Keeping Kids Warm and Safe During Winter

Don’t let the plunging temperatures keep you and your family cooped up indoors this winter.  If you gear up and take some precautions against the cold, your kids can benefit from all that fresh air and enjoy the great outdoors.

Cheryl Butler
3-minute read

Don’t let the plunging thermometer keep you and your family cooped up indoors this winter.  Enjoy some outdoor fun with Mighty Mommy's easy tips on wintertime safety:

Dress in Layers

The best way to dress for winter is to wear layers. This gives you flexibility to add or remove layers, depending on the weather and your activity. There are three main layers to consider: wicking, insulating, and weather protection.

  • Wicking layer: This is the layer worn next to the skin, usually consisting of long underwear, heavy socks, and thermal tees and turtlenecks.

  • Insulating layer: This middle layer includes sweaters, sweatshirts, vests, and pullovers. The purpose of this layer is to keep heat in and cold out, which is accomplished by trapping warm air between the fibers.

  • Weather protection layer: The exterior layer, generally a shell and pants, serves as your guard against the elements. It should repel water from snow and rain and block the wind.

Gear Up for Safety

Fun in the snow usually means sledding, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and other activities that include the word "snow."  Just like with bicycle riding, wearing helmets for winter sports can reduce the risk of dangerous head injuries, and can often be the difference between a minor scrape and a major event. 

Helmets also provide extra protection and insulation from the cold.  Eye goggles are also important for winter sports to protect the eyes from the wind, as well as things like branches and debris that kick back when you and your sled are moving at warp speed.

Know the Environment

According to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics, every year about 20,000 patients under age 19 are treated for sledding-related injuries in U.S. emergency departments. Of those injuries, the majority were the result of a collision with an object on or near the snow hill.

Be sure and really look over the area where your kids will be sledding so if you see any kind of obstacles on the hill or at the bottom, like trees, fences, rocks, or even streams you can take precautions to steer your kids in a safe direction.

Supervise Snow Activities Closely

Kids who love to play in the snow don’t always stop to think of safety.  Take the time to make sure your kids know how to sit on their sleds properly, keeping their hats and gloves on, and make sure they aren’t throwing icy snow balls that could really do damage.

And don’t discount supervision for older kids ages 10 – 15.  They tend to be more daring and will use objects other than sleds to slide on, so be sure to give safety reminders to them as well..

Take Breaks from the Cold

Most cold weather-related injuries often take place after children have been going strong for hours. Why? Because engaging in physical activity in the cold forces the body to work harder to keep itself warm, which in turn, causes kids to get tired and reduces their ability to react quickly. 

Frequent breaks allow kids to rehydrate, get warm, put dry clothes on, and just rest up before going back out again.

Use Sunscreen

Make no mistake: Sunburns aren't exclusive to the warm summer months. You can still get sunburned during the winter. Sun rays reflect off the white snow and can really do some damage, so be sure to apply sunscreen to all exposed areas, especially during strenuous activity.

Keep Hydrated

In the drier winter air, kids lose more water through their breath. Keep them drinking throughout the day. Use their breaks from the snow as an opportunity to offer warm drinks and soup for an extra warming effect

Watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite. Pale, grey, or blistered skin on the fingers, ears, nose, and toes are some of thw warning signs. If you think your child is in danger of frostbite, bring the child indoors immediately and put the affected area in warm (not hot) water. Signs of hypothermia are shivering, slurred speech, and unusual clumsiness. If you think your child has symptoms of hypothermia call 9-1-1 immediately.

Have Fun

Winter activities - like sledding, making snow angels, building snowmen, taking nature walks in the snow - can be just as much fun as a day at the beach. So take advantage of Mother Nature during the colder seasons, then head indoors to your cozy home to enjoy hot cocoa and cookies.

For more practical parenting tips and tricks, check out quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy.

Girls in winter and kids with snowman images courtesy of Shutterstock.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler

Cheryl L. Butler is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. Call the Mighty Mommy listener line at 401-284-7575 to ask a parenting question. Your call could be featured on the show!