boy wearing jacket with hood Just because a cold wind is blowing doesn’t mean you have to be trapped inside. There are so many fun outdoor winter activities — sledding, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, snowman building or just a good old fashioned snowball fight. The key to enjoying cold weather fun is staying safe and warm. Here are a few tips so your kids can enjoy their winter wonderlands.

Layer up

Kids don't always think of their own safety when it comes to dressing warmly. Some kids don't want to wear a coat or don't think to wear gloves or hats. As a rule of thumb, when you dress babies and young children, add one more layer than an adult would wear. Even older children who are headed out to play in cold weather should load up on layers.

There are many types of fabrics designed to keep body heat in. Long underwear, extra warm socks and fleece tops are good choices. If there is snow on the ground, winter snow boots are a must. And no matter how much your child protests, insist on a hat and warm gloves, such as ski gloves that have extra insulation, to protect smaller fingers.

Don’t forget the sun

The sun can still cause skin damage, even in the winter. Use sunscreen and lip balm on your child — especially during snow sports where the sun reflects off of the snow and ice and right back onto your child's face. Luckily, your child should have less exposed skin during the winter than she does in the summer, so there’s less skin to cover with sunscreen — just be sure to protect your child's cheeks, nose and lips.

Safe sledding

  • Sleds should be sturdy and have solid handholds for your child to grab.
  • Don't use homemade sleds — garbage pail lids, trash bags, and swimming pool inflatables are not safe for sledding.
  • Choose hills that aren’t too steep and are free of large ice patches and rocks. Look out for large trees or bushes that your child could crash into. And your child should never sled on a hill that leads to a street with moving traffic.
  • Have your child sled while sitting up or feet first. Sledding head first on the belly can be dangerous.
  • Invest in a sledding helmet for extra protection.
  • Adults should always supervise the sledding fun.
  • Young children shouldn't sled with older children. Keep the age groups separate.

Safe skating

  • Don’t allow your kids to ice skate on any surface that hasn't been approved for the activity — little ponds by your house may look safe, but you can never be sure about the thickness of the ice, even on the coldest of days.
  • Wear proper-fitting skates that are snug but not too tight.
  • Ice hockey players should never step out on the ice for practice without full gear, which includes padding and a proper helmet.
  • Always have your child skate in the same direction as the crowd — don't let her dart across the ice.
  • Don't let your child chew gum or eat candy while skating.
  • Don’t let your child go ice skating alone.

Safe skiing and snowboarding

  • Choose the right equipment for the sport. If you’re buying or renting equipment, choose a specialty store with experienced salespeople.
  • Don't forget to protect the head. All kids must ski or snowboard with helmets. Snowboarders, especially beginners, should also have elbow and knee guards. Some beginners might also benefit from padded bottoms, such as the kind used for ice hockey
  • Protect your child's eyes from wind, blowing snow and bright sun by having her wear snow goggles.  
  • Be sure your child receives lessons in the sport before trying out the slopes on her own.
  • All children should be supervised by an adult while skiing or snowboarding.  

Find more tips for keeping your kids safe during winter sports along with additional safety and injury prevention resources from the Injury Prevention Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.