Summertime is a joy for kids and families. Warmer weather encourages us to seek outdoor activities and enjoy the best New Zealand has to offer.
Whether it’s swimming, tramping or just visiting the neighbourhood playground more often. And with parents making the most of every opportunity to shake off the winter hibernation, and get their youngsters off the couch to enjoy the world outside, summer is a great time to be a kid. All this fun in the sun brings to light the issue of keeping children safe from harm, however. Here we review some top tips for safety as a starting point to ensuring your family makes it happy and unscathed through the glorious Kiwi summer season ahead.
- Remember, the first line of defence against the risk of sunburn is staying out of the sun and/or covering up. Try to plan activities for early or late in the day to avoid midday exposure.
- Use shade wherever possible if you are outdoors in the heat of the day. Hats and cool long-sleeved tops keep the beating sun off vulnerable faces, necks, and arms when exposure is intermittent.
- If playing sport or spending time at the beach without shade, use sunscreen on all uncovered areas to reduce the risk of sunburn, and reapply frequently.
- One size does not necessarily fit all when it comes to sun protection measures. How deeply pigmented is your child’s skin? Very fair skin requires vigilant attention, while darker skin less so. Fairer children can cope with very little sun exposure in midsummer before needing to cover up to avoid the risk of sunburn, while darker kids can easily cope with some sun exposure before they’re at risk of burning. Most of us need a little sun so our skin can make essential vitamin D. Just how much depends on your child’s skin type and how well they cope with sun exposure, which in turn is a result of their genetic mix.
- If your children are not already swimmers, look for a water safety or swimming programme in which to enrol them near where you live. Water Safety New Zealand has a comprehensive set of resources online for teaching your children water familiarisation and water confidence, as well as safety
tips for beaches, boating, fishing, diving, pools, and rivers.
- Children up to age three should always swim with an adult, and kids under five should be supervised around water within an arm’s reach at all times. It only takes 60
seconds and five centimetres of water for a child to drown.
- Ensure the swimming pool in which your child is going to swim is appropriately fenced, and always empty paddling pools when you're finished with them.
- Choose a beach displaying red and yellow patrol flags, and swim between them
so there is an active lifeguard patrol available at all times.
- Be aware of the conditions at the beach. Waves, wind, and tides can affect swimming conditions, and the better you understand these, the more you’ll be able to keep your family safe.
- A strong current of water running out to sea is called a rip, and poses a real danger to swimmers. Teach older children what to do if they get caught in a rip. Don’t panic, don’t try to swim against it, but let the rip carry you until the current subsides. Then, swim parallel to the beach until well clear of the rip and, finally, swim back to shore.
- When temperatures rise, so too does your need to stay hydrated. It’s especially important for children and babies to keep from getting dehydrated, as their bodies don’t cool down as efficiently as adults, and when they’re running around, their bodies will lose fluids. Pregnant and breastfeeding mums also need to pay particular attention to staying hydrated in summer. Here are some tips for staying hydrated:
- Carry a water bottle with you – pop one into your handbag or nappy bag. Get your kids used to taking a water bottle with them when they play. You can get nifty holders for bikes and scooters that let your child clip a water
bottle on when they’re out riding. Special backpacks that hold water are also great for when you go on tramps.
- Children can lose up to a half-litre of fluid per hour through activity. Make taking water breaks every 20 minutes on hot days a part of their play, especially if they are playing sports or doing strenuous exercise.
- Ice blocks and juice popsicles are a refreshing alternative for rehydration.
- Summer fruits like watermelon are also a good source of water, so encourage fruit snacking.
- Travelling with kids presents its own set of challenges, but the priority is to ensure everyone arrives at their destination safely. When travelling by car, ensure your vehicle is checked over and its WOF and servicing is up to date. Check the oil and the air in your tyres, and ensure the car is running smoothly. Make sure all child safety seats are appropriate and in working order.
- Heading overseas, or on a domestic flight? Don’t forget to take out travel insurance with specific inclusions for accidents or medical requirements while travelling. Kids can be unpredictable, and accidents and unexpected illnesses do happen.
- Think ahead when you travel, and make sure you have plenty of nutritious snacks and water available for your children at all times. Travelling can be draining, dehydrating, and stressful for the whole family. It’s not easy for children, especially smaller ones, to understand that the payoff at the end will make the travel worth it.
•If you can, schedule a playground or play area stop along the way, and allow the kids to let off some steam. If they feel their wants are being catered for in among the drudgery of A-to-B travel, they should be much more cooperative when less enjoyable times are required of them.
Park & playground safety
- Ensure children wear helmets if they’re riding bikes, scooters, or skateboards in the park.
- Check that playgrounds are age appropriate, and steer clear of any playground equipment that is broken or damaged. Keep an eye out for hazards like broken glass.
- Report any hazards to your local council.
Outdoor pursuits safety
- Hiking, tramping, or camping in the bush these holidays? Remember, constant activity will make children hungrier, and they’ll need to drink more water than usual. Spending time in exposed outdoor environments will definitely call for prodigious use of hats, cover-up clothing and sunscreen.
- Ensure children’s clothing is appropriate; bright colours are best in the bush. Make sure your kids have sturdy, comfortable footwear too.
- Plan your trip carefully, check weather reports and be flexible about your plans. Always be prepared to cancel or turn back if conditions become unfavourable.
- Keep children in sight at all times when hiking or tramping. Engage with them about the landscape you’re in, and point out any unusual features you can see. Make sure they know what to do if they do get lost. You can show older children how to use a map and a compass.
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- Model safe behaviour when walking and crossing roads, so that children have
a good example to follow. Use pedestrian crossings, cross at traffic lights, stop to check driveways, and walk on the footpath when moving about on foot. Teach your children about the red, green, and amber of traffic lights, as well as stop-and-go pedestrian traffic signals.
- If there is no pedestrian crossing within 20 metres and you need to cross the road, only cross when it’s safe to do so. Road traffic can be busier in the holidays, so be patient!
- Always look and listen out for traffic coming from all directions.
- Children like to play in driveways when the weather is nice, so be careful when driving into and out of any driveways. Check and check again that children aren't playing behind the car.