The ultimate guide to keeping your kids safe during summer

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The summer months are a fun-filled break for our little ones. And for good reason – there are plenty of activities to enjoy, like swimming at the local pool and having a picnic at the local playground. However, parents need to be aware of the biggest risk factors in summer, like the sun’s harmful UV rays and the potential for drowning at the local pool or beach. Even bike riding can pose a risk if your child hasn't been briefed on how to abide by relevant road safety rules.

Sun safety

Ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun is a quality source of vitamin D and plays an important role in keeping your little one’s body strong and healthy. However, it can also pose a great risk, especially if your child isn't properly protected with sunscreen and sun protective gear. Too much time in the sun without proper protection can lead to sunburn, skin damage, eye damage, and a weakened immune system.

Both kids and adults must recognise that Australia has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. 2 in 3 Aussies develop some form of skin cancer before the age of 70, and damage from UV radiation during childhood and adolescence is strongly linked to the development of cancer later on in life. 

The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) use a tool called the UV index to measure certain times throughout the day when UV radiation is highest. When the index reaches 3 or above, UV radiation levels can pose the greatest risk to your little ones. 

The UV index divides UV radiation levels into five classifications:

Low: 1-2

Moderate: 3-5

High: 6-7

Very high: 8-10

Extreme: 11+

Infants are highly susceptible to sunburn, especially if they’re outdoors during the day. If they’re in a stroller or pram, make sure they have enough shade, and their body is protected with lightweight clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. For kids older than 6 months, apply sunscreen 20 minutes before heading out, and every 2 hours after that (as well as after swimming or sweating). 

Using sunscreen on babies under 6 months isn't recommended because their skin is sensitive and vulnerable to anything you put on it – including sunscreen. The risk of sunscreen is worse than a sunburn, and using it can put your baby at risk of irritation or a rash. Instead, make use of physical barriers like wraps, clothing, and hats. 

Whether your child is 6 months or 6 years old, the most tried and true method of sun safety is SunSmart’s ‘slip, slop, slap’ (except now it has a few extra steps).

  1. Slip on some lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that covers as much skin as possible. 
  2. Slop on some SPF30 (or higher) water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen. 
  3. Slap on a bucket or broad-brimmed hat that covers your kid’s face, ears, and the back of their neck.
  4. Seek out shade wherever possible. Think about bringing an umbrella or sunshade if you go to the beach, or opt for an indoor pool instead of an outdoor one. 
  5. Slide on some 100% UV-protected sunglasses.

On particularly hot days, we’d recommend avoiding the sun during the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. This is when the sun’s rays are harshest, and pose the greatest risk of sunburn. Even if it's overcast and you can’t necessarily feel the heat, always look at the UV index and take measures to protect your children. Sunburns can occur quickly, even when you can’t see or feel the heat of the sun. 

If your children are outside and in the sun, make sure they take ample breaks and spend some time in the shade or inside the house every 20 or 30 minutes. This gives them time to cool off, relax, and ensure they’re hydrated before heading back out. 


Even though children with darker skin tones rarely burn and are at lower risk of skin cancer, they are still at risk of skin and eye damage. To protect against the sun’s harmful effects, kids of any skin tone should always wear sunscreen and sun protective gear. 

Pool safety

Pools can provide hours of entertainment on hot days and are a great opportunity for your child to get some exercise. The primary risk with pools, both indoor and outdoor, is that failure to supervise your child can lead to drowning. 

Drowning is a leading cause of death for Aussie kids, with 26% of all drowning deaths occurring in December and January. Data collected in 2019 from the ABS indicates that drowning is the number one cause of death in 1, 2 and 3-year-old children. 

Drowning can occur quickly and silently – all it takes is 20 seconds and a few centimetres of water. The most effective way of preventing drowning is by supervising your child or children at all times. This means actively supervising, and not just the occasional glance or getting a sibling to look after them. Any child under 5 years old should be within your arm's reach so you can grab them if something goes wrong, and any kids under 10 should be visible and directly accessible. 

In a supervised public pool, it's easy to think they’re immune from drowning thanks to the presence of a lifeguard. However, it's important to remember they’re not babysitters, and you should do all you can to follow their instructions and pool rules to prevent drowning. Lack of supervision by a parent or guardian is a contributing factor to more than two-thirds of drowning deaths at public pools. Even if your child is wearing an inflatable vest, water wings, or floaties, they are not immune to drowning. 

Familiarity with the water can help increase your child’s confidence, prevent drowning and keep them safe in the water. Consider enrolling them in swimming lessons and discussing water safety so they know how to act in case something goes wrong. 

Portable and blow-up pools carry the same risk as public pools. Of kids that drown in pools, 1 in 5 drown in one that's portable. Any pool that can be filled with more than 30cm of water should have fencing that complies with Australian law, as well as a childproof safety barrier. This includes inflatable pools, hot tubs, spas, and indoor swimming pools. To keep your little ones out when you’re not around, don’t leave the pool gate open, and be wary of any stepping stools, rocks, or ledges that can be climbed over to gain access to the pool.

If you’re unsure whether or not your pool complies, look to organise an inspection from your local council or visit the NSW Swimming Pool Register for a self-assessment checklist.

Bike riding

Most kids love and appreciate their bikes, as it affords them a sense of freedom and independence that’s hard to come by as a kid. To reduce the risk of injury during the summer months, it's important they know the risks and ways they can keep themselves safe while riding.

A properly fitted helmet reduces the chance of brain and head injury by 88%. Any kid riding their bike must wear a helmet that fits properly and has a sticker certifying that it meets Australian and New Zealand safety standards. They should be encouraged to wear wrist, elbow, and knee guards whenever they’re out and about riding their bike, scooter, skateboard, or roller skates. 

Before they head off on a ride, always make sure the brakes and bell or horn are working properly. Instead of riding near a busy or main road, encourage them to ride at a park with foot or bike paths.   

If possible, ride with them. Teach them about traffic road rules and signs and to always cross at the zebra crossing. Educate them on what types of hazards to look out for – unstable gravel, puddles, glass, and animals (dead or alive), for example. Point out what any road signs or traffic lights mean when you come across them, and teach them to always use the ‘stop, look, listen, think’ method when crossing the road. Stop at the kerb, look and listen for traffic, and think about whether or not it's safe to cross. 

If possible, avoid riding at night. Otherwise, try to accompany them or encourage them to wear white, neon, or fluorescent colours to make themselves appear more visible in the moonlight. Reiterate that just because they can see a car, doesn't mean the car can see them.

Be wary of hot cars

Never leave your child or children alone in a hot car. Even if you’re just popping in for a few groceries, always bring your kids with you. Kids produce more body heat and sweat less, causing their body temperature to rise much faster than adults. This puts them at greater risk of heatstroke, dehydration, and suffocation from staying in a hot car for too long. 

Even on a cool day, the temperature in a parked car can reach up to 70 degrees Celsius. Even if you leave the air conditioner on, it's always best to play it safe and never leave your children unattended in the car on a hot day.

Playground falls

Playgrounds can give kids the opportunity to use their imagination, socialise, and get in some physical activity. However, one of the most common causes of injury hospitalisation is injuries from falling off climbing equipment, swings, and trampolines. 

To minimise the risk of falls, ensure you choose age-appropriate play equipment. Ensure any kids under 5 don't play on equipment over 1.5 metres high, or play on a trampoline if you have access to one. Alternatively, consider purchasing a mini one with a handrail. If you have a trampoline at home, routinely check for tears or bends in the frame, and ensure it complies with Australian standards. 

Kids love visiting the playground during the summer months. But if the day is particularly hot, you might want to check the temperature of the equipment. It can be dangerous and uncomfortable for kids to play on metal slides or handrails. If the equipment feels hot to touch, it can cause contact burns and probably isn’t safe for your little one to play on. 

Window and balcony falls

Falls commonly occur in the summertime when the window or balcony door is left open to let in a breeze. Kids are naturally curious and might try to climb up on the railing, especially if you live on a higher floor in an apartment complex. But what might start as being inquisitive can lead to serious injury or death. 

We’d recommend installing child-resistant safety devices like locks on the windows or balcony, and keeping any beds, furniture, or pot plants away from the railing or window so they can't use them to climb up and peer over the railing. Ensure the railings are at least a metre high if possible, and always supervise your children if you notice they’re near the balcony.

Final word

Kids are curious, unique, and wonderful, but they don’t know how to effectively determine danger. It's our job as parents to protect them and show them how to play safe, especially in summer when sunburns, drownings and accidents are common. 

Hannah Geremia
Written by
Hannah Geremia
Hannah has had over six years of experience in researching, writing, and editing quality content. She loves gaming, dancing, and animals, and can usually be found under a weighted blanket with a cup of coffee and a book.

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