Kids summer safety guide for parents: How to keep your children safe, from swimming tips to playground protection

As the weather gets warmer and families try to get some fun in the sun, here are the best ways to avoid potential hazards.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Contact a qualified medical professional before engaging in any physical activity, or making any changes to your diet, medication or lifestyle.

Children jump and raise their arms while under the summer sun. (Photo via Getty Images)
Having fun in the sun is important for families, but parents should know some of the best ways to keep their children safe this summer. (Photo via Getty Images)

For parents with young kids, summer can be a time for fun in the sun and making precious family memories. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of increased worry, as you try to keep your little ones safe from potential hazards. Luckily, there are many things parents can do to protect their kids all summer long, whether you're on vacation or at home.

With the help of Stephanie Cowle, the director of knowledge translation at Parachute, a national charity dedicated to injury prevention, here are some helpful tips to keep children safe without sacrificing the joys of summer adventures.

Many people imagine someone drowning like a scene from a movie, with frantic splashing and yelling. But Cowle cautions that drowning is a silent killer, which is why adult supervision is essential when kids are in the pool, at the beach, lake or ocean.

"A split second to check your phone is long enough for tragedy to happen," she tells Yahoo Canada. "For young children, an adult should always be within arms's reach. Just being in view is not good enough."

It's also common for parents to mistakenly assume another adult will watch out for their child, especially at pool parties. Cowle suggests taking turns and designating a "water watcher" to ensure constant adult supervision.

A little girl putting on an orange life jacket in a swimming. (Photo via Getty Images)
Parents should consider equipping their kids with life jackets instead of floaties or water wings. (Photo via Getty Images)

As for that puddle jumper you think is keeping your kid safe in the water? It really isn't. Parents should know, although they make fun toys, floaties and water wings are not safety devices and can provide a false sense of security. While lifejackets keep a child afloat on their back to allow them to breathe, water wings keep children on their stomachs and will not prevent drowning.

Whether you're at the park playground or a jungle gym in your backyard, it's important your kids play on equipment that's appropriate for their age and development. This means they should be able to reach and climb without your assistance.

"You may think you're encouraging your child by lifting them higher than they can go themselves, but it can put them in a dangerous situation beyond what they can manage," Cowle notes. She also says to check for gaps and openings where a child's body parts could get stuck, and look out for broken parts, exposed screws, and other hazards. It's also a good idea to check the equipment's anchoring is still secure.

Home swing sets and slides can tip over more easily than public park equipment, so you'll want to ensure they're properly secured using the manufacturer instructions. When buying home playground equipment, Cowle advises parents check the packaging or online description to ensure it meets the ASTM F1148 safety standard.

A little girl bounces on a large trampoline in a backyard. She is in mid air, surrounded by safety netting. (Photo via Getty Images)
Trampolines might be fun, but they're an easy way for kids to get seriously injured. (Photo via Getty Images)

This one might come as a surprise, but the Canadian Paediatric Society strongly recommends kids don't play on trampolines, regardless of if it’s in your backyard or at a play place. Even with protective nets and adult supervision, trampolines pose a risk for serious injuries, like sprains, bone fractures and head trauma.

With the number of trampoline-related injuries in Canada on the rise, the safest bet is to find alternative ways to keep your kids happy and active.

"It's easy to think of children as 'little adults,' but this isn't the case," Cowle says. "A child's body can overheat three to five times faster than an adult's body."

Cowle says parents should never leave children alone in a car and warns that on a hot day, a car can reach dangerous temperatures in just 10 minutes. And even on a moderately warm day, the temperature inside a car can still soar.

Leaving a child in the car isn't always intentional. Tragically, babies and toddlers have died from heatstroke in vehicles after being forgotten in the back seat.

A toddler lies in the backseat of a car during a summer day. (Photo via Getty Images)
Parents should always avoid leaving kids in the car, as a child's body can overheat quicker than adults. (Photo via Getty Images)

"It's natural to think this will never happen to your family, but it can truly happen to anyone," Cowle adds, urging parents to place something in the back seat they can't leave without, like a wallet, so they have to check the back seat before exiting the car.

Other tips for car safety during the hottest months of the year include ensuring car seats and belts aren’t too hot before buckling your children and bringing water for the kids during car rides to prevent dehydration.

While it's important to take safety precautions, Cowle says parents should know that serious injuries from children playing outdoors are rare. In fact, kids are less likely to be injured during outdoor play than participating in organized sports, she notes.

As long as you actively supervise your children, you can feel confident allowing them to play and explore outdoors, which is critical to their healthy development and well-being. Moreover, the level of supervision may change, depending on the risks involved, and the age of your child.

According to Cowle, parents should involve their kids in safety conversations from a young age, creating teachable moments that can help kids manage risks as they get older. She also adds that parents themselves need to model safety for their kids.

"Children will copy what you do," she says. "This holds true for the safe things — and the risky things."

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