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5 Top Winter Sports

Child with ice skates

Heather Weston

Inspired by the Olympics? Lace up a pair of skates and give ice skating a try! Kids as young as age 4 can head out on the ice if they are steady walkers with good balance. Follow these tips for a fun, safe afternoon of skating:

  • Find a safe place to skate. You can either skate at an ice rink or outdoors. But before sliding out onto a local pond, check for signs posted by the local police or recreation department stating that the ice has been approved for skating. If there are no signs, call the police or rec department to see which areas are safe for skating.
  • Go with the flow. Always skate in the same direction as the crowd.
  • Toss potential choking hazards. Make sure your kids throw out any gum or candy before hitting the ice.

Dash Through the Snow Safely

Shannon Greer

Sledding is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy. All you need is a snow-covered hill and a sturdy sled. When you head out for your first ride, keep these safety tips in mind:

  • Choose your location carefully. Sled on an open area of packed snow -- not ice. Make sure there are no rocks, tree limbs, stumps, or other hazards that are hidden by the snow. Make sure the bottom of the slope is a sufficient distance from traffic.
  • Use proper equipment. Choose a sled that is sturdy and doesn't have any sharp edges. Also, make sure the handles you'll hold onto are secure.
  • Get a sled you can steer. To be more in control, choose a sled or toboggan that you can steer easily. Don't use a makeshift sled.
  • Sit up. Always sled sitting up with your feet first. Lying flat increases your risk of injury.

Child holding skis

Heather Weston

Trips to ski resorts for downhill skiing and snowboarding are popular winter activities for many families. Some even make it an annual event. In addition, many community groups organize reasonably priced ski and snowboarding trips. Typically, children need to be a little older (usually around 7 years or so) for snowboarding than for skiing. To keep your family safe year after year, follow these guidelines:

  • Wear safety equipment. Always wear a helmet and goggles to protect your head and eyes.
  • Get pro help. Beginners should take at least one lesson to learn basic techniques and safety skills.
  • Ski or snowboard safely. Make sure your kids don't go too fast or get out of control.
  • Use caution when entering and exiting the ski lift.
  • Stick to slopes you can handle. Don't ski or snowboard above your ability. If you're a beginner, stick to beginner slopes.

How can you tell if your child is ready to suit up for ice hockey? If he is at least 6 years old, has good hand-eye coordination, is a good ice skater, and can play well on a team, he may be ready. If he decides to give it a try, be sure he follows these safety recommendations:

  • Always wear all the required safety equipment. Whether it's just practice or an actual game, make sure your child wears all the necessary safety gear including a helmet and face mask, mouth guard, gloves, and pads for shoulders, knees, elbows, and shins.
  • Get a good fit. Check your child's equipment regularly to make sure it fits well and is in good condition.
  • Avoid contact. Teach your child to avoid contact with the boards and with other players.
  • Make sure first aid is available at all games and practices.

Whether your child's winter activity of choice is building a snowman on the front lawn or skating on a local pond, keep these recommendations in mind:

  • Dress kids warmly. Keep little ones warm and dry by piling on several layers of clothing. Some good choices: Thermal long johns, turtlenecks, shirts, pants, sweaters, and a coat. Don't forget warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.
  • Set limits on outside time. Time flies when you're playing in the snow, so be sure to call your child in periodically to warm up. A cup of hot cocoa is a good reason to come inside!
  • Keep babies indoors. Infants lose body heat very quickly, so avoid taking them outside when the temperature dips below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Don't forget the sun protection. Even on blustery winter days, make sure your child is protected by sunscreen.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.