Family Fun and Outdoor Safety
By Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
Winter is a fantastic time of the year to get outside and enjoy the season. Snowshoeing, sledding, skiing, hiking, and animal tracking are just a few of the choices that are waiting for you right outside your door in the winter! But before you head out on the family winter outing, it's important to take a few minutes to be sure you've got everything you need to have a safe adventure.
Appropriate winter clothing is a must. All areas of the country experience colder temperatures in the winter- and some areas are much colder than average. Before heading outside for a long activity, make sure your family is wearing enough clothing to stay warm for the whole time you're outside. Dressing in several light layers, wearing super insulators such as wool or down, and using windproof outwear are just a few ways to keep toasty on the inside even when the thermometer falls outside. Don't forget to keep ears, heads, and fingers well covered, too!
Another important safety tip to remember in the winter is to be sure the activity area is safe. Heading out for outdoor skating? Make sure the pond is frozen solid for several inches before heading out. Going cross-country skiing? Make sure everyone has maps and phones in case you get separated from your group. Taking the new sled for a ride? Check to be sure that the hill ends in a place that's safe and away from traffic, driveways, or other hazards. All too often there can be hazards hidden beneath a few inches of light, fluffy snow, so before allowing kids to play on their own, make a sure an adult has checked the area out thoroughly.
Keeping aware of the weather is a definite winter must. Temperatures can fall rapidly, snow storms arise suddenly, and roads become slick with ice. Before you leave, make sure o take a quick check of the local weather. While you're out having fun, be sure to check the skies every now and again, just to be sure there's not a burst of unpleasant weather sneaking up. Even if the day stays clear and wonderful, make sure your family is aware of what time the sun goes down in your area; winter days are notoriously short- especially when it's a day of fun! Keeping this in mind will help prevent anyone being in an unfamiliar place on a trail, road, or park after dark.
As with many outdoor activities, staying together in a group is important in the winter, especially when you're on trails or off the beaten path. Make sure to check with your family often, just to make sure no one has wandered off during a break. Also, make sure that every member of your family knows what to do if they find themselves alone or lost while out on a trip. By making a plan ahead of time, everyone will know what to do, just in case of an emergency.
Finally, before heading out, make sure to check the condition of or equipment. Look for cracks, worn areas, broken bindings, bent poles, or anything else that may be unsafe, especially in more extreme weather conditions. By checking equipment out ahead of time you will be less likely to have an equipment malfunction when you're a few hours into your fun- and maybe miles away from your car.
Winter can be one of the best times to participate in outdoor activities as a family. There are so many special things to do that you only get to participate in for a few short months each year, and many families look forward to going out into the snow all year. But while there are lots of fun things to do, it's important to remember that the cold, wintery weather is nothing to ignore. By taking some extra safety precautions, each and every member of the family can have a really great time experiencing the great outdoors while waiting for spring to come and turn the world Positively Green!
Have fun in the snow!
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Welcome to Positively Green! It's a column dedicated to bringing you new ways of saving, interacting with, and using the natural world with activities that both help the environment and help you grow healthy families and healthy communities. Each month will feature information for your family about a positive green activity, book, program, or community idea. So c'mon, join the fun and go Positively Green!
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