Summer vacation is a time when lots of kids are hanging around the house more than ever — and potentially getting into trouble. It's up to you to keep them from shopping online, sending thousands of text messages or letting strangers into the house when you're not home.
The government and consumer agencies track the major kinds of household accidents that cause serious injury and even death to children; knowing what's happened to others could help you protect your family.
- Pools, ponds, other water dangers: Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages 1 to 4 years old. Fencing a backyard swimming pool is critical, but parents need to be ever-vigilant of other water dangers. Young children can drown in as little as an inch of water in a 5-gallon bucket. The beach is an especially dangerous place for young children. Parents shouldn't take their eyes off toddlers playing at the edge of the surf, and stay close. Sneaker waves can pull a kid beyond reach in seconds.
- Playground equipment: Nearly 70 percent of injuries on home playground equipment are due to falls, warns the Consumer Federation of America. And it's not just concrete and asphalt surfaces causing problems. Dirt and grass aren't forgiving enough to prevent injury, either. Consider shredded wood mulch or child-friendly synthetic surfaces for a softer landing. Stay on top of the safety guidelines for equipment. Keep home play sets well-maintained, and don't allow children to climb too high.
- Sun: Exposure to the sun is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancers. Protect children by providing shade (try to bring them inside when the sun is at its peak) and dressing them in protective clothing. Make sure to generously apply — and reapply every few hours — a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen.
Choose a sunscreen that protects against UVB rays (responsible for sunburn and skin cancers) and UVA rays (associated with aging and melanoma).
Poisoning: While young children are especially vulnerable, adolescents also are at risk for poisoning — both accidental and intentional.
For young children, lock up toxic chemicals and firmly close the safety caps on medications, storing them out of little ones' reach. At all ages, carefully read labels before giving medication to children. And safely dispose of any unused or expired prescription drugs.
Keep handy the toll-free phone number for the nationwide Poison Control Center: 1-800-222-1222.
- Kitchen: Mindless eating won't help your child's waistline or yours. Stock your fridge with fresh fruit and veggies, preferably organic or locally grown, or at least well-washed, to reduce pesticides. Emphasize water (active kids need extra hydration in hot weather) rather than sugar-laden juices and sodas. Use the summer break as a time to model healthy eating habits.
- Family room: Children can suffer educationally when summer becomes a marathon of TV shows and video games. (And experts say children younger than 2 don't need any screen time, period.)
Find age-appropriate summer reading lists at schools and public libraries. Let your child browse for books she'll read just for pleasure.
Don't let your child become a summer couch potato. The NFL Play 60 campaign offers tips for exercise that will pass the cool test, like practicing a touchdown dance and Hula Hoop contests.
Web resources: www.cdc.gov/safechild and www.nflrush.com/play60