No matter what sport or activity your child chooses, make sure he has the proper equipment and clothing so he can participate in comfort and minimize the chance of any injuries. Secondhand equipment is fine and can save money — just be sure that it fits your child properly, is free of any cracks or tears, and that you check with the Consumer Safety Product Commission's (CSPC) running list of product recalls (on the Web at
Safety Equipment — Head to Toe
Helmets are essential for any activity in which there is a potential for head injury, including football, cycling, skating, skateboarding, hockey, softball, and baseball. Make sure the helmet is the correct one for the sport, and see that it fits correctly according to the enclosed manufacturer's directions for use. Bicycle helmets should be safety-approved by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC); those that are will carry a label or sticker that indicates approval. Bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 80 percent, so make sure your child always wears one, even if he's only taking a short ride.
According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of sports-related deaths. Of all traumatic brain injuries among U.S. children, 21 percent are sustained in sports and recreational activities, and nearly half of those are caused by bicycle, skating, and skateboard incidents. Kids who don't wear helmets or protective gear are more likely to sustain injuries than those who take proper precautions.
Other equipment your child may need includes the following items:
Goggles. If your child wears glasses, he may require special protective goggles with shatterproof prescription lenses.
Mouth protection. Certain sports, such as hockey and football, may require a mouth-guard to protect the teeth.
Padding. Wrist-guards, knee and elbow pads, chest protectors, and face-masks are just a few of the available types of safety gear available for various sports. Your child may also need special equipment based on the position he plays on a team. Children who skate (board, inline, roller, or scooter) should always wear wrist, knee, and elbow protection as well as a properly fitting helmet.
Athletic cup. Boys playing in a contact sport or an activity where injury to the groin is possible should wear an athletic cup both at practice and in competition.
Cleats and shoes. Make sure your child wears appropriate footwear (including socks) for her activity of choice. Secondhand shoes must fit properly to prevent potential injury and/or blisters.
Dress for Success
If a uniform is required, make sure it's a comfortable fit for your child. Take into account the extra bulk of protective padding when selecting a size. If you have to go into adult sizes, do so — if your child is uncomfortable, she won't be able to enjoy or participate fully in the sport. For activities in which your child gets to choose her own outfit, make sure she has a good selection of loose and comfortable clothing made of breathable fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin.
While it's safest to keep kids out of heavy traffic areas after dark, older kids may want to ride their bikes, skate, or work out past dusk. Even in quiet residential areas, this can pose a risk. Make sure your older child wears light reflective clothing to stay safe. Reflective stickers on bicycle helmets, along with the proper reflectors and headlights on bicycles themselves, is also important to make sure motorists see your child clearly once the sun goes down.
Dress for the weather as well. For outdoor winter and fall activities, layered clothing works best. Your child can add or subtract layers to his comfort level. In warmer weather, dressing down is encouraged to prevent overheating. Just make sure your child has appropriate protection from the sun on exposed skin. The FDA recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. A hat can protect the scalp from sunburn as well.