The final school bell of the year has sounded and signaled the beginning of summer vacation for our kids. Suddenly we have free time to fill, day camp drop-offs to manage, and trips to pack for. We also have more opportunities to consider and supervise our kids' health and safety. Summer fun in my family depends on some basic safety rules—and I get my kids involved in making sure we're all held accountable (even Mom and Dad)!
1. Buckle Up
Americans love to hit the road during the summertime—we cover an average of more 900 miles each month—so wearing a seat belt or using a car seat should be a priority. Car seats have been shown to decrease the risk of car accident death in infants by over 70%—and by 50% in toddlers. If you have kids under ten, use a reliable and safe car seat or booster seat.
Once your kids are tall enough for the shoulder strap to sit comfortably across their chest, teach them about the importance of seat belts. Whether you’re running out for ice cream, shuttling to the pool, taking a vacation, or running errands, have everyone buckle up before you even leave the driveway. Focusing on safety first allows you to have fun without worry.
2. Use Sunscreen and Bug Spray
Summer means catching some rays, but the sun is only fun if you don’t get fried like a lobster. No matter how old your children are, apply one ounce of SPF 30 or higher sunscreen to their entire body and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming. Don’t forget about their scalps, tips of their ears, and lips. Even if it’s cloudy, 80% of UVA/UVB rays can harm the skin. Words to live by: if you’re outside, put on sunscreen!
If you know you’ll be around insects, don’t forget to use bug spray. Ticks can carry Lyme disease, while mosquitoes can carry the West Nile Virus. Always check your kids for ticks after leaving high grass or wooded areas.
3. Teach Kids Water Safety
Swimming at the pool or beach is an essential part of summer. And kids who take swimming lessons, especially between the ages of one and four years, decrease their risk of drowning. Sign your children up for swimming lessons so they learn critical skills like treading water and staying calm when their face is underwater. Talk to them about water safety, and make sure they know that while it’s fun to splash around, it can be dangerous if they do it alone or play rough.
Even if your kids have had lessons and can swim confidently, always supervise them when they’re in or around a pool. Children can drown in less than two inches of water, so keep an eye out and have everyone pair up with a safety buddy. If you have a backyard pool, consider installing pool alarms. These handy gadgets alert you immediately if your kids, pets, neighbors, and other critters wander into the pool area unsupervised.
Before you head out on your next beach vacation, check rip tide reports. For added safety, swim only in areas patrolled by lifeguards.
4. Stay Hydrated
If you’re enjoying the warm summer weather, don’t forget to hydrate. The average adult needs to consume 48 ounces of water each day. Kids require different amounts of fluids depending on their age. It’s recommended children four to eight years old should drink 40 ounces of water per day, kids nine to thirteen should consume up to 64 ounces, and kids fourteen to eighteen should guzzle upwards of 90 ounces. Without frequent drink breaks, children could suffer from dehydration, which causes severe headaches, nausea, and worse.
5. Stay Cool
Summer is a great time for outdoor play, but when your kids are out in the heat and sun for too long, they are at risk for heat stroke. Learn the warning signs: if your kids stop sweating, become exhausted, faint, or seem confused, call the doctor and get them to a cool area immediately. Better yet, prevent heat stroke by making your kids take lots of breaks, hydrate often with cold beverages, and stay inside on days when it’s above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Never Leave Kids or Pets in the Car You’ve probably experienced the oven-like quality your car adopts on hot summer afternoons. Even on a 78-degree (Fahrenheit) day, temperatures in a car can reach 100–120 degrees. Both kids and pets can suffer irreversible brain damage in less time than it takes for you to buy something at the grocery store, so don’t ever leave them in the car—not even for one second!
Summer vacation is a time to let loose, spend quality time together, and have fun. Keep it happy and healthy so your entire family can enjoy a summer they’ll never forget.