It’s a fun recreational winter sport that involves a child speeding down a hill on a crude projectile with no brakes or steering. What could possibly go wrong?

Every year, about 33,000 sledding injuries are serious enough to require emergency room treatment. Of these ER visits, more than 20,000 involve children, according to a 2010 study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. Sledding can involve speeding down hills at speeds of 20 miles per hour or more. If a child strikes a hard object such as a rock at these speeds, it is the equivalent of being struck by a car.

The Best, Safest Sleds for Kids

The safest sleds for kids are the traditional plastic elongated kind, which happily, also tend to be the cheapest. Try to avoid saucers and inner-tubes, since these give the least amount of control and also spin the child around so that they are more likely to crash head first, thus increasing injury rates. As for metal sleds, avoid them like the plague and retire them to the antique shop where they belong.

Sledding Safety for Parents

  • Always have children wear a helmet when doing any winter sport. Parents often make children wear a helmet for bicycle riding, but forget about one when skiing or sledding, which can be just as dangerous. In the aforementioned study of sledding related ER visits, the head was the most commonly injured body part.
  • Provide children with eye protection as well. Not only will it increase their vision and fun, it protects their eyes from foreign objects that may be in the snow or from bush branches that might whack them in the eyes.
  • Check out and pre-approve any place your children want to go sledding. Walk the path first very carefully to ensure that there are no hazards present that could cause a serious injury.
  • Pick a sledding area that is gently sloped, with a flat area at the bottom of the run to allow for a gradual and gentle stop when done. Pick an area free of debris, and away from roads, trees, fences, utility poles, lamp posts, parked cars, or frozen bodies of water. Make sure it doesn’t end near a street.
  • Remember sun protection during the winter too! Snow reflects the sun and can cause burning, even on cloudy days. Dabble some sunscreen on your child’s face.
  • Never pull the sled with a car or an ATV. In the study by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, nearly 6,000 of the child sledding accidents happened this way.
  • Limit the number of kids you pile on the sled, since kids can bump into each other during a spill. Be sure to stick to the manufacturer’s recommendation for the sled’s capacity.
  • Bundle your kid up to stay warm!

Safe Sledding Rules for Kids

  • When doing any winter sport, being aware of the people and obstacles around you is the most important thing.
  • Teach children to never sled on a street or near the street. Make sure there is no danger of your kid going too far and sliding onto a street.
  • Always check the area first for any rocks or hazards that might be on the hill.
  • Avoid sitting head first in a sled. This greatly increases the risk of injury.
  • Teach kids to shout as they are going down the hill so that anyone in front of them can get out of the way.

Sledding Safety Resources for Kids

* Print a sledding safety coloring sheet for your child.