I talk a lot of smack about not wanting to helicopter my kids. But I have a confession to make: I hover like a damn champ when it comes to wearing helmets. My kids can’t even place their little butts on the seat of bike without strapping on a helmet, and this has been the rule ever since they swung their leg over their first Strider bike.
I’ve heard all the excuses for why someone doesn’t want to wear a helmet: The other kids aren’t doing it. It’s hot. I’m just going a short distance. It’s just a tricycle!
And guess what? I. Don’t. Care.
No helmet. No biking. The end.
My strictness on this rule may come from the fact that in a former life I was a physical therapist and have seen my share of traumatic brain injuries over the years. Brain injuries are no joke. Have you ever seen child’s brain so swollen from a biking accident that the doctors have had to remove a piece of their skull to make room for the swelling? I have. Trust me, if you’ve seen that, you would never let your child come within 10 feet of a bike without strapping on a helmet.
And yes, this goes for tricycles too. One emergency room doctor in Ohio, Dr. Gary Smith stated to CNN, “Concrete is unforgiving, and it doesn’t take a fall from very high to cause a serious transfer of energy. We’ve even seen a child die after a fall on concrete from only 4 feet up.”
Additionally, a 2015 study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at all the emergency room visits from tricycle accidents in 2012 and 2013. Kids’ heads were the body part that was injured the most. I don’t know about you, but I like my kids’ heads just the way they are. They’re cute and round and full of funny thoughts and sometimes inappropriate humor.
And yes, a bike accident can happen at any moment, even in your driveway. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “Nearly 60% of all childhood bicycle-related deaths occur on minor roads. The typical bicycle/motor vehicle crash occurs within 1 mile of the bicyclist’s home.” And according to Children’s Safety Network, head injuries accounted for 62.6% of bicycle fatalities.
Kids will wear a helmet if you model the behavior and if you are consistent enough.
Kids will wear a helmet when they know their bike will be sold on eBay if you catch them without one on.
Kids will wear their helmet properly if you tell them scary stories about children with brains that are so swollen that doctors have to remove parts of their skull.
Kids just want to have fun, and if they know that bikes = helmets, then they will just automatically put one on and zoom off. Soon they won’t even think about it.
And finally, please, please make sure your child’s helmet fits correctly and covers the front of their head. I see so many kids riding around with the helmet kind of flopping off the back. The frontal lobe is where lots of important things happen (like thinking thoughts) so that area needs protection. If you want more information on how to correctly fit a helmet, you can go here.
I know there are times when it seems like it’s not worth the hassle or the impending argument, because your kids won’t be leaving the driveway or their balance bike is only 2 feet off the ground, but it is worth it. Make them wear the helmet.