By Teresa Schaeffer
Bicycles, tricycles, scooters, rollerblades and skateboards can be a great way for children to exercise, burn off some energy, have some fun and develop a sense of independence while improving their gross motor skills at the same time but these activities are not without risk. Apart from automobiles, these activities are related to more childhood injuries than any other consumer products. The consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that there were nearly 240,000 accidents involving bicycles and tricycles alone last year.
Here are a few important things you can do to keep your child safe this summer:
Wearing a helmet is the easiest and most effective way to prevent injuries and provide life-saving protection for your child. A properly fitting helmet can reduce head injuries by up to 85%. The catch is it that it has to actually be worn. With so many different designs you can find one that is not only comfortable for your child to wear but also fits their style. Look for vents in the helmet for an extra cool ride and a dial adjustment system to make sure it has a very secure and comfortable fit.
No matter what style you choose, check that the helmet has been safety tested. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) test helmets to see if they comply with certain minimum standards and are ready to protect your child in the case of a fall or accident. Look for at least one of these certifications on any product you are considering purchasing for your child. If your child will also be skateboarding, be sure to get a dual certified helmet for both biking and skateboarding. A dual certified helmet will have stickers on the interior that say both CPSC and ASTM.
Make sure you have a good fit! Bike helmets come in many sizes and they can often differ greatly depending on the brand and manufacturer. No matter the brand or the size, every helmet will come with a head circumference range so be sure to measure your child’s head before purchasing. Using a soft tape measure, check the circumference at the thickest part of the head. That will typically be about an inch above their eyebrows.
When worn, the bike helmet should sit level and low on the forehead. It should be no more than one or two finger-widths above the eyebrows. A helmet that is too low or tilted forward can obstruct a child’s view while riding and a helmet that is too high or tilted back won’t protect a child’s face or forehead. A good test is to look at the helmet from the side. It should be level and stick out past the tip of the child’s nose in order to properly protect the head and face.
The chin strap should be snug, so that only 1 finger finger can fit under it and the dial adjust knob at the back of the helmet should be adjusted so that the helmet is snug but not uncomfortable. To check that the helmet is tightened correctly, have your child shake their head up and down as well as back and forth. The helmet should stay firmly in place with little to no movement.