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Lisa Black

Itasca, IL —As children head outdoors to sled, ice skate or build snow forts, parents can take steps to help them avoid injury and make sure they are dressed correctly for the winter weather.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages families to enjoy the outdoors throughout the year. Families can prevent injuries by outfitting children with protective layers of clothing and sports gear that fits correctly.

“This is the time of year when we see people return from winter break vacations with knee injuries from skiing, and hand or wrist injuries from snowboarding. We also see concussions from both these sports,” said Rebecca L Carl, MD, MS, FAAP, a member of the executive committee for the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness.

“Helmets are important for skiing and snowboarding. Gloves with wrist guards are important for snowboarding.”

The AAP offers 10 tips for outdoor winter play and sports:

  1. Dress children in thin layers with a wicking layer beneath to help children keep dry. Start with the snugger layers on the bottom, like long-sleeved bodysuits or long underwear. Then add pants and a warmer top, like a sweater or thermal-knit shirt. A thin fleece jacket over the top is a good option. As a general rule of thumb, younger children should wear one more layer than adults. Top it off with warm boots, glove or mittens, and a hat.
  2. Set reasonable time limits on outdoor play to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. Have children come inside periodically to warm up.
  3. Allow children to skate only on approved surfaces. Advise your child to skate in the same direction as the crowd, avoid darting across the ice and to never skate alone.
  4. Sledders should be kept away from streets, crowded areas, ponds, lakes and obstructions, such as trees. Make sure young children are supervised. Avoid loose scarves that can get caught while sledding.
  5. Use steerable sleds, not snow disks or inner tubes. Make sure the sleds are structurally sound and have no sharp edges or splinters. The steering mechanism should be well lubricated.
  6. If your children want to learn to ski or snowboard, look for a qualified instructor in a program designed for children. Older children’s need for adult supervision depends on their maturity and skill. If older children are not with an adult, they should always at least be accompanied by a friend.
  7. Using alcohol or drugs before any winter activity, like snowmobiling or skiing, is dangerous and should not be permitted in any situation.
  8. When skiing, bindings should be properly adjusted. Rental or sales professionals can help choose equipment that is the right size and fit.
  9. Use only helmets that are specifically made for skiing or snowboarding. They should be professionally fitted to your child. Wearing wrist guards and knee pads are a good way to help prevent bruises and fractures while snowboarding.
  10. AAP recommends that children under age 16 not operate snowmobiles and that children under age 6 never ride on snowmobiles. It’s important to wear the right gear, including goggles and a safety helmet approved for use on motorized vehicles such as motorcycles. Travel at safe speeds, stay on marked trails and never snowmobile alone or at night.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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