Snow Days: How to Play it Safe
It’s winter in Atlantic Canada, and kids are now gazing out their windows at a very tempting sight—fluffy, white snow banks and snow piles. While snowstorms can be a major inconvenience for adults (think extra shoveling, school closures and traffic jams)…kids see it as a great time to climb, build and slide on mountains of white stuff. It’s fantastic see our kids being active and creative outside for hours on end, particularly after being cooped up for hours inside! However, it IS important to be aware of the potential hazards of snow play. Child Safety Link would like to remind parents and caregivers of the following tips that will help your children to be safe while they are having fun outside in wintery conditions.
Playing in the snow: snow forts, tunnels and snow banks
It is a scary reality: According to Canadian health officials, at least one Canadian child suffocates each year after being trapped in a snow structure. The children are usually school-age and generally old enough to play outside by themselves. Children who suffocate in the snow are also often playing by themselves when they become trapped in a snow structure.
- If children want to build snow structures in the yard, they should not make roofs or form a tunnel that could collapse on them. Encourage them to have fun by being creative—perhaps they could make a house with walls (instead of a ceiling) and fill it with “snow furniture.”
- Active supervision is important when young children are playing outside in the snow. School-aged children should play outside with a friend who could call for help if a situation arose.
- Children should never play in or on snow banks that border roads, as snow plow operators and other drivers may not know there are children on/in them.
- Children should keep well away from snowblowers (both the machine itself and the snow plume that is ejected from it), as well as snow plows.
- Choose a properly fitting hockey helmet to protect your child’s head while sledding. Hockey helmets are recommended because they are designed to protect against multiple impacts on icy surfaces.
- Going down a hill head first can be dangerous. If a collision occurs with an object or another child, it could result in a head or neck injury. Children should sled feet first.
- Teach children to sled down the middle of the hill and walk up the side of the hill once they reach the bottom.
- Make sure hills are free of rocks, fences, poles, and trees.
- Make sure hills are a safe distance away from any lakes, roads, or parking lots.
Dress for the weather
- Hats should be warm, close fitting and cover the earlobes
- Mittens keep fingers warmer than gloves.
- Always dress in loose layers with a water-resistant outer layer.
- Wear bright-coloured clothing to be easily seen.
- Boots should be dry and not too tight.
- Socks – one pair of socks, wool or wool blend is best. Cotton socks provide little or no insulation when wet.
- Remove drawstrings, cords and scarves. These can be strangulation hazards. Instead, choose tubular neck warmers (without loose ends).
- Change out of wet clothes quickly.
Is it too cold to play outside?
- Children should be kept inside if the temperature dips below –25 C, regardless of wind chill or with wind chill below –28 C regardless of temperature.
- At –28 C, exposed skin can freeze in minutes.
- Frostbite occurs when the skin becomes frozen generally at temperatures of – 4 C or below.
- Frostbite most commonly affects the hands, feet and face.
Please visit Child Safety Link’s website at www.childsafetylink.ca for these and more tips on winter safety for children of all ages and stages.