Getting your kid to wear a helmet
Let’s look at some ways you can get your children to wear their helmet when they’re bicycling, rollerblading, or playing sports. I’ve also included tips on how to choose a helmet that fits properly on your child’s head. Later on, we’ll discuss your role as a parent when laying down safety rules, and I’ll recommend some books on the topic.
Kids can often be very stubborn when it comes to wearing a helmet. You as a parent need to remember that wearing a helmet must never be up for discussion. This is a serious safety matter: if your children want to play with equipment that has wheels, or high speeds are involved (like during sledding or snowboarding), they must wear a helmet at all times, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Most kids love it when you give them some responsibility. As long as they follow safety precautions, why not let the kids take the lead! I find that locking up all toys that require a helmet can help get your kids in the habit of taking care of safety first. Make sure you set up some ground rules: they get to unlock their scooter, bike, or rollerblades only after they decide to put on their helmets. You can keep the helmet right next to the padlocked toys as a constant reminder to your kid: no helmet, no fun.
Use humor with your children whenever you can. For example, if your kids like the show Sponge Bob Square Pants, ask them, “Do you think Patchy the Pirate would like it if Sponge Bob rode without his helmet on? What about Potty the Parrot – do you think he would want his friend Patchy the Pirate to ride without his helmet?” Yogi Bear is a movie your kids can easily relate to. You can tell them, “I know that Yogi and Bobo don’t wear their helmets, but they are bears, and we love you way to much for you to go without yours.”
For three-year-olds, this is a great chance to start learning about safety. Give them a choice of two activities: one with the helmet, another one without it: “After you put your helmet on, you can ride your __________. When you decide to put it on, you let me know. While you think about it, let’s play with the ____________ instead.”
It’s important for your children to wear their helmets – but it’s even more important that you lead by example. You want to see your kids safe; they want the same thing. Besides, studies show that the best way kids learn is by copying adult behavior.
The more fun the helmet looks, the less work you’ll have to do getting your kids to put it on. A great way to make helmet safety fun is to use a helmet cover. Helmet Zoo (www.helmetzoo.com) has all sorts of furry friends to decorate your child’s helmet. My personal favorites are the snake and the farm animals.
If your kids are over the age of 5, you can challenge them to take a test for their “bicycle license.” Show them your driver’s license and tell them that just like you can’t drive a car without it, they can’t ride a bike without theirs. This will make your kids feel like adults – something older children crave.
Some test questions can be:
- Can I ride in the street without mom or dad?
- Is it ok to ride without letting mom or dad know where I am going?
- Can I ride without my helmet?
- What should I do with my bike after I use it?
Let your kids know that just like your driver’s license, their bike license can be “suspended” if they fail to obey the safety rules. Duration of their suspension is entirely up to you. Think of yourself as the safety police, not the parent.
If your kids are old enough, get them involved in community initiatives that encourage safe helmet use at their school or at the local community center. An example can be found here: http://southyorks.police.uk/news/06012011/4882/cycle-helmets-win-prizes-well-saving-your-life
It may be hard to believe, but you are the adult. Shocking as it is, it’s you who purchases the toys and gives your kids access to the things in your house. It stands to reason that it’s your responsibility as parent or guardian to set the rules that will keep your family safe and help your kids grow up with good values and judgment. Kids will always try to find ways to get out of doing what they are expected to do; they will try to push the boundaries and see what they can get away with. The more consistent you are with the safety rules, the better your results will be.
It’s also crucial that both mom and dad are on the same page about this. If the family lives in two households, your child has to know that the same rules apply in both homes. This goes for any rule you set as a family. Each year, 540,000 kids visit the ER due to bicycle injuries. Of those, 67,000 are head injuries, and 27,000 are injuries serious enough to require hospitalization. I know that parents and kids would rather go to Disneyland for a day or two than dish out thousands of dollars at an ER, not to mention the danger of traumas, injuries, scar,s and emotional pain that can be avoided by following the Safety First rule.
Here are some books about bicycling, helmets, and safety designed to be read with children. Your library probably has some of these – if it doesn’t, ask your librarian if they can order them from a different library.
- Franklin Tv #03: Franklin’s Bicycle Helmet
For children over the age of 5.
Diego Discovers (Go, Diego, Go!)
For children over the age of 3.
Franklin’s New Friend
For children ages 4 to 8.
Modern Sports Helmets: Their History, Science and Art (Schiffer Books)
For children over the age of 9.
Helmet (Oberon Modern Plays)
For children over the age of 13.
Why Do Kamikaze Pilots Wear Helmets?: Answers to the Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask
For teenagers. See if and when this book is right for your kids.
I recommend that you read each of these books yourself before you place them on your children’s bookshelf. Only you know what’s appropriate for your family. Only you can make the decision which books will benefit your kids.
When it’s time to get a well-fitting helmet, I like to drive my kids to the sports or bike store with professional staff trained to select an appropriate size for every customer. Most kids love picking out their own helmet – so make sure you invite them to take an active part in the process. If you want to pass your old helmet on to your kids, make sure it fits well. Remember: a well-fitting helmet is key to the safety of your child!
Different sports require different kinds of helmets. Make sure you get the right helmet for your kids’ favorite activity.