You don’t have to watch the news for very long to see or hear about some tragedy involving a child. Many accidents can be avoided with better education and supervision. True, parents cannot be with their children every waking minute and accidents do happen. However, take the time to familiarize yourself with some of the less-than-obvious, or not, ways kids get hurt while playing. As a parent, do your best to teach your kids to play safely and always know where your kids are playing. Be sure your childcare provider is aware of dangerous play. Here are 8 ways kids think they’re having fun, but someone’s likely to be injured:
1. The “How much can you fit in your mouth?” Game – never heard of this one? Well it goes like this: kids put foreign objects (such as a backpack string, plastic balls, marshmallows or other food) into their mouth to see who can fit the most. Here’s the problem: it stops their ability to breath. Lots of kids, including mine, think they will still be able to breath through the nose. Not true. Kids need to breath. Teach kids not to put things in their mouth that are not food and only take as much as they can chew and swallow comfortably.
2. Truth or Dare (should be called Truth or Dumb), the Cinnamon Challenge and other stupid stunts – Thanks to the invention of YouTube, and cable shows like Jackass and Funniest Home Videos, kids have no shortage of fools and foolish stunts to try and copy, not to mention whatever stupid things they can think of all by themselves. While the truth can hurt, daring stunts can break bones and even end a life. Teach your kids to value their bodies and their good health. Just as our mothers warned us against friends who tell us to jump off bridges, we must warn our children against copying viral videos.
3. Playing in or around dangerous places, like dumpsters, parking lots, water – Kids never think it will be them. They’re never going to get hurt. Unfortunately, we know better. Kids should never be allowed to play in or around parking lots, dumpsters or open water. We have a small pond on our property and my poor youngest child probably thought that life jacket was a part of him until he could swim. Even now (and the water is only a couple feet deep at the edge) I do not let them play near the pond alone or without an adult outside with them.
4. Playing with objects not intended as toys or for children at all, like bags, hammers, electricity – Kids will play with anything and sometimes that’s great. Sometimes it can be deadly. My son and a neighbor boy had been playing together, eating a bag of popcorn on my porch. Next thing we knew they were pretending the empty plastic bag was a hat and before we could say, “Throw that away,” my son had the bag stuck down over his face and my father-in-law was frantically tearing it apart so Joseph could breath. It literally happened that fast and we were all right there. Never let kids play with bags or with objects that can hurt them.
5. Hide and Seek (should be called Hide Where You Can Breath) – Kids just don’t think sometimes. Hide and Seek or ManHunt can be a lot of fun. Remind your kids to never hide in anything with a sealing lid or cover, like a duffelbag, chest, trunk or old fridge. Warn kids of the danger of suffocation from automobile fumes, blankets or hiding in containers or bags. Kids who play ManHunt need to wear eye protection and be warned about dangers of outside wells, moving vehicles and staying in-bounds. No matter where my kids play hide and seek, I walk through the potential dangers and safe places to hide, plus detail the boundaries of the game.
6. If it has wheels, it’s gonna hurt – Ask an emergency room doctor. Kids who ride skateboards, bikes, roller blades, four wheelers and motorcycles get hurt more often and the injuries can be serious. If your kid rides something, be sure he or she has the proper gear, such as helmet, elbow and knee pads, eye and chest protection and footwear. Then make sure he or she wears it! It is best for beginners to practice in a protected area or on a softer surface, but everybody knows those wheels need smooth asphalt to really spin. Encourage your kid to push to the edge, but also know his or her limits.
7. Unsupervised or out of sight – When I can’t hear my kids, I start to worry. Whenever you cannot see or hear kids, they are probably getting into something they shouldn’t. My little ones think they’re funny when they hide on me or try to avoid being seen, or worse, hide under the clothes rack in a store. The moment I walk away and they are left there lost in the big, bad world, it’s a whole different ball game. When in public, kids need to stick close to their family. At home or in the neighborhood, kids think they’re safe. Hopefully they are, but when you can’t see them, you might worry. Your instincts might be right. Moms (and Dads) have a little voice that tells them if something is wrong, so listen up! Trust your gut, pay attention to where your kids are and teach them there are rules for playing safely.