Healthy Living in the North

Preventing child falls in the home and at play

Children play on a net at a playground.

Summer is a great time of year to think about how to prevent child falls in the home and outdoors.

Did you know that falls are the leading cause of injury in BC children from birth to 14 years old?

I’m a parent and a nurse. Like all parents and caregivers, I want to keep my kids safe while allowing them to have fun and be physically active. I’m always amazed by how quickly children’s skills and abilities can change as they develop from one stage to the next. You can never be sure what they might get up to next!

Falls are a normal part of child development

Children are naturally curious, and they learn by playing and exploring in their environments. Falls and tumbles are a normal part of child development, and many falls result in no more than a minor scrape or bruise. Still, each year, more than 140,000 children are seen in emergency departments across Canada for more serious fall-related injuries.

Preventing serious fall-related injuries

Summer is a great time to think about how to prevent child falls in the home and outdoors. As temperatures rise, many of us open our windows to let in the warm, fresh air. For children under five years old, injuries often happen in the home and involve a fall from furniture, stairs, or a window.

Creating a child-friendly home

Children have large heads compared to the rest of their body. This affects their balance and puts them at risk of getting a head injury from a fall.

For information on how to create a child-friendly home, check out Home safety: Around the house from Parachute. There’s also information about head injuries on the Northern Health’s concussion page.

A child's feet are near the edge of a platform on a playground.

Each year, more than 140,000 children are seen in emergency departments across Canada for serious fall-related injuries.

Don’t let a preventable injury ruin your family’s outdoor summer fun

The sunny weather also draws families outdoors to enjoy activities such as biking, swimming, or going to the playground. Don’t let a preventable injury ruin your family’s outdoor summer fun! Parachute is a great online resource for injury prevention information.

Here are some easy precautions that Parachute suggests parents and caregivers take to prevent serious falls and help kids stay safe:

  • Use window stops and keep balcony doors locked.
  • Use stair gates in your home.
  • Place all furniture away from windows and balcony door handles.
  • Make sure playground equipment has barriers, is properly anchored and in good condition, and has a deep, soft surface.
  • Practise active supervision while still giving your child the chance to explore and develop.

More information

Dana Vigneault

About Dana Vigneault

Dana has worked in Public Health since 2007. She joined the Population Health team in 2018, as a Regional Nursing Lead for Injury Prevention. She is excited to be engaged in upstream initiatives, focused on preventing injuries and promoting healthy communities. Dana lives in Terrace with her husband and two children and enjoys spending time in the garden, at the lake and in the mountains.

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IMAGINE grant: Discover Daycare

The outdoor play equipment and safety surface at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

It’s no secret that active outdoor play is important for children. In a recent paper on the benefits of outdoor active play, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and their partners state that kids who are outside move more and sit less, which contributes to a wide variety of health benefits.

The importance of outdoor play was clear to the Discovery Childcare Centre in Prince Rupert, but they just didn’t have the equipment to support that active play outdoors. And so, when the Board of Directors for the centre identified a new playground as a priority, they turned to the IMAGINE Community Grants program to help make the vision a reality.

More of the outdoor play equipment at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

Through years of focused effort, the daycare fundraised almost $40,000 to put toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment for the 32 kids in their care. Their efforts took dedication and commitment, and in fall 2017 they were very close to achieving their goal!

However, one key piece remained: site preparation, including the purchase and installation of Playfall Tile, a rubberized safety surface manufactured from recycled tires that would cushion the inevitable falls of the hundreds of children who would enjoy the equipment over the years.  The quote for this work came in at roughly $5,000, and so the Board approved the submission of an application for an IMAGINE grant. The application was approved in spring 2018 and work began in June.

After its completion in August 2018, the new playground was an immediate hit with the kids attending the centre. Having a safe place to play outside, and the right equipment for that play, made a big difference for everyone. The centre has already observed that there is room for more growth in the future, with a key focus being the development of a garden area near the playground that will let kids learn about planting, growing, and eating fresh food. IMAGINE is proud to have contributed to this amazing project, and look forward to hearing about the centre’s successes in the future!

The IMAGINE Grant spring cycle is now accepting applications! Get yours in today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Just stop and play

Mother and child walking in forest

“Outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience, and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.”

With our busy lives and commitments to our children to be sure their everyday needs are met, we often forget to just stop and play with our children.

Today is a chance for us to look at the benefits of outdoor play. I want to encourage all caregivers to connect with their children outside, no matter what the weather forecast says! If it’s raining, put on your rubber boots and play in the rain and splash in the puddles. If the sun is poking through, slap on the sunscreen and go outside and play.

Encourage fun, self-directed, free-range play!

Today, children are often scheduled with structured activities such as hockey and soccer practices and piano lessons. Equally important to these scheduled opportunities is the free time for children to dream and explore their own limits. This outdoor active time builds confidence, autonomy and resilience and helps children develop skills and solve problems while giving them the opportunity to learn their own interests and limits.

Play – how much is the right amount?

The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 180 minutes (3 hours) of daily physical activity for children ages 3-4 at any level of intensity. The guidelines then change for children ages 5 and up to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous play per day.

Unfortunately, only 14% of children are meeting these guidelines. This drops to only 5% who are meeting the guidelines for children aged 12-17.

How to play?

Reduce screen time. Unplug and play. Make playing and exploring our neighbourhoods the reward rather than more screen time. Let’s embrace the beauty of living in the north! Everything is so accessible and nature is all around us. And it’s free! This may mean letting the child take the lead. You may get a glimpse into what the world looks like through your child’s eyes: spending time bent over exploring the colour in the rocks or examining pussy willows that you revisit later as they become leaves throughout the spring.

The benefits of play are across the board

The most obvious is that it is fun, but play also helps release tension, develops imagination, and allows for problem-solving and mastering new concepts. Play builds self-esteem, leadership skills, and reduces anxiety. Playing socially builds on co-operation and sharing as well as increases our children’s ability to resolve conflict. Outdoor play helps with gross motor skills, which build strong hearts, muscles and bones. Being active everyday as a child helps develop a lifelong habit of daily exercise as an adult.

Finally, be a good role model. Live an active life and rediscover the fun and freedom of outside play. While encouraging the whole family to “wear the gear,” wear your helmet when biking or skateboarding together. Turn your cell off. Make play a priority. Set aside time every day for free play and a chance to connect and have fun with your child today.

Reflect back to your own childhood playtime. I want to encourage everyone to build those same quality experiences for our children today! Let’s get everyone outside and active, having fun while promoting safe, active outdoor play.

Sandra Sasaki

About Sandra Sasaki

Sandra is the Children’s First Manager. In this role, she supports local committees and groups in Prince George, Quesnel, the Robson Valley and Mackenzie to work together to assess, identify and plan for the unique needs of young children. Sandra has lived and worked most of her life in Prince George where she and her husband are active members of the community. She enjoys weightlifting and working out at the gym, painting, skiing, camping, and fishing. Most of all, she enjoys spending time with her family as she is the proud mother of three daughters and a grandmother of seven.
(Sandra no longer works with Northern Health, we wish her all the best.)

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