Summer has finally arrived! That means temperatures on the rise, longer days, sunshine, and hours spent playing outside with our children. It might also mean a much needed break for you, while your children exert some energy on the playground, especially after a long winter of being cooped up indoors. That said, when it comes to summer safety for toddlers, there are a few popular playtime hot spots that need a little bit of child-proofing before you let your kids run wild. It goes without saying that you should make sure your kids are wearing sunscreen and protective shoes. So, today we go a level deeper and address safety in the sandbox, by the grill, at the pool and in the car.
In the Sandbox
As dirty and dusty as most sandboxes are, kids love to play in them. However, common "play sand" that is sold at home improvement stores is hardly considered safe. Most sand designed to be used in our children's sandboxes is made of crystalline silica or crushed quartz. This compound is a known carcinogen and can cause a lung disease known as silicosis. Some brands also contain tremolite asbestos, which can lead to increased lung cancer risks if it is inhaled. Exposure may also be related to chronic renal disease and autoimmune disorders, in addition to other health-related problems.Unfortunately, there are very few if any regulations for the use of these contaminants in consumer products like play stand.
- A form of occupational lung disease caused by inhalation of crystalline silica dust, and is marked by inflammation and scarring in the form of nodular lesions in the upper lobes of the lungs. It is a type of pneumoconiosis.
- Tremolite Asbestos
- One of the six recognized types of asbestos. This material is toxic and inhaling the fibers can lead to asbestosis, lung cancer and both plural and peritoneal mesothelioma. Fibrous tremolite is sometimes found as a contaminant in vermiculite, chrysotile and talc.
How do you know if your play sand is safe?
You can always avoid the sandbox completely. However, if that's unrealistic, the best way to protect your children from a toxic sandbox is to provide a safe, non-hazardous sandbox alternative. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Buy natural river sand or beach sand (check with your local landscaping company).
- Avoid products made from:
- Crushed limestone
- Crushed marble
- Crushed crystalline silica (quartz)
- Other products that are obviously dusty
- Stop using any play sand that is not labeled or that uses toxic ingredients (and encourage your preschool or daycare to do the same).
Check out this white play sand by Sandtastik. This play sand is perfect for indoor sand tables in the classroom or at home, and is also wonderful for an outdoor sandbox. Even better, it is safe for our children because it is non-toxic and contains NO free silica or NO free quartz.
Making sure your children are playing in a "safe" sandbox is only half of the battle. Not only are they enjoyed by children, but every animal that passes through your yard or the neighborhood playground at night. As a result, your child could be exposed to parasitic problems such as roundworms or toxoplasmosis if any sand goes in their mouth. If sand gets wet, it can also breed bacteria. Since we're talking about toddlers who put EVERYTHING into their mouth, we have to be even more careful.
How can you prevent these issues?
- Cover your sandbox or table when it is not in use.
- Allow sand to dry out thoroughly before covering it for the night.
- Regularly rake sand to remove any debris or foreign material.
- Don't allow your family pets to play with your children in the sandbox.
- Replace the sand in your sandbox every year.
- If your child has an accident in the sandbox, replace the sand immediately.
- Wash everyone's hands immediately after playing in the sand.
By the Grill
Who doesn't love to have a cookout on the patio or eat meals outside with the family during the summer? We sure do! And while most parents are careful to keep children away from the grill while the meal is being prepared, a lot of parents tend to take their guard down after dinner when the grill may still be hot. Since today's grills have lot of shiny knobs and buttons that seem to attract tiny fingers, we offer 7 tips for keeping your toddlers safe around the grill.
- Keep all children and pets away from the grilling area. Establish a 3-foot kid-free safety zone around the grill. Your kids can even help you draw a border on the pavement using sidewalk chalk. You may find that they pay better attention to a line that they've drawn themselves.
- Teach your children that the grill is HOT HOT, and that they must play away from the grilling area.
- Keep all toys in a separate area away from the grill.
- Never leave the grill unattended.
- Be aware of any jagged edges on the grill that could cause injury. Even if you've drawn the safety line around the grill, you can further protect your children by covering these sharp edges with masking tape.
- Store charcoal fluid out of reach of children and away from heat source.
- Finally, place metal grilling tools out of children's reach, on a solid surface.
At the Pool
Toddlers love to play in, with and around water. Unfortunately, whether it be in within the confines of a water table, a bucket, a bowl, the toilet, bathtub, sink, puddles or the pool, water can be incredibly dangerous. We are sure you've heard it before, but this is a reminder that a young child can drown in less than an inch of water. So, when playing near water, don't take your eyes off your children for a minute!
How can you keep your child safe at the pool?
You should be actively watching your children at all times while they are in a pool. Specifically, if you have an infant or toddler, you should be in the water with your children and within arm's reach to provide "touch supervision." It also goes without saying that if you're going to be in the pool with your child (or even supervising), that you should know how to swim. Here are several other life-saving steps you need to take this summer:
- Take an infant/child CPR course. You can never be too prepared. Check out this post on Training for Parenthood: Infant and Child CPR for more details on how to find one suitable for you.
- Make sure that your child is wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) that fits properly and is approved by the U.S. Coast Guard. Do not rely on water wings or other inflatable objects, or water toys to keep your child safe in the water.
- Do not dunk a baby underwater. Most infants have a natural tendency to hold their breath if they are dunked. However, they may be just as likely to swallow water, making them more susceptible to all kinds of bacteria and viruses that exist in pool water.
- Be careful when playing the "1, 2, 3 Catch Me" game. While many of our children learned this technique as part of a baby swim class, it can be dangerous if children don't understand the consequences of jumping without someone to catch them. Rather than catch and lift your child back out, let your kids get their faces wet and direct them back to the side of the pool.
- Make sure public pools have a lifeguard on duty, that they are equipped with proper rescue equipment, and that a phone is available in case of an emergency. Be sure to also bring your cell phone with you.
- Keep a cordless phone available if you're enjoying the pool at your home, so that you don't have to run inside to answer the phone.
- Remove any toys (including riding toys) from the water or deck of your pool so your children aren't encouraged to play near the pool.
- Completely enclose your home pool with a fence that's at least 4 feet high, self-closing with a self-latching gate that opens away from the pool. Be sure to always lock the gate after each use, and make sure there's nothing your child can climb on to get over the pool's fence.
- Completely drain inflatable or plastic wading pools after every use. Store in an upright position, away from children.
Check out Sterns Deluxe Puddle Jumper for children between 30-50 lbs. This is a "Coast Guard Approved" Life Jacket for children. It is made with a durable nylon fabric shell and PE foam with an adjustable buckle and snaps in the back making it difficult for kids to remove while they are wearing it, thus keeping them safer in the water. The innovative design also allows children to move and swim freely, without the life jacket riding up around their necks.
What about swim lessons?
The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that swimming lessons for children ages 1 to 4 may decrease the risk of drowning, assuming that the child is developmentally ready to learn how to swim. A child is developmentally ready based on the following factors (source: American Academy of Pediatrics):
- Frequency of water exposure
- Emotional maturity
- Physical limitations
- Health concerns related to swimming pools
However, swim lessons are not a replacement for adult supervision. When you bring your child to the pool, start teaching simple water safety rules such as:
- Don't go near the water without an adult.
- Never dunk another child.
- NO RUNNING on the pool deck.
- Always jump in feet first.
What do you do if your child falls into the water?
If your child slips under the water while playing in the pool (or bathtub for that matter), they will probably come up coughing. However, if they have been underwater for much longer than a moment, you need to move quickly and calmly. Do the following:
- Lift your child out of the water.
- Gently shake or tap your child for a response. If they are unresponsive, aren't breathing, or you can't find a pulse, immediately start infant/child CPR.
- If someone is nearby, call for help and tell them to dial 911.
- Don't stop doing CPR until your child shows signs of life, another trained rescuer takes over, and AED becomes available, or emergency personnel arrive.
- Take your child to the Emergency Room for a complete medical evaluation immediately if they've nearly drowned. Even if your child seems okay, they may have inhaled water and stopped breathing, which could cause lung or nervous system damage. Secondary drowning deaths can occur as much as 48 hours after the accident (source: US National Library of Medicine).
Even children who aren't talking yet are able to understand a lot more than you may realize. So start teaching water safety NOW to ensure that your child is aware of all the fun and dangers a day at the pool can bring.
In the Car
It's hard to imagine that anyone could forget about their child in the back seat, but it happens to even the best of parents. Perhaps your routine was interrupted or your day got off on the wrong foot, or you figured that you'd only be in the store for a minute. Whatever the case, leaving your child in the car by themselves is a huge "no no" in general, but it can be a deadly mistake on a hot summer day. In fact, since 1990, over 650 children have died of heatstroke in the United States (source: Kids and Cars).
What are the Risks?
- A child can die when their temperature reaches 107.
- Children's body temperature increases 5x faster than adults'.
- A car can heat up 20 degrees Fahrenheit in 10 minutes.
- Cracking a window does not cool your car down enough.
- Your car can heat up to over 110 degrees when the temperature is in the 60s.
- Heatstroke can occur when the temperature is a mere 57 degrees outside.
How can you prevent heat stroke this summer?
- Never leave a child unattended in the car.
- Teach your children that the car/van/SUV/truck is not a play toy. Do not allow your children to play in an unoccupied vehicle.
- Always check the backseat of your car before locking the door. Double check.
- When the car seat is not being used by your child, keep a stuffed animal in their place. You can move the stuffed animal to the front seat when you buckle your child in as a visual reminder.
- Never leave your child (or pet) in a parked vehicle, even if the windows are partially open.
- Walk other childcare providers through these steps each time they keep your child.
- If you see a child alone in a hot vehicle, call 911 immediately.
Now that you know the dangers you're up against, prepare yourself. Then, have fun! A little child-proofing today will make for a summer of good times that doesn't include a trip to the ER.
For more summer fun, check out our post on How to: Introduce Your Child to the Swimming Pool.