Sledding Safety for Children

Sledding is a great way for your children to have fun in the snow. It is easily a better use of a kids time than sitting in front of some video game(s). Much like skiing and snowboarding sledding presents some dangers so you need to think safety first.
Much like other winter outdoor activities there are clothing and equipment considerations and safety rules that must be observed. Let’s start with clothing and equipment:
  • Your child should wear a helmet and wear one designed for winter sports. His or her Little League batting helmet will not work.
  • Your child should wear winter clothing including hats, gloves, mittens, snow pants, a winter jacket and snow boots. Waterproof and warm will make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to make your child change into dry clothing after they’ve been at it a while.
  • Do not dress your child in scarves or any type of clothing that can get caught in a sled, posing a risk of strangulation.
  • Don’t scrimp on the sled, they’re just not that expensive. Purchase one that can be steered your child and has brakes to slow it down. Avoid sleds that cannot be steered. That includes; saucers, plastic toboggans, inner tubes, lunch trays, or cardboard boxes.
Here are some Safety Tips from the good people at Kidshealth:
  • Select a hill that is not too steep and has a long flat area at the bottom so your child can glide to a stop.
  • Avoid hillsides that end near a street or parking lot. Something about traffic…
  • Avoid hillsides that end near ponds, trees, fences or other hazards.
  • Make sure the hill is free of obstacles such as jumps, bumps, rocks, or trees before your child starts sledding.
  • Choose hills that are snowy as opposed to icy. If your child fall off the sled snow is a lot softer than ice.
  • Have your child sled during the daytime when it is easier to see. If your child goes sledding at night you want to make sure the hillside is well lit with all potential hazards visible.
  • Designate a go-to adult. In the event someone gets injured, you’ll want an adult on hand to administer first aid and, if necessary, take the injured sledder to the emergency room.
  • Always sit face-forward on your sled. Never sled down a hill backwards or while standing, and don’t go down the hill face-first, as this greatly increases the risk of a head injury.
  • Young kids (5 and under) should sled with an adult, and kids under 12 should be actively watched at all times.
  • Go down the hill one at a time and with only one person per sled (except for adults with young children). Piling more than one person on a sled just means there are more things on the hill that you can collide with.
  • Never build an artificial jump or obstacle on a sledding hill.
  • Keep your arms and legs within the sled at all times, and if you fall off the sled, move out of the way. If you find yourself on a sled that won’t stop, roll off it and get away from it.
  • Walk up the side of the hill and leave the middle open for other sledders.
  • Never ride a sled that is being pulled by a moving vehicle.
While it’s unlikely that your child will be injured while sledding the possibility definitely exists. Just take a little extra time to dress your child properly. Make sure you’re following the above mentioned safety guidelines and everyone will have a great time. 
Reviewed by: Kathleen B. O’Brien, MD
Date reviewed: February 2010
Teens Health Nemours
Frostbite is always a potential danger with outdoor wintertime activities. Download this outstanding guide on Frostbite from Nationwide Children’s Hospital of Columbus Ohio.