When we think back to ‘the good old days’ of our own childhood summers, you know, when there was no school for such a long time, our memories lean to the ideal. There were trips to the beach and up to the lake, and if we were lucky, to the PNE or even more distant and glorious destinations. We had few worries about getting sunburned — we still got them but we were not as aware of the long term consequences of sun damage. Will our children remember their summers in the same way?
Much like our own return to school in September, our kids will be asked by friends and teachers alike, “what did you do this summer?” How will they answer? Some, unfortunately, may only offer “I stayed home and played computer games or watched television,” but that needn’t be the case. Summer adventures can be simple and local and parents can do much to help create memories that last.
Living as we do so close to the ocean offers spontaneous summer fun and distractions. What visitors flock to discover we have every day to enjoy in our very backyard. While natural playthings are accessible and fun — think of jumping off logs and diving off a dock or maybe flying down a hilly trail on the mountain bike — keeping children safe will always need to be a consideration.
Arranging adult supervision for outdoor activities can require a lot of coordination, especially when parents are working. Ideally, friends and family can be a part of summer planning. Organized camps help, too. They can be a safe and fun way for a child to become more independent, to learn about new things and to interact with different people.
Some of the concerns about keeping children safe in the summer are common sense year-round but can be even more necessary in the lazy days of summer with its feelings of freedom and invulnerability. We have discussed water safety earlier this summer, but never forget the need for supervision when kids are around the water, whatever their age.
Summer is an ideal time for rolling along on bikes, skateboards, scooters and in-line skates. Think back to those great adventures of your summers, of riding all over town and into the trails around your house or school. Wheels deliver an ever-popular activity for kids of every age. Along with adventure comes the need to stay in one piece. That means helmets, pads and gloves and knowing how to use the equipment and where to go. Being safe on wheels could well be the difference between an awesome summer story, and one with ‘hospital’ in the title.
Always keep an eye on your children, especially those aged five to 10 who love to take chances. Teach your kids to be smart on the playground: Keep away from moving swings and the bottom of slides; sit down on slides or swings; and watch for others.
Although backyard trampolines remain popular, they are a common source of injuries for children ages five to 14: cuts, bruises, sprains, broken bones and even head and back injuries. For that reason, the Canadian Paediatric Society discourages them for home use.
Are today’s children encouraged to engage in conversations about their summer experiences? Providing group activities and following up with listening to the way they describe their experiences, supports the legacies of summer encounters. Chatting with your children about summer experiences, under a shady tree is an activity in itself. Help them create a summer memorable for all the right, and fun, reasons.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for Vancouver Coastal Health for the regions including the Sunshine Coast and Powell River.