A season of safety: Fall safety tips for children

bike light
Equip bicycles or scooters with headlamps and use them as soon as the sun sets.

November 7, 2012

Falling leaves signal the beginning of autumn — as well as winter sports, the holiday season and longer nights. UC Davis Children’s Hospital and the UC Davis Trauma Prevention Program have advice for helping children and teens stay safe at home, school, on the playing field and around the neighborhood.

Staying visible in the dark

With “falling back” to Pacific Standard Time, children and teens are at an increased risk for accidents as they try to grab the last few minutes of daylight for outdoor play. Participating in after-school sports and clubs may mean that they are walking or bicycling home at dusk or after dark, when driver visibility is lower. Here are some tips for ensuring safety when the days are shorter:

  • Remind children and teenagers to walk on sidewalks rather than in the street, especially at night, and make sure they cross streets only at corners and when safe — and never between parked cars.
  • Ensure that children wear easy-to-see, light-colored clothing and outerwear, and shoes with light-reflecting material. Small flashlights that attach to backpacks or belt loops also can greatly increase pedestrian visibility.
  • Equip bicycles or scooters with headlights and taillights, and encourage children and teens to turn them on when darkness begins to fall.
  • Encourage children and teens to be vigilant when riding bicycles, scooters, skateboards or other “wheels,” counsel them about the danger from cars or other motor vehicles, and make sure they always wear helmets when riding. In California, helmet use, which has reduced the incidence of brain injury by as much as 88 percent, is the law!

Heads up on the playground

soccer player wearing safety gear
Wear protective gear suitable to your sport — a helmet and mouth guard, knee and elbow pads, shin guards and proper footwear.

While schoolyard sports and activities typically are safe and well supervised, each year more than 200,000 children nationwide are injured on playgrounds, primarily due to falls that are especially prevalent when the weather is wetter. It pays to “pay attention,” whether they’re swinging from the monkey bars or scaling the jungle gym. Make sure they stop, look, listen and:

  • Wear appropriate shoes such as tightly laced athletic shoes.
  • Avoid squeezing their heads between bars or twist them in swing chains.
  • Use guardrails on suspended bridges and catwalks.
  • Check equipment for sharp edges or exposed hardware.
  • Avoid jumping from swings, tall structures and from one piece of playground equipment to another.

On the playing field

The part of your body most vulnerable to injury is your head, so use it or lose it! When playing football, soccer or any other contact sport, encourage youth to:

  • Wear protective gear suitable to your sport — a helmet and mouth guard, knee and elbow pads, shin guards and proper footwear.
  • Warm up with mild stretching exercises before beginning game play and slowly increase intensity.
  • Wet your whistle! Drink lots of water at regular intervals to prevent dehydration.
  • To avoid injury in soccer, refrain from “heading” the ball. This is especially important for children under 10 and watch out for those goal posts!

Home for the holidays

The joyful hustle and bustle of the holidays also bring seasonal dangers in the kitchen, under the tree and beyond. Watch for children under foot and choose your gifts and activities wisely.

  • Select age-appropriate toys and games and carefully inspect gifts they receive from others.
  • Remove strings or ribbons from toys for small children.
  • When cooking, turn pot handles inward on the stovetop and check behind you when removing food from the oven and range.
  • Make sure that natural Christmas trees are well watered and that artificial trees are labeled fire resistant.
  • Store bags, gift wrap, ribbons and bows away from small children. 
  • Extinguish fireplace fires, and turn off indoor and outdoor holiday lights before bedtime.
  • When enjoying winter sports, rest when tired, as most injuries occur after lunchtime when fatigue sets in, and wear layered clothing, sunglasses, goggles and sunscreen. Snowboarders should wear protective helmets and wrist guards.

Learn more about UC Davis

UC Davis Children’s Hospital is a world-class pediatric hospital devoted to the health of babies, children and adolescents.

The goal of the UC Davis Trauma Prevention Program is to identify and as much as possible eliminate the causes of preventable injury: unsafe behaviors, conditions and environments.