Comprehensive Children's Injury Center
Injury Prevention Tips | Recreational Safety

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Outside

Children of all ages are active human beings. Whether they are just beginning to play on the swing set or learning how to ride a bike, or they are practicing for their first organized sporting event, there are several safety tips to be aware of so your children continue to be safe, happy, and healthy while playing and staying active. 

Here are some simple ways to help your children stay safe while at play.

  • ATVs are not toys!
  • No child under the age of 16 should ride on an adult ATV.
  • About 1/3 of ATV related deaths and injuries involve children.
  • An ATV can travel at speeds up to 60 miles per hour and can weight close to 700 pounds.
  • An ATV can easily flip or turn over, which is why wearing safety equipment is so important!
  • A child should always be wearing a helmet when riding an ATV.
  • The helmet must be appropriate for an ATV, not just a bike helmet.
  • Never ride on an ATV as a passenger. Many ATVs are only made for one person to ride at a time.
  • Stay off paved roads or uneven terrain.
  • Make sure you know your state's laws regarding ATVs.
  • Get more information on ATV safety
  • Always supervise your children.
  • Never allow children to ride in the street.
  • Do not let children wear long or loose clothing (including dresses and wide-legged pants) that can get caught in bike chains or wheel spokes.
  • Don't allow children to ride when it's dark.
  • Though your child may be especially mature for his/her age or a particularly skilled rider, it is just as important for them to wear a helmet every time, everywhere they go.
    • Every child (whether riding a tricycle or bike or as a passenger on an adult’s bike) must wear a well-fitting helmet. The helmet should bear a sticker saying it meets standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

    • Make sure you set the example and start early to battle any reluctance they have to wearing safety equipment, because 85% of head injuries can be prevented through proper helmet use.
  • Properly fit your child's helmet and ensure he/she always wears it when riding, skating, or scooting.
    • Always take the child to the store when purchasing a helmet to ensure proper fit.

  • Buy the helmet when you buy the bike, scooter, or skateboard!
  • Be sure that the tricycle or bicycle your child rides is the right size from them, right now.
    • Your child must be able to place the balls of both feet on the ground when sitting on the seat with hands on the handlebars.
    • Your child's first bicycle should have coaster brakes. Five year olds are often unable to use hand brakes correctly.
  • Never let your young child ride a bike, scooter, or skateboard in the street. Your child is too young to read in the street safely.
  • Don't let your children ride bikes, scooters, or skateboards in and around cars.
  • Practice bike safety: Learn the rules of the road, wear reflective clothes and stickers, and ride on sidewalks when possible.

Only about one in four children, ages 4-15 years, wear bicycle helmets when riding. Some 140,000 children are treated in emergency departments each year for head injuries sustained while they were bicycling.

  • Never leave a child unattended in a pool or spa.
  • Always watch your child when he or she is in or near water.
  • Keep children away from pool drains, pipes, and other openings to avoid entrapments.
  • Learn how to swim and teach your child how to swim as well.
  • Floatation devices such as armbands, floatation rings, and inflatable toys give parents a false sense of security. These devices should not be relied upon to keep your child from drowning.
  • Install four-sided isolation fencing, at least five feet high and equipped with self-closing and self-latching gates, around a home pool or spa.
  • Learn CPR and keep rescue equipment, a telephone, and emergency numbers poolside.
  • Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket when on a boat, near open bodies of water, or when participating in water sports, even if they know how to swim.
  • Don't let kids operate personal watercraft (such as jet skis).

Childhood drowning and near-drowning can occur in a number of settings - pools, hot tubs, beaches, lakes, bathtubs, and buckets. Activities such as boating, jet skiing, water skiing, sailing and surfing are also associated with water-related injuries and fatalities. Most drowning incidents happen when a child falls into a pool or is left alone around water. It can take only a couple of seconds for a child to drown, and drowning typically occurs when a child is left unattended or during a brief lapse in supervision.

Before play

  • Ensure that playground equipment is age-appropriate and properly maintained. Look for adequate surfacing under equipment and loose or broken screws on equipment itself.
  • Remove bike helmets, as well as hood and neck drawstrings from all children's outerwear to avoid strangulation hazards.
  • Do not go barefoot. Children should wear shoes that keep their feet safe.

During play

  • Actively supervise children on playgrounds.
  • Teach children proper playground behavior: no pushing, shoving, or crowding.
  • Keep toddlers under age 5 in a separate play area, fenced off from equipment designed for bigger kids.

Home Playgrounds

  • Take care when installing playground equipment at home. Follow directions closely and always build on level ground and safe surfaces
  • Build equipment at least six feet away from walls and fences, and periodically check the equipment.

Nothing is more exciting to a kid than a great playground. But play areas need to be properly designed, maintained and supervised to be as safe for kids as possible. Falls are the most common playground injury accounting for over 75 percent of all playground-related injuries, but the right equipment for a child's age and soft surfacing can help keep playtime fun and safe.

  • More than 38 million kids under 14 participate in organized sports, and more than one in 10 ends up in the emergency room after suffering from a sports injury.
    • Make sure your child has a screening physical before playing.
  • Wear the right gear. Players should wear appropriate and properly fit protective equipment such as pads (neck, shoulder, elbow, chest, knee, and shin), helmets, mouthpieces, face guards, protective cups, and/or eyewear.
    • Young athletes should not assume that protective gear will protect them when performing more dangerous or risky activities.
  • Check athletic grounds for hazards like rocks, holes, and water. Also, consider current and potential weather conditions, such as lightning.
  • Actively supervise children at play.
  • Make sure responsible adults know and enforce the safety rules of the sport, are present to provide supervision, and are trained in first aid and CPR.
  • Learn to recognize the signs of a concussion and seek medical attention.
  • All sports have a risk of injury.
    • In general, the more contact in a sport, the greater the risk of injury.
    • However, most injuries in young athletes are due to overuse.
  • Strengthen muscles. Conditioning exercises before games and during practice strengthens muscles used in play.
  • Increased flexibility. Stretching exercise before and after games or practice can increase flexibility.
  • Take breaks. Rest periods during practice and games can reduce injuries and prevent heat illness.
  • Play safe. Strict rules against headfirst sliding (baseball and softball), spearing (football), and body checking (ice hockey) should be enforced.
  • Avoid heat injury by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise or play
    • Decrease or stop practices or competitions during high heat/humidity periods.
    • Wear light clothing.