Herald Journal Columns
Jan. 3, 2005, Herald Journal

View winter through the eyes of a child

By JENNI SEBORA

Children view winter in all its glory, and we should all “see” winter through the eyes of a child.

For many of us, the first snowflake of the winter season is exciting, but then, it can become drudgery. Or, at least, the chores that the snowflakes may bring can become drudgery; for example, shoveling and snow plowing in the cold, windy weather. And, of course, there’s the driving on the wintry roads and the bundling up of small children to make a trek outside.

Preparing our children to leave for an outing once took 10 minutes, but now, it takes 30 minutes or more to find the right hat that feels good and doesn’t itch; locate matching mittens; put coats on just the right way so shirt sleeves don’t creep up . . . and then, when they have all their winter apparel on, they proclaim that that they need to go to the bathroom “really bad” . . . it goes on.

Children don’t, and shouldn’t, worry about all the winter chores. They view winter with vigor and excitement. Making snow angels, building snow forts and snow people, playing “king of the hill,” sledding, skating, tubing, catching snow flakes in their mouths, and just plain trudging through the snow are wonderful winter activities that children seem to love to partake in.

Children see the first snowflake fall and behold it in wonderment and excitement, as if it is the first and last time it will happen. What a wonderful way to look at the world and the changing of seasons.

A new season seems to mean a fresh start, a new beginning and an end, as we prepare for the next season to “reappear” in all its glory, bringing different activities for us to partake in. Whether it’s the leaves budding, flowers blooming, leaves changing colors, or the first snowflakes falling, children take it all in and appreciate what the seasons have to offer.

As the season of winter is upon us, may we appreciate all it has to offer, as our children do, and maybe even build a snow fort or snow person, or catch a snowflake on our tongue. Before you know it, the first leaves will be budding.

Dress for the weather

Whether winter brings snow storms, light dustings, or just cold temps, the American Academy of Pediatrics, www.arp.org, offers some valuable tips on how to keep children safe and warm.

• Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities. Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm. Children’s outdoor wear should consist of thermal long johns, turtlenecks, one or two shirts, pants, sweater, coat, warm socks, gloves or mittens, and a hat.

• The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.

Hypothermia

Hypothermia develops when a child’s temperature falls below normal due to exposure to cold. It often happens as a youngster is playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing.

As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. His speech may become slurred, and his body temperature will decline.

If you suspect your child is hypothermic, call 911 at once. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove her clothing, and wrap her in blankets and warm clothes.

Frostbite

Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities, such as, fingers, toes, ears, and nose. They may become pale, gray, and blistered. At the same time, the child may complain her skin burns or has become numb.

To avoid frostbite, set reasonable limits on outdoor play. Have children come inside periodically to warm up.

If frostbite occurs, bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of her body in warm (not hot) water. Warm washcloths may be applied to frostbitten nose, ears, and lips.

Do not rub the frozen areas.

After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets. Give him something warm to drink.

If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your doctor.

Winter health

• If your child suffers from winter nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in the child’s room at night. Saline spray may help keep tissues moist. If bleeding is severe or recurrent, consult your pediatrician.

• Many pediatricians feel that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant’s first year. More frequent bathing may dry out the skin, especially during the winter.

• Cold weather does not cause colds or flu. But, the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common when children are in school and are in closer contact with each other. Frequent hand washing and teaching children to sneeze or cough away from others may help reduce the risk of colds and flu.

• Children between the ages of six months and 23 months should get the influenza vaccine to reduce their risk of catching the flu.

Winter sports and activities

Here are some ideas and safety tips for enjoying the winter season.

• Ice skating. Allow children to skate only on approved surfaces. Advise your child to skate in the same direction as the crowd, avoid darting across the ice, never skate alone, and don’t chew gum or eat candy while skating.

• Sledding. Keep sledders away from motor vehicles. Children should be supervised at all times. Keep young children separated from older children.

Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.

Use steerable sleds.

Sleds should be structurally sound and free of sharp edges and splinters, and the steering mechanism should be lubricated.

Sled slopes should be free of obstruction like fire hydrants or fences, be covered in snow, not ice; not be too steep (slope of less than 30 degrees), and end with a flat runoff.

Avoid sledding in overcrowded areas.

• A fun winter activity – digging for treasure

Bury small plastic toys in the snow (when we get some), and have children use a small bucket and shovel to find the hidden treasures. This can also be done in the sand, leaves, and so on.

Treasure hunts can also be played indoors using any number of items to search for, such as plastic eggs, dinosaurs, or shape cutouts.

Words of wisdom

“I have always felt the more experiences a child has . . . the more interested in life he is likely to be.”

– Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy