Thursday, July 11, 2013

Safety First

Let's talk risk today....

I believe risk taking is a very individualized concept. What is acceptable risk for one person may be completely unacceptable to another - And that is absolutely ok, EXCEPT (in my opinion), when it comes to acceptable risk for our children. As an adventurous parent, my kiddos participate in some activities that may make other parents shudder. But their safety is never compromised and is always the top priority.

Recently I came across a post from a fellow outdoor family blogger discussing the "downsides of helmets" and quite honestly I was pissed off. They proceeded to quote studies that supposedly show that without exposing our children to "risky play" they will develop phobias. And I can wholeheartedly agree with that part of it, I'm not an overprotective parent by any means. But risky play does not mean directly putting our children in harms way. Allegedly, if your child is hurt in a fall before the age of 9, they will be less likely to have a fear of heights as a teenager... I'm not a scientist, but my children have no fear of heights despite having never been injured! What a concept - Exposing them to heights in a safe, controlled setting works too.

Flying high (Safely!)
Photo credit: Steve W Weiss

Stepping down from my soapbox (kinda)....

If your children rock climb, they should be wearing a helmet. Plain and simple. Why take the chance when serious injury is so easily prevented? If you take your child whitewater rafting, they wear a PFD. When your child rides their bike, they wear a helmet. It doesn't take anything away from the experience. Adventure can be accomplished safely.


There are all sorts of safety measures out there designed to prevent serious injuries while allowing us to still engage in so called "risky play" and crazy fun adventures. Today I would like to specifically discuss helmets. One helmet in particular. The Petzl Picchu helmet for children. It is the only helmet rated to function as both a climbing and biking helmet. From what I understand, it has the hard shell of a typical climbing helmet to protect from things like rock fall and the impact foam of cycling helmets to protect from side impacts as well. Why do I love this? When kids climb, their small size usually means they have to look for less obvious holds in between the ones we'd normally use. For my kids this often means wandering off route to one side or the other in order to find just the right hold to get them up to the next one. No matter how I set up the top rope, their wandering usually puts them in a position to pendulum if they let go of the rock. The bonus of the cycling impact foam for climbing means, if my kiddos slip from their hold off route and swing sideways into the rock, their noggin is protected.

Safe kids = Happy kids

There are so many dangers that are out of our control while climbing such as rock fall. At more popular crags you could have other climbers above you carelessly knocking down rocks (or carabiners or belay devices or cameras...). If you opt for more remote climbing areas, the culprits could very well be animals knocking rock down onto you. Unless you stick to the climbing gym, this is a very real hazard that could cause serious damage to little heads if you don't come prepared. At the end of the day, I want my children to walk away uninjured and with a smile on their face. I want them to experience the fun and magic of climbing right now, the pain (finger locks, offwidths, alpine...) can all come later if they so choose.

Mom wears her Petzl helmet too!!

This helmet meets my families needs in every possible way. It's easily adjustable so my kids can even share one helmet when climbing. The sizing is specifically designed for children in the 3 to 8 year old range. It comes in either orange or blue and retails for approximately $60 at most outdoor retailers.

And now for the good stuff! You didn't think this was just a rant about helmets and safety did you? Petzl has graciously provided me with an extra Picchu to giveaway to one lucky kiddo! Enter between now and July 19th below using the Rafflecopter widget and one lucky winner will be chosen using and will be notified by email (so make sure you leave some contact info for me!). Good luck and keep it safe out there!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer - Per my request, Petzl provided me with a helmet for my kids and a helmet to give away. 
All opinions expressed are 100% my own.


Kate T-C said...

I am very pro-helmet at the crag. The first year we moved out to CO, I saw a terrible accident where a 15 year old girl fell 60ft and smashed her head. It was more than enough to keep me always wearing a helmet while climbing, and doing just about anything else that might impact my skull (driving? I seriously consider it sometimes). For our kiddo, it will be helmets all the way... when I can get my hands on one that fits. Haven't quite found it yet, so he isn't climbing yet. Maybe this Petzl give-away will work out for us!

M Wheeler said...

I agree whole heartily with everything you said. I'm relatively new to the sport, I've only been climbing about two years with a more experienced partner, and have introduced rock climbing to my wife and nine year old son, Lennon. A lot of the other climbers at the gym, all with good intentions, try to help my son on routes from the ground. However, they forget to take into consideration little arms and legs and, like you said, take him off route. Inevitably, he swings when he falls. Along with getting him a helmet, I'm also shopping for a Petzl GriGri 2. My partner and I are completely comfortable using our Black Diamond ATCs, but I like the extra safety features of the GriGri when my child is on the other end of the rope.

Tanya Koob said...

We always wear helmets and our son does too for bike riding. We just registered him in climbing lessons this spring and he didn't have to wear a helmet at the climbing gym. When we go out to the crags this summer we will definitely put a helmet on him but all he has is his bike helmet. Would love to get an actual climbing helmet.

Mountain Mama said...

So pro helmet here too for everything. Biking, climbing (if we were doing that....but haven't ventured there yet...), even sledding. I know there is some argument that wearing helmets makes kids more willing to take risks. I disagree and think that if they wear them from a very young age and know they HAVE To wear them, they are second nature and just like wearing a hat (but with more protection, of course.) Thanks for the post!

Alyssa said...

Haley- The pendulum thought it SOOO SOOO true. We have that problem too. And inevitably they slip off a hold, swing sideways (not even that far), and often flip on their side or back. Their head often hits the rock,, even if just touching it. Helmets are out friends...and to be honest, we ned a new bike helmet for my son as well!


Rachel said...

Helmets are SOOOO important! I was rocking my helmet at Emigrant peak (MT) this weekend.

Brave Ski Mom said...

Couldn't agree more. Once I started wearing a helmet skiing, I've never looked back. My kids don't even know the difference. They wear helmets for hockey, skiing, biking, skateboarding, and lacrosse. For hockey and lacrosse, it's not even an option. No helmet, no play.

Sadly last year, a father of 39 years in our town, was skateboarding with his kids. He hit a small rock and fell. Shouldn't have been a big deal, but he hit his head hard and died instantly. An unbelievable tragedy. Why take the risk?


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