this stunt can have painful repercussions and its best to leave it to poor Schwartz from A Christmas Story.

Follow these easy tips and pointers for snow day safety and your child’s winter wonderland will be one that is completely free of danger. Have fun!

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