We all want to make sure our kids are safe, and summertime is no different. Whether your kids are playing out in the sun, in the water or in the woods, there are some basic guidelines to keep in mind for their physical safety.
- It’s great that kids can be out without a raincoat, but they need protection from the sun, too. Sunscreen with SPF 15 should be applied 30 minutes before going into the sun and reapplied every two hours or sooner if swimming, toweling off or sweating. Hats give great protection and shade heads, ears and even necks. Lightweight pants and long sleeve shirts when possible also provide protection.
- Before your kids jump into the water, educate them on water safety. If your child is 1 to 4 years old, an adult should be close enough to touch them in an instant. Oregon law requires any child 12 or younger wear a lifejacket on a boat.
- Summer and bikes go together, but don’t forget the helmets — legally required for all children younger than 16.
- Get some cool, fun water bottles and pop in a strawberry or a slice of lemon and some ice. When your child drinks water (not sweetened drinks), you’ll prevent dehydration and heat-related illness.
- Never leave a child in a parked car.
- We all love to see fireworks, but it’s best to leave it to the professionals and not to kids. If you do choose to use any sort of fireworks, proceed with extreme caution and take preventive safety measures. Fireworks can result in severe burns, blindness, scars and even death. Even fireworks thought to be safe like sparklers can reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees. Kids younger than 5 should not use sparklers — glow sticks can be a light-up alternative.
Your child’s physical safety is of utmost importance, but especially in the summer parents need to consider how to encourage children to develop habits that will make them more resilient and better at making decisions. While we don’t usually think of risk-taking and mistakes as words typically associated with summer fun or safety, summer activities can help children foster creativity out of boredom, weigh the pros and cons of age-appropriate risks, and learn from mistakes.
Giving your children chances when they are young to solve problems will help them be less impulsive and more thoughtful when they become teenagers and young adults facing choices of greater consequences. Typical summer activities — swimming, exploring the backyard, hiking, biking — can provide the perfect chance for your child to learn problem-solving skills.
The tricky question for parents and other caregivers is how to provide both safety and the right amount of risk and challenge for your child. The answer depends on your child’s age and experience, and of course, general safety guidelines. We shouldn’t forget that our own comfort with an activity or experience is important, too. Here are some examples of what might be happening with your child this summer:
- You are in the park and your 8-month-old is putting grass in his mouth. Instead of taking it from him, give him the choice of putting it in a cup or throwing it onto a log. When he makes a choice he learns to think and it gives him confidence that he can direct his own learning.
- Your 8-year-old is bored on the family hike. You tell her she can go on her own as long as she can still see you. She balances on logs, throws rocks into the pond and runs ahead of everyone to the top of the hill. You gave her the opportunity to take risks within clear and safe boundaries. It made the hike better for her and probably for the rest of the family, too.
- Your 14-year-old is sad he was the last one picked on a team for a soccer game. You ask him for ideas about how he could have handled the situation. He thinks about talking to everyone about a new way of making teams. You tell him you’re available to listen and that he can improve his own situation.
As parents, it is our responsibility to provide safe summer fun, but that does not mean sheltering our children from boredom, risk-taking or mistakes. Helping your child navigate these challenges will help them grow in their creativity, decision-making and problem-solving. So, bring on summer!
After teaching outdoor school for two years and elementary school for eight, Shannon Harty now facilitates Incredible INFANTs and Wonderful ONEs classes at Parenting Now. She shares her love of the outdoors, enthusiasm for preserving local food and curiosity about making new things with her two kids and husband. Parenting Now! is a nonprofit offering groups and workshops so that all children are raised by nurturing, skilled parents; www.parentingnow.org, on social media and at 541-484-5316.