Keep the kids warm and safe while playing outdoors

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It's good to get the kids outside for some play in the winter wonderland. But you want them to stay and safe as well. Here are some tips for stress-free winter play.

It's good to get the kids outside for some play in the winter wonderland. But you want them to stay and safe as well. Here are some tips for stress-free winter play.

Before heading out, determine the real temperature with the wind chill factor. Extreme cold warnings mean it best to stay indoors. Do an overall check of their equipment to make sure it's in good working condition.

Layers are the key
Layering is the way to go for ultimate warmth. Try some warm woollen socks and mittens along with hats that completely cover the ears. Cotton or silk thermal underwear, and turtlenecks are a great addition. Many paediatricians and safety experts recommend replacing the traditional scarf with a neck warmer that can't catch on equipment and become a strangulation danger.

Finish the outfit off with a bit of sunscreen on those exposed noses and cheeks and they are ready to frolic. And as any parent will tell you, once you get your child all bundled up they will have to pee.

Watch out for Jack Frost
Your kids may get so wrapped in playing they won't notice frost nipping at their feet and hands. When it's really cold outside, schedule a half-hour return home to warm up and check for frost bite.

1st degree
Almost everyone who has lived in a northern climate has gotten frost nip. This first degree frost bite is not dangerous if treated immediately. The tell tale signs are very red skin with small white patches usually on the extremities like fingers, toes, ears, cheeks and toes. The skin may feel prickly or itchy.

Start first aid treatment by gently warming the area with your hands while outside. Once inside soak the affected area with lukewarm water until the skin turns pink. Do not use hot water or place hot cloths on the affected area since this can damage the skin.

2nd degree
Superficial frostbite is when the skin is white or blue and feels hard. You should get medical treatment for this second degree frost bite immediately because blistering is likely to occur and without proper treatment there may be further injuries to the skin.

3rd degree
Third degree frostbite is rare amongst children – they will usually head home before they get this deep freeze when the cold has gone below the skin. It will be completely white, blotchy or even blue and the tissue underneath will feel very cold and hard. Get to a doctor or hospital immediately because in severe cases the affected area may have to be amputated.

Tobogganing techniquesHealth Canada has the following recommendations for staying safe when tobogganing or sledding:

  • Make sure your children wear a helmet.
  • Remove any cords or drawstrings from their clothing and use a neck warmer.
  • Choose a hill that is away from roads and parking lots. There should be no rocks, trees, fences or other dangers in the path.
  • Teach your children to slide down the middle of the hill, climb up the side and watch who is coming down.
  • Teach them to move out of the way quickly when they get to the bottom.
  • Don't overcrowd the sled or toboggan.
  • Skating techniques
    Both Health Canada and the National Safety Council offer these tips for safe skating:

  • Wear skates that fit comfortably and provide enough ankle support to keep you on your feet.
  • Have the blades professionally sharpened at the beginning of each season.
  • Skate only on specially prepared skating areas where you are sure the ice is strong enough to withstand your weight.
  • If you skate on lakes or rivers make sure the ice is smooth and at least 10 centimetres or 4 inches thick. Never skate near open water.
  • Always check for cracks, holes and other debris.
  • Learn basic skating skills, such as how to stop and fall safely.
  • Wear warm clothing and rest when you become tired or cold.
  • Children should skate in the same direction and at the same speed as the crowd.
  • Skaters who cannot keep up with the crowd should move to the side.
  • When playing hockey, only wear a CSA-certified helmet.
  • Encourage your children to play outside at least three times a week. Staying active in the winter will help your child not gain weight and prevent the winter blues. Read more about the benefits of winter play in our article Combating nature deficit disorder in winter.

    Shelagh McNally.