At the first sight of significant snowfall, it’s time to head for the hills (gentle inclines only, please) for some snow fun. And nothing quite beats the adventure and thrill of toboganning.
Here’s the maths. Snow + slope + something to sit on = fun. For the littlest of children, being pulled along on a toboggan is the perfect form of transport in snowy weather. Harder work for the person who’s doing the pulling, though, so opt for a toboggan that’s sturdy but not too heavy. However, for older children, nothing beats the thrill of whizzing down a slippery incline. Just heed a few basic safety guidelines, and they’ll be set for a super day of sledding on the slopes. Here are our top ten tips:
1. Wrap up warm and safe Being dry and warm is essential for snow fun. Dress your child in warm waterproof winter clothing — hats, gloves or mittens, snow pants, winter jacket, snow boots. Just avoid wrapping them in long scarves or baggy clothing that could get caught in a sled and cause an injury or worse!
2. Choose the appropriate sledge There are lots of different types of toboggans and sleds, from plastic moulded ones to traditional wooden frames and inflatable models. One of our favourites is the Funboard Kids inflatable board, which fairly whizzes down the slopes and was much coveted by the other kids on the slopes where we were playing. However, this is one for older children, as it has no brakes or steering facility. Theoretically, you can use anything – even thick cardboard or a tray will slide, but they usually require considerable mastery from the rider.
3. Consider your child’s capabilities A sledge that can be steered and has brakes is a good idea, but this can be difficult for younger children to ‘drive’. Younger children should always ride with an adult, and only on very gentle, short slopes.
Tentative toddlers may prefer to be pulled along whilst safely perched on a toboggan, Snow Queen style, while older children seeking a more exhilarating thrill will enjoy the sensation of whizzing down the slope. But safety always comes first.
4. Select a gentle slope Choose a mild incline that’s not too steep and has a long flat area at the bottom so your child can glide safely to a halt at the bottom. Avoid slopes that end near a road or street, or near ponds, trees, fences, or other hazards that your child could bump into. And only go sledding during daylight hours when visibility is good.
5. Wear a safety helmet Those designed for winter sports are best, but if you don’t have one, make sure your child is wearing a well-fitting bike helmet or something similar.
6. Ensure a responsible adult is supervising In the event of any mishaps, there should always be an adult on hand to administer first aid and, if necessary, take the injured sledder to A&E. Children under five should always sled with an adult, while all children under 12 should be actively watched at all times.
7. Sit upright and face-forward Never let your child sled down a hill backwards or while standing, and make sure they don’t go down the hill face-first, as this greatly increases the risk of a head injury.
8. Practise good etiquette Remind your child that the usual playground rules of taking turns needs to be respected. Insist that children go down the hill one at a time and with only one person per sled (except for adults with younger children).
9. No straggling limbs Teach children to keep their arms and legs within the sled at all times and how to move out of the way if they fall or roll off a sled that won’t stop. It should go without saying that you should never allow a child to ride a sled that is being pulled by a moving vehicle, but there, we said it anyway!
10. Watch out for other riders If there’s one abiding rule of tobogganing, it’s that what goes down must go up again, so once your child has whizzed to the bottom of the slope, chances are she’ll want a repeat performance. As you stomp to the top, keep clear of the toboggan run area and stick to the edge to give other sledders a wide berth.
Of course, once you’re done with the tobogganing, you might just be ready to build a snowman!