The days have turned so beautiful, we almost can’t stand it. It feels so good, smells so good, looks so good, we want to be outside. All. The. Time.
So it’s no surprise that our kids–your kids–are itching to get out there, too. They want to run and jump and play, come home with grass-stained knees and dirt jammed under their fingernails.
And one of these days, they’ll be asking to drag their bikes out of the garage. Hurray! Biking is an incredible activity for kids, blending physical fitness with coordination, with social activity, with self-confidence with, well, plenty of other good-for-you benefits. So in honor of gorgeous weather and National Bike Safety Month (yep, that would be May!), we’ve pulled together a few quick and easy tips on bike safety for kids from our bicycle safety activity kit. Some of these can even be used as bike safety games to teach kids how to stay safe while riding.
Bike Safety for Kids
As parents, we know that kids get hurt. It’s almost a rite of passage: they fall and skin their knees and bump their elbows. But as parents, we want to protect them from all of it. Of course, we know we can’t–some things are just inevitable. But what we can do is protect our little ones from the worst of it: the most serious injuries that’ll put them out of commission for weeks or months, or worse, life-threatening accidents that can change lives forever.
So let’s get the scary stuff out of the way. Here’s what you need to know:
- According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, bicycles are the second-most common product to injure kids. (The first is cars.)
- Almost half of all bike-related hospitalizations are diagnosed as traumatic brain injury, which can be life threatening.
- According to the SAFE KIDS campaign, helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85%.
- Additionally, SAFE KIDS says that 75% of bicycle-related child deaths could have been prevented by a helmet.
- BUT, fewer than 40% of kids reportedly wear helmets! (Even though in many states, bicycle riders must wear helmets by law.)
The lesson here: If your kids love riding on two wheels, encourage them to bike ‘till they can’t peddle anymore. And make sure they’re protected while they do.
Protective Equipment for Child Riders
Now onto the good stuff: how to protect your kids without wrapping them in bubble wrap and calling it a day. (We know, it’s tempting.) Here are a few pointers:
- Helmets: If you’re going to pick just one piece of bicycle safety equipment, this is it. Choose a well ventilated, brightly colored (and preferably reflective) helmet that’s labeled as meeting CPSC or Snell standards. A properly fitting helmet has thick, strong straps that secure it snugly, sitting level on your child’s head. The helmet should not flop forward or backward, and should stay put even after sudden movement. Your child should wear his or her helmet always, every time, and for the whole ride. No exceptions.
- Safety Clothing (including reflectors): After helmets, good bike-riding clothing is the most important safety precaution you can take. Chose bright colored clothes, preferably reflective–stick on some reflective tape, if your kid insists on wearing his/her favorite dark shirt–that’ll make your children visible to drivers. Avoid loose-fitting pants or long shirts, which can get caught in bike chains. (Also watch out for long straps, if your children ride with a backpack or bag in the front basket.) And always require your kids to wear shoes with good pedal-grip: no flip-flops or jellies or other slippery shoes, and no barefoot riding allowed!
- Kneepads: Kneepads may not save lives like helmets do, but they do prevent painful injuries. If you can get your kids to don kneepads, do it. Even if you have to bribe them with an post-ride popsicle.
Have fun and stay safe!