Summer-proof your kids

December 6, 2012, 10:21 ammenshealth

Kids love summer - it's up to you to make sure it loves them back.

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Ah, remember those magical Christmas holidays of your childhood? Beach cricket, bombing mates at the pool, playing soldiers in the bush...getting caught in a rip, breaking your arm falling off your skateboard, disturbing a death adder. Yes, summer is the time when kids really come out to play, but it also carries real risks. "It's not necessarily any worse in summer, just different threats," says Barbara Minuzzo, child safety expert at the Children's Hospital, Melbourne. "Generally, they're accidents waiting to happen, particularly when parents are tired, stressed or distracted." Some common dangers to watch for:

Christmas gifts


As much as you enjoy giving, make sure it's not something that will backfire on its gleeful recipient. Slingshots - bad. Toys with little pieces that can be swallowed by one-year-old godsons - very bad. Likewise, choose play equipment that meets Australian Standard "and if you're buying a bike or a skateboard, get the safety equipment as well", advises Minuzzo.

Water


With drowning the No.1 cause of death in kids under five, you need to be one your toes at the beach, pool, lake or river. "The first rule is to make sure they don't swim alone," says Minuzzo.

Holidays


"We're all going..." to hell in a hand basket if you don't put some thought into your holiday destination. Whether staying at a resort or with relatives, "there's a higher risk because you're in an unfamiliar environment", warns Minuzzo. Consider the potential problems before you go and take the time to scope out your surroundings once you arrive.

Play equipment


Kids fall over a lot as it is. The last thing you need is them hurting themselves thanks to faulty playground equipment thrashed by drunken teenagers. Give it a firm shake and check the bolts before sending them into orbit.

Quick bites


"We'd all rather be out bushwalking with our kids than have them play another video game, but nature can bite you sometimes," cautions Minuzzo. "So ask yourself, apart from having them wear closed footwear and long pants, whether you're ready to react if something happens. Have you done your first aid course, or your refresher course?" Well, have you?

Trampolines


There might be a new generation of safer trampolines with sides, but there's still plenty of the older type about. And that spells both f-u-n and d-a-n-g-e-r. "We don't want our kids in bubble-wrap," says Minuzzo, "but trampolines are sports equipment, not toys." For that reason, she says, they shouldn't be used by kids under six, only one child at a time should be on them and no kids should go underneath them. And when setting up your own, be alert to height (consider placing them in a hole), landing areas (keep away from paving) and what they might hit on the way down (steer clear of branches).

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