Drowning is one of the greatest summer risks for children, so always watch children closely when they are near water. Children age 4 and younger have the highest drowning rate.
- Even if your children can swim, never let them swim unsupervised.
- Watch young children carefully, even if you are not near a pool, lake, river or ocean. Small children can drown in as little as one inch of water, and have drowned in wading pools, bathtubs, buckets, toilets, and hot tubs.
- Keep children in your direct line of sight while supervising them. Be cautious about becoming distracted with poolside reading, socializing with guests, or listening to music with a headset. Children can drown silently and quickly, and many have drowned while preoccupied adults were around the pool area.
- Install pool fencing and always lock the gate. Pool fencing should be at least four feet high and surrounding all four sides of the pool — the house should not be used as one of the sides.
- Teach your child to swim. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children begin swimming lessons at 4 years old.
- When boating, have your child wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life vest. The majority of boating-related drownings could have been prevented if a life jacket had been worn. (Blow-up water wings and other pool toys should not be used as life jackets or life preservers.)
- Set a good example by wearing your life jacket and encourage other adults to do so as well.
- Be aware of undercurrents, tides and waves. Children and adults can be swept away by these unexpectedly strong forces. Check for signs posted in the area or check tide charts to know when high tide will be.
- Make sure water is at least nine feet deep before you let your child dive.
- Become CPR certified so you are prepared for an emergency. All children age 13 and older should learn CPR.
- If your child is missing, check the pool or nearby vehicles (see Vehicle Temperatures) first. Both are quick, deadly, silent risks to children and parents often do not think to check the pool until it is too late.
- Protect your children's skin by limiting the time they are in the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun's rays are strongest.
- Cover up! Have your child wear a broad-brimmed hat and light-weight tightly woven clothing that covers up as much as is comfortably possible.
- Use sunscreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) that protects against both UVA and UVB rays on your children before they go outside, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before your children go out in the sun so that it is well absorbed. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and each time after your child swims.
- Have your children wear sunglasses to help block rays that can be harmful to eyes. Make sure the lenses block UV rays - many "kiddie" glasses do not protect against UV rays.
- Keep your children hydrated. Pack water if they are going to be in the sun or participating in physical activities and remind them to drink even if they are not thirsty.
- Read more about sunburn prevention.
Every year children die or are seriously injured when left in a car during the summer months. These tragedies happen to families of all socio-economic backgrounds — no one is immune. Remember these safety measures:
- Never leave a child alone in a car, even if they are sleeping in their car seat and you need a break. Even with a window cracked, a closed car can overheat in a couple of minutes.
- Make sure all children get out of the car when you arrive at your destination.
- Keep your car - including the trunk - locked at all times, even in the garage or driveway so a child can't sneak in and become trapped.
- Teach children not to play in or around parked cars, even at home.
- Check the temperature of the car seat surface and safety belt buckles before buckling your child in.
- If your child is missing, check nearby vehicles or pools (see Water Safety) first. Both are quick, deadly, silent risks to children and parents often do not think to check the vehicle until it is too late.
While it is refreshing to open the windows of your home when the weather turns warm, remember that children can fall out of open windows — even with the screens in.
- If possible, open windows from the top, not the bottom, so children cannot reach the opening.
- Install window guards. Screens will give way under a child's weight, but window guards will keep her from falling out. Window guards can be purchased at home and safety supply stores.
- Move furniture such as couches and tables away from windows so toddlers cannot access open windows.
Follow these tips to keep your child safe while riding his bike:
- Get a bike that is the right size for your child. Oversized bikes can be dangerous, especially if your child's feet cannot touch the ground.
- Make sure your child can operate the brakes.
- Get a helmet for your child that is fitted correctly. Helmets should sit on top of the head with the straps buckled, and should not be able to rock forward, backward, or side to side.
- Have your child wear his or her bicycle helmet whenever he or she is on a bike, even if not going far. Head injuries can happen in driveways and on sidewalks - not just on major streets.
- Encourage the parents of your child's friends to have their children wear a helmet. Children are more likely to wear a helmet if their peers do.
- Wear your helmet when biking to model safe behavior.
- Have your child also wear a helmet when using a scooter, rollerblades, or a skateboard. Knee, wrist and elbow pads are also important for these activities. All children 16 years of age or under are required by Massachusetts law to wear a helmet while participating in the preceding sports and also while bicycling.
- Teach your child the rules of the road:
- Ride on the right side of the road — with traffic, not against it.
- Use appropriate hand signals.
- Stop at stop signs and stoplights.
- Stop and look both ways before entering or crossing a street.
- Read more about bicycle, in-line skating and skateboarding safety.
Many summertime injuries happen on playgrounds. Falls are the most common cause, but strangulation is another risk. When your children play on playground equipment:
- Make sure an adult watches them. Lack of supervision is associated with 40 percent of playground injuries.
- Remove hood drawstrings from your child's jacket and make sure she does not wear a bicycle helmet, necklace, scarf or anything that could get caught in the playground equipment.
- Make sure the playground is age-appropriate for your child.
- Avoid playgrounds with asphalt, concrete, grass or dirt under the equipment. Children are twice as likely to hurt themselves if there is not a soft impact-absorbing surface below the equipment, such as mats, shredded rubber, bark chips or fine sand.
Keep these safety tips in mind when mowing the lawn:
- Make sure your child and pets are indoors. Even though they may be on the other side of the yard, children can move quickly and impulsively and may not be aware of the lawn mower blade.
- Turn off the mower if a child comes near while you are mowing.
- Riding mowers were not made for children to ride on, even with an adult. There is too much of a risk of a child falling off and sliding under the mower.
- Clear away any twigs, stones, toys or glass that could be picked up and thrown by the lawn mower.
- Make sure your lawnmower is off and inoperable when you leave it unattended.
Walk or bike with your child to school when they are younger than 10 years old. Teach your child to:
- Only cross in crosswalks.
- Look "left, right, left" before crossing the street. Check for cars, motorcycles and bicyclists.
- When crossing, watch for cars turning left and/or right.
- Never cross the street from between two parked cars. Drivers may not be able to see you.
If there are no sidewalks, walk on the left side of the road facing traffic, so you can see oncoming cars.