Accidents and injuries: Keeping your child safe 'out and about'

Accidents and injuries are a part of growing up as children explore and learn. But a serious accident can change the course of a child’s life forever. Thankfully many accidents are preventable by taking some simple steps.

Parents are often surprised by what their baby or toddler does next so try and think ahead. 

  • Under fives are at greater risk in the home and garden
     
  • Older children are at greater risk outside the home, on the roads as they start to make independent journeys, and at play, including in water

Road accidents account for a third of accidental deaths among 0 to 14 year olds and over half of accidental deaths for 5 to14 year olds. In 2011, 2,412 children under the age of 16 were killed or seriously injured on the roads. Don’t take the risk, teach your children about road safety.

Pre school children

Talk about traffic with your child when you are out to help them learn:

  • Play ‘spotting’ games: where’s a lorry? Can you find a bus? Let’s see who can spot a taxi first.
  • Ask your child to tell you about the vehicles waiting at the traffic lights or passing you in the car.
  • Talk about vehicles you see: which is biggest or fastest? What colours are they? Which carries the most people? Which way is it going? Do some counting.
  • Building up your child’s language will help them to understand traffic. Use words to describe speed, size, shape, directions or talk about signs, lights, signals and road markings.
  • Talk about how we can tell when traffic is near or when it is coming towards us. Ask your child when cars are safe and when they can be dangerous.
  • Use a harness or wrist strap when toddlers are walking near to roads and walk with the adult kerb side.
  • Learn more about road traffic safety.

Over fives

My child is in key stage 1, how can I help them learn about road safety?

 

My child is in key stage 2, how can I help them learn about road safety?

 

TEACH THEM THE GREEN CROSS CODE

1. Find the safest place to cross

  • If possible, cross the road at: subways, footbridges, islands, zebra, puffin, pelican or toucan crossings. Or cross where there is a crossing point controlled by a police officer, a school crossing patrol or a traffic warden.
  • Otherwise, choose a place where you can see clearly in all directions and where drivers can see you.
  • Avoid crossing between parked cars and on sharp bends or close to the top of a hill. Move to a space where drivers and riders can see you clearly.
  • There should be space to reach the pavement on the other side.

2. Stop just before you get to the kerb

  • Do not get too close to the traffic. If there is no pavement, keep back from the edge of the road but make sure you can still see approaching traffic.
  • Give yourself lots of time to have a good look all around.

3. Look all around for traffic and listen

  • Look all around for traffic and listen.
  • Look in every direction.
  • Listen carefully because you can sometimes hear traffic before you can see it.

4. If traffic is coming, let it pass

  • Look all around again and listen.
  • Do not cross until there is a safe gap in the traffic and you are certain that there is plenty of time.
  • Remember, even if traffic is a long way off, it may be approaching very quickly.

5. When it is safe, go straight across the road. Do not run

  • Keep looking and listening for traffic while you cross, in case there is any traffic you did not see, or in case other traffic appears suddenly.
  • Look out for cyclists and motorcyclists traveling between lanes of traffic.
  • Do not cross diagonally.

How you can help your child and other children

  • Set a good example. Use the Green Cross Code yourself.
  • Show your child how to use the Code to cross the road when you’re out and about.
  • Let your child show you that they know how to cross the road safely. Start practising on quiet roads first.
  • Point out dangerous places to cross on local roads. Point out safer places as well. Some places may be safer at some times of the day than at others.
  • Use pedestrian crossings even if it involves a small detour.
  • Talk about the importance of not using a mobile phone or texting while crossing the road.
  • Remind your child that they cannot hear traffic if listening to music through earphones or see it properly if wearing a large hood.

Crossing between parked cars

Try not to cross between parked vehicles, but if there is nowhere else to cross:

  • Choose a place where there is a space between two cars. Make sure that it is easy to get to the pavement on the other side of the road.
  • Make sure neither car is about to move off. Look for drivers in the cars, lights and listen for engines.
  • Don't cross near large vehicles. You could be standing in a blind spot where the driver cannot see you.

 

But let’s get one thing clear: it’s still important for children to be outside. Children can be safer on the streets if we show them how.


Walking is good for children's health and fitness. We support parents who encourage their children to walk as much as possible. Taking your child in the car for short journeys puts more traffic on the road and adds to the problem.

Traffic danger is the biggest concern of adults when it comes to children cycling to school.

This fear has driven children into the backseat to be ferried around. 42% of primary school children are driven to school.

Once your child is confident on their bike, getting them used to cycling on the roads will develop them in many ways. Not only will they gain a sense of freedom and independence, they’ll also improve their confidence and fitness.

Teach your child how to cycle safely

 

Follow these tips to help keep your child safe when cycling:

  • Make sure your child's bike fits and is roadworthy
  • If you're on the road with children, take up a position behind them. If there are two adults in your group, have one at the back and one in front of the children
  • The whole family should wear a helmet as this sets a good example to children
  • Make sure your child's helmet is new and undamaged. Don't use a second hand helmet. Fit your child's helmet with care. Make sure the strap is snug under their chin
  • Encourage your child to wear bright clothing so they can be seen easily
  • Use bike lights if cycling in dim light
  • Set a good example. Teach children road safety and awareness.

To find out about courses that help your child gain the confidence to cycle to school, phone the National Cycle Training Helpline on 0844 736 8460/8461. Or find out if your child's school offers Bikeability or Bike It. If your school doesn't have either, ask them.

Bikeability is ‘cycling proficiency’ for the 21st century. There are three levels to teach your child, and give you peace of mind:

  • control,
  • road sense
  • confidence

Teach your child about cycle safety using the tales of the road resources

Twelve children under 10 are killed or injured as passengers in cars every day. Car seats prevent deaths and serious injury.

 

Did you know…?

  • Adult seat belts are not designed for children as they don't sit across the right parts of the body. If a child isn't in the right booster or car seat, they can be injured by the seat belt in a crash.
  • The law says that children under 3 are not allowed to travel anywhere in a car without an appropriate child restraint (car seat). 
  • Trying to hold a small baby in a car crash at 30mph would be like trying to lift 8 bags of cement at the same time.
  • All children under 12 years old who are under 135cm in height have to use a child restraint (car seat or booster seat). It’s the law.

General car safety tips

  • Always remove coats or bulky clothing as these will prevent the straps holding your child in safely.
  • A child can legally travel in the front of the car but it’s always safest for them to travel in the back if possible.
  • It can be almost impossible to tell, just by looking, if a second hand car seat has been damaged in an accident or dropped.
  • Buying second hand seats isn’t safe for your baby or child.
  • It may be safe to use a seat a friend or family member has given you if you know for certain it’s not been damaged or dropped and if it fits your car properly.
  • Not all car seats will fit all cars. Choosing the best one for the weight and height of the child is really important.
  • Most accidents happen in short journeys close to home so make sure car seats are easy to fit. If it’s hard to fit then it may be tempting not to use it on shorter journeys.
  • Try your car seat before you buy it. Fix the restraint into the car as tightly as you can and check that it doesn’t move to the front or side. Make sure the seat buckle doesn’t rest on the frame of the child seat. If you are having problems with your car seat you can try a different position in the car.
  • If your childminder or a grandparent takes your child in their car, make sure that they are using the right seat and that they put your child in it properly on every journey. If you give them your seat when you drop off your child make sure that it fits their car and they know how to use it.
  • Seats with ISOFIX attachments are easier to install in cars than those that rely on the adult seat belt. Also, they are usually more secure. Check to see if you can fit an ISOFIX seat into your car.
  • i Size is the new European-wide standard for child car seats. It is designed to provide children with extra protection in the car. i Size compliant car seats are designed to fit 'i Size ready' cars.

Babies (up to 13 kg, group 0+ seats)

  • New babies travel in rear facing baby seats that are in group 0 or 0+. Most manufacturers are no longer making group 0 though. From the moment your new baby comes home from hospital they need to be travelling in a rear facing baby seat.
  • They are safest in the back seat of your car.
  • If they do travel in the front seat the airbag must be turned off as this could seriously injure your baby in a crash.

Toddlers (9 to 18 kg, group 1 seats)

  • Just because your baby has reached 9 kg does not mean that he or she should be moved to a forward facing (group 1) seat.
  • Don’t worry if your baby’s feet are pressing against the back of the car seat when they’re in their rear facing seat. It is better for them to stay in it until they reach the weight limit for their baby seat or the top of their head is at the top of the seat.
  • Most group 1 seats are forward facing but some rear facing ones are available. These can cause problems in some cars so it is even more important that you try them in your car before you buy them.

Children up to 12 (15 kg upwards, group 2 and 3 seats)

  • When your child grows out of their car seat they can move to the next type of seat, usually a booster seat. It is best to keep your child in their group 1 seat for as long as it fits as they offer more protection than booster seats (group 2/3).
  • You will need to move your child to a booster seat when their eye line is above the child seat back. This is because they could suffer neck injuries if they are too tall for the seat. While a booster cushion is better than nothing at all, it offers no side impact or head protection. A highback booster seat is the safest option for your child.
  • When your child is 12 or over, or taller than 135cm they can legally move to the adult seat belt. Lots of highback booster seats grow upwards and outwards with your child so can still be used.
  • Even if your child is over 135cm it may be that the adult seat belt lies on their tummy and neck rather than on the strongest parts of their bodies the hips, chest and shoulder. They will be better protected if you keep them in a booster seat designed for their weight as long as you can.

Around the car

  • If a car is reversing in a car park or a driveway the driver may not be able to spot small children if they are below the level visible from their rear or side windows. It’s safest to hold your child’s hand in car parks just as you would when crossing the road.
  • Store your car keys safely to reduce the risk of your child getting hold of them and starting the car.

We all love being out in the sun! But too much sun can cause painful sunburn and dehydration which can be dangerous for small children. Sunburn can increase your child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. So, if your child’s skin looks a bit pink today, it may be burned tomorrow morning. To prevent further burning, get your child out of the sun. The sun is at its strongest from March to October in the UK.

Top tips for staying safe in the sun:

  • Avoid direct sunlight. Keep babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight
  • Cover up. No matter your child’s age, long-sleeved shirts and long trousers or skirts provide protection.
  • Wear a hat
  • Sunglasses can protect eyes. Check they block as close to 100% UVA and UVB rays as possible
  • Spend time in the shade, particularly from 11am to 3pm
  • Use SPF 30 sunscreen or higher with UVA and UVB protection
  • Apply sunscreen generously (30 minutes before children go out) to areas not protected by clothing, such as the face, lips, ears, feet and backs of hands
  • Keep sun protection handy e.g. in your car, bag, or child’s backpack and reapply during the day. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, exercising, or towelling off, even if the product is waterproof or water-resistant.
  • Sunscreen is not meant to allow children to spend more time in the sun than they would otherwise. 

To ensure children get enough vitamin D, all children under 5 should take vitamin D supplements.

Children who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D.

Sadly, each year in the UK 40-50 children die from drowning and water related injuries. Most of these deaths were preventable.
 
Children under 8 need to be supervised in and around water. They might understand safety instructions but are likely to forget in the heat of the moment. Children don’t cry out for help and wave to be rescued. Instead they disappear under the surface of the water, often unseen.
 

 

Top tips for safety in and around water:

  • Supervise children at all times when they are in or around a water source.
  • Think about water safety in the home. Children can drown rapidly and in small volumes of water. Always supervise at bath time and be aware it’s easy to get distracted.
  • Ensure paddling pools are always emptied when not in use or securely covered over.
  • Make your pond safe. Unfortunately, garden ponds are involved in more than half of all toddler drownings. Keep your child safe and fence it, grill it or fill it until they’re a bit older.
  • Teach your child to swim. Teach your child how to float, tread water, move in water, recognise dangerous situations, and recover if they accidentally fall in. Remind them not to swim alone or without adult supervision. Primary schools offer free swimming lessons during school time.
  • Teach your child the dangers of playing and swimming in rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Cold water can kill by causing a fast and dangerous hypothermia (very low temperature) to the body
  • Lake, pond and river ice is dangerous. Children and adults can fall through and drown. Teach your children to stay off ice
  • Be careful on holiday. Beach and pool conditions and safety standards vary considerably throughout the world. Look for a spot with a lifeguard and always pay attention to any safety signs. Watch this video on keeping safe at the beach.
  • Only use inflatables at the swimming pool. In the sea strong currents or winds can rapidly sweep them out to sea
  • Use lifejackets in boats. Even if your child knows how to swim, they should always wear a well-fitting lifejacket when they’re in a boat.

Remember the Water Safety Code

Watch these videos to teach your child basic water safety skills.

Click here to be directed to our being active page for information on local leisure centres. 

Playing in the garden can be great fun. Minor accidents are inevitable so try not to worry too much.

Follow these simple steps to make your garden safer:

  • Trampolines. Children love the feeling of flying through the air and jumping. Many trampolines aren’t suitable for children under the age of 6 because they can’t yet control their bouncing. Always choose a trampoline with a net. Small children are also better off bouncing alone and definitely never with an adult who could crush them if they fell. Read the RoSPA trampoline advice before you buy. 
  • Ponds. 5 children die in garden ponds every year. Keep young kids safe and either fence it, grill it or fill it until they’re a bit older.
  • Paddling Pools. Never leave children unattended and remember to empty or cover them.
  • Plants. Some garden plants such as foxgloves seem pretty to small children but are toxic. Always read the label carefully if you’re buying new plants. If you’re unsure about the existing plants in your garden, visit a flower shop or garden centre for more advice.
  • Tools and chemicals. Put them away after use. Things like slug pellets or plant food can be deadly if swallowed by children.

Learning to be independent is an important part of growing up. Every child is different so there is no set age when a child is considered to be old enough to go out without an adult. You should build up their independence at a pace that suits them.

Read the NSPCC advice to help you decide if your child is ready to go out alone.

Think about road safety when you are considering allowing your child to go out and about independently e.g. walking to school.

 

Going out alone tips:

  • Ground rules - Agree a set of rules that your child is happy with and understands e.g. only playing outside for a certain amount of time and staying where you can see them. Teach your child not to use a mobile phone when crossing the road.
  • Buddy system - If your child is out with other children, make sure they have a buddy system where they stick with a partner or group and have an adult they know nearby.
  • Meeting point - Always agree on a meeting point if you are out and about with your child then if they get lost it will be the first place to look. You also need to make sure your child knows what to do if they get lost, for example finding a policeman or going into a shop.
  • Contact details - Make sure they know your home address and telephone number. When ready you could even give them a mobile phone to use when they are out.
  • Practice - For older children, encourage them to become 'street-smart'. Take your child on the route to their local park from your home so they become familiar with the area. If anything were to happen in an emergency, your child should know their route home.
  • Community - You could even try setting up a neighbourhood watch scheme where members of the community all keep an eye out for children.
  • Strangers - Most strangers will help rather than harm a child. Many people that do pose a risk to children are not strangers. Clever Never Goes is about teaching your child the confidence to trust their instincts and how to react to unsafe situations. Teach your child that they must never go anywhere with anyone, a stranger or a familiar face, unless plans have been made beforehand. If they feel uncomfortable about any behaviour tell them to report it to an adult they trust or the police.

You can treat your child's very minor illnesses and injuries at home.

Some illnesses can be treated in your own home with support and advice from the services listed when required, using the recommended medicines and getting plenty of rest.

Sound advice

Children can recover from illness quickly but also can become more poorly quickly; it is important to seek further advice if a child's condition gets worse.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

All community pharmacies across England are required to be Healthy Living Pharmacies. This means that they are able to offer advice about a range of healthy living matters which includes eating a healthy diet. They can provide information leaflets and give parents/carers and young people more information about other organisations that might be able to also help them with healthy eating.

Pharmacists are experts in many aspects of healthcare and can offer advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds and stomach upsets. You don’t need an appointment and many have private consultation areas, so they are a good first port of call. Your pharmacist will say if you need further medical attention.

Sound advice

  1. Visit a pharmacy if your child is ill, but does not need to see a GP.
  2. Remember that if your child's condition gets worse, you should seek further medical advice immediately.
  3. Help your child to understand - watch this video with them about going to the pharmacy.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

Health visitors are nurses or midwives who are passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing illness through the delivery of the Healthy Child Programme. They work with you through your pregnancy up until your child is ready to start school.

Health Visitors can also make referrals for you to other health professionals for example hearing or vision concerns, or to the Community Paediatricians, or the child and adolescent mental health services.

 

Contact your local Health Visiting Team:

Bradford Health Visitors or call - 01274 221223

Wakefield Health Visitors or call - 01924 310130

Craven Health Visitors or call - 01423 544265

Leeds Health Visitors or call - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Kirklees Health Visitors or call - 030 0304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound advice

Health visitors also provide advice, support and guidance in caring for your child, including:

  • Breastfeeding, weaning and healthy eating
  • Exercise, hygiene and safety
  • Your child’s growth and development
  • Emotional health and wellbeing, including postnatal depression
  • Safety in the home
  • Stopping smoking
  • Contraception and sexual health
  • Sleep and behaviour management (including temper tantrums!)
  • Toilet training
  • Minor illnesses

For more information about what Health Visitors do: What does a health visitor do?

School nurses care for children and young people, aged 5-19, and their families, to ensure their health needs are supported within their school and community. They work closely with education staff and other agencies to support parents, carers and the children and young people, with physical and/or emotional health needs.

 

Contacting the School Nurse

Primary and secondary schools have an allocated school nurse – telephone your child’s school to ask for the contact details of your named school nurse.

There is also a specialist nurse who works with families who choose to educate their children at home.

Contact your local school nursing team:

Bradford School Nurses01274 221203

Wakefield School Nurses01924 310130

Leeds School Nurses - 0113 843 5683

Calderdale School Nurses030 3330 9974 (local rate number)

Kirklees School Nurses0300 304 5555 (local rate number)

Sound Advice

Before your child starts school your health visitor will meet with the school nursing team to transfer their care to the school nursing service. The school nursing team consists of a school nursing lead, specialist public health practitioners and school health staff nurses.

They all have a role in preventing disease and promoting health and wellbeing, by:-

  • encouraging healthier lifestyles
  • offering immunisations
  • giving information, advice and support to children, young people and their families
  • supporting children with complex health needs

Each member of the team has links with many other professionals who also work with children including community paediatricians, child and adolescent mental health teams, health visitors and speech and language therapists. The school health nursing service also forms part of the multi-agency services for children, young people and families where there are child protection or safeguarding issues.

GPs assess, treat and manage a whole range of health problems. They also provide health education, give vaccinations and carry out simple surgical procedures. Your GP will arrange a referral to a hospital specialist should you need it.

All children should be registered with a GP. Anyone in England can register for free with a GP surgery. You do not need proof of address or immigration status, ID or an NHS number.

How to find your local GP.

Sound advice

You have a choice of service:

  1. Doctors/GPs can treat many illnesses that do not warrant a visit to A&E.
  2. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about visiting the GP or going to a walk in centre

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

If you’re not sure which NHS service you need, call 111. An adviser will ask you questions to assess your symptoms and then give you the advice you need, or direct you straightaway to the best service for you in your area.

Please note, the online version of NHS 111 is only recommended for children over the age of five. If your child is under five years old, please phone 111.

NHS 111 can also direct you to your nearest urgent treatment centre (minor injuries unit or walk-in centre).

Find your local urgent treatment centre.

When to visit an urgent treatment centre.

Sound advice

Use NHS 111 if you are unsure what to do next, have any questions about a condition or treatment or require information about local health services.

For information on common childhood illnesses go to What is wrong with my child?

A&E departments provide vital care for life-threatening emergencies, such as:

  • loss of consciousness
  • breathing difficulties
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • major trauma such as road traffic collisions

If you’re not sure it’s an emergency, call 111 for advice.

Sound advice

  1. Many visits to A&E and calls to 999 could be resolved by any other NHS services.
  2. If your child's condition is not critical, choose another service to get them the best possible treatment.
  3. Help your child to understand – watch this video with them about going to A&E or riding in an ambulance

This guidance has been reviewed and adapted by healthcare professionals across West Yorkshire with consent from the Hampshire development groups.