Exercise behavioral scientist offers tips on summer activity safety for children
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
MANHATTAN — Summer is a great time for children to be active outdoors. A Kansas State University exercise behavioral scientist has some tips for parents to help kids stay safe while having fun in the sun.
"Injuries and illnesses can put a damper on summer fun, so if there's anything you can do to increase safety for your kids, do it," Katie Heinrich, associate professor of exercise behavioral science and director of the kinesiology department's Functional Intensity Training Lab.
Heinrich said sunscreen is a must for any outdoor activity. However, applying it once doesn't mean the job is done. Whether using a spray, stick or lotion, parents need to read the product's label for information about reapplication, especially when sweat and water are involved.
"It works best to set a time where everyone takes a break to reapply sunscreen so parents aren't pulling one child away from the activity," Heinrich said. "Reapply to everyone and send them back out for more fun, knowing they're safe from sun damage. Hats, ultraviolet-protectant clothing and sunglasses are great for kids to wear, too."
Dehydration is another concern, especially as temperatures continue to rise. Heinrich said the antidote is simple: drinking water. While water might not sound exciting to some children, Heinrich said adults can try several tricks to add some pizzazz to H20: put ice in it, pour it into their favorite color of bottle, add a splash of juice or toss in pieces of fresh fruit. The most important thing, Heinrich said, is to make the water available.
"If the water is nearby and accessible, they'll be more likely to pick it up and take a drink," Heinrich said. "They will especially want to drink it if you are drinking it too, so make drinking water a 'social norm' within your family."
To avoid injuries, Heinrich advises making sure children wear proper helmets, elbow pads or other protective gear appropriate for their activities. If they don't want to wear the gear, show them someone else wearing it — even if that someone is their parent.
"Some kids might refuse to wear a helmet, so when you say, 'OK, we're going on a bike ride,' the first thing you should do as a parent is put your helmet on," Heinrich said. "Then, the child is much more likely to wear one."
Though there are risks to any activity, Heinrich said after taking proper precautions, it is best to not worry and simply enjoy getting active.
"Don't be afraid to sweat and get a little dirty," she said. "Your mental and physical health will thank you."