Guest Author - Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, M.D, F.A.A.P
Have you seen the new Six Flags add recently? Talk about a catchy way of getting us all out of our niche and wanting to feel the wind at our faces!
There is no doubt that amusement parks can be a great family outing and offer something for everyone – even non-ride people. At the same time, while it’s easy to assume that a clean-looking, well-run park is “safe”, statistics suggest otherwise. Safekids.org recently reported 6500 emergency room visits in 2001 for amusement park injuries in the United States – and the majority of those actually avoidable and due to families and attendants bending the posted rules. Equipment problems do occur but result in a small amount of injuries overall.
And, the sun, large-layout and crowds at these parks add their own elements to family fun and safety. So, before you start your next amusement park adventure, consider a few simple safety ideas first:
1. Plan ahead and pay particular attention to health, age and height restrictions and remember they work both ways – kids should not go on rides they are too small for, or have outgrown!
2. Read the rules and make sure everyone follows them.
3. Keep all body parts in the ride at all times and tie back long hair as both can easily get caught in gears.
4. Always use provided safety equipment (bars and belts) and handrails.
5. Don’t unload until the ride stops and you are told to get out.
6. Don’t ride anything if you are feeling tired or ill.
7. Don’t ride anything that looks broken or unsteady – or a ride with an operator who makes you uncomfortable or seems under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
8. Makes sure everyone drinks often and has time out of the sun throughout the day.
9. Make sure you have a rendezvous plan and consider using walkie-talkies if you will all be separated during the day.
10. Don’t try and see it all in one day – go for quality, not quantity!
Keep in mind that what looks fun to you may very well be scary to your child regardless of age. Think about costumed characters for a moment. A person wearing a costume to you is really that character to a small child - and magnified a billion times from TV. So, don’t push those picture moments if your child is fearful – let your child dictate how close she wants to get to that large cuddly critter.
It’s equally important to be realistic about your child and your expectations about choosing a ride. The last time I was at Magic Kingdom, I remember hearing a dad loudly berate a teenager for being a “wimp” because she refused to ride Splash Mountain while her 7 year old brother was happy to go on. I have to admit – I’m not a big fan of those rides either! To each his own with this stuff – we all define fun differently and these rides are just not for everyone.
So, go with the flow, have a blast, follow a few simple safety ideas and you’re next amusement park adventure is sure to be a huge success for all of you – and injury free!