The winter season brings with it added hazards. Child care providers can take steps to keep children safe from winter hazards such as winter weather and holiday decorations.
Children need extra protection from cold weather. They are not able to regulate their body temperature like adults so they can quickly develop a low body temperature.
Caring for Our Children offers guidance for keeping children safe in cold weather:
- Children should wear layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing
- Children should wear a hat, coat, and gloves/mittens
- Caregivers/teachers should check children’s extremities for normal color and warmth at least every 15 minutes
Child care providers should monitor the weather, especially in the winter, to know what precautions to take to keep children safe outside. State licensing entities may offer guidance on what temperatures and wind chill are considered unsafe for outdoor play.
Outdoor Play in the Winter
Children benefit from playing outdoors in all weather other than the most extreme conditions. Taking children outdoors daily, even in the winter, is safe when clothing is appropriate. If you plan and prepare to keep children safe and warm, they can benefit from the health and mental health benefits of being outside and active year-round. The length of outdoor time may need to be reduced due to the cold, so it will be important to make sure children continue to participate in physical activities inside.
Keep in mind that some play equipment may not be safe in cold weather. If the ground or playground surfacing is frozen, or if the equipment is slippery from ice or snow, it can pose safety hazards for children.
Active play will also keep children warmer while outside in the winter.
Winter Weather and COVID-19
COVID-19, influenza (flu), colds, and other similar illnesses are caused by viruses, not exposure to cold air. While viruses like the ones that cause flu or colds are more common in the winter, the air circulating inside is the main cause of illness. Spending time outside in fresh air reduces the rebreathing of germs and the chances for spreading infection.
Winter Weather in Written Emergency Plans
Another safety precaution for child care providers to take in the winter is to double check their written emergency plan and winter safety materials to ensure they are up to date. Winter weather can lead to a power outage or the need to shelter-in-place if travel becomes dangerous. It is helpful to check your emergency supply kit to make sure all of your supplies are ready.
This is also a good time for child care providers to make sure parents know their plans for winter weather, including closures.
Child Care Aware® of America offers additional resources on winter weather and extreme cold.
In addition to keeping children safe from the cold, it is important to remember that holiday decorations must be used safely.
Holiday decorations can pose a threat to children. The Mayo Clinic offers safety tips to remember when preparing for the holidays.
- Keep decorations out of reach of children.
- Any objects small enough to fit through a toilet paper tube can obstruct the airway of a child.
- Use power strips with built-in circuit breakers.
- Avoid putting too many plugs into one electrical outlet.
- Keep cords out of the way or behind furniture and insert electrical covers into any unused outlets.
- Closely supervise children who are helping to decorate.
Holiday decorations can also increase the risk of fire. According to FEMA and the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly half of holiday decoration fires happen because decorations are placed too close to a heat source.
Be sure to think of any other safety precautions needed based on decorations you might use.
By planning in advance, child care providers will be prepared to care for children during cold weather and the winter holiday season. For more emergency preparedness, response, and recovery resources, visit www.childcareprepare.org.