January 31, 2013

Seven tips for sledding safely

We are fortunate to have a lot of great sledding hills in the Madison area. If you are not within walking distance of a hill, you can easily pack up the kids in the car and drive to a great spot.

  • Safe location — Not all hills are safe. Avoid hillsides that end near a street, parking lot or other hazards like a pond, trees or fence. Choose a hill that is snowy rather than icy to avoid any hard landings if kids fall off the sled. Sled during the day or on a well-lit hill at night so potential hazards are visible.

  • Appropriate clothing — Hats, gloves, snow pants, boots, and winter coats are important to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Avoid clothing that can get caught in a sled, like a scarf, and pose a choking risk.

  • The right sled — Make sure that it is in good shape and doesn't have any sharp edges that could pose a risk. Good sleds can be purchased at a relatively low cost so never substitute a sled for anything that was not intended for that purpose like a lunch tray or cardboard box.

  • Wear a helmet — I can't stress it enough. Again, more than half of sledding injuries are head injuries. Helmets for winter sports work the best, but if your child doesn't have one, at least have her wear her bike helmet.

  • Feet first — Another important factor to decrease the risk of head injury is to never go downhill lying down head first. Children, and adults, should always sit face-forward and never sled down a hill backwards or while standing.

  • Take turns — Wait until the person before them reaches the bottom. Make sure kids walk up the side of the hill and leave the middle open for other sledders. And remind them that as they walk back up the hill, to keep an eye out for sleds coming in their direction. Also try to avoid crowded areas on the hill.

  • Adult supervision — Kids will need reminders on staying safe so be sure that a responsible adult is present to supervise and/or handle any injuries that might take place.

Taking to the hills is an excellent family activity. Think of all the great memories that can be made. And did I mention that 30 minutes of sledding burns more than 200 calories? That certainly can't hurt either. What's your favorite sledding hill?