Toboggan Safety for Kids and Families

Young happy mother and her son wearing a helmet on a sleigh ride together in a snowy park

As a continuation of our winter activity safety series, we at Gluckstein Lawyers wanted to remind you of the measures to take when tobogganing to ensure you and your young ones have a safe and enjoyable time. Before you decide to take your children tobogganing, it is important to consider these factors:

What are the weather conditions like?

SickKids Hospital recommends tobogganing on a clear day, with great visibility, when the sun is out. [1] If that is not possible, check the temperature for the day and dress appropriately, considering the evolving temperature. To reduce the risk of hypothermia and frostbite, Calgary's Child Mag cautions that you shouldn't go out when it is below -19°C. [2] Family Fun Canada echoes this concern by stating that if you are concerned when tobogganing, watch your child for signs of frostnip or frostbite (the skin begins to turn from pink to yellow or white and then waxy, hard and numb), paying particular attention to any exposed skin, plus fingers, and toes. [3]

How should I dress my child for tobogganing?

Dress your child in layers with gloves or mitts, warm socks, and a toque or balaclava for extra warmth on top. Ski goggles or sunglasses are also a great choice if it is a sunny day. [4] SickKids emphasizes that children should always wear a helmet when tobogganing. A bicycle helmet works; however, a ski or hockey helmet is ideal. [5] They further emphasize that you should avoid dressing your child in long scarves, clothes with long drawstrings or loose clothing as they can get caught and pose a safety hazard for your child. [6]

What should the hill look like?

Ensure that the hill does not have a road, railway, or body of water at the end of it and that it is free of trees, fences, bumps, ice, holes, poles, rocks, or other obstacles that might get in the way of your child. [7]

How can I ensure that my child is ready for tobogganing?

The Canadian Pediatric Society cautions that children under five years of age must ride in a toboggan with an adult and that children under twelve should be supervised. [8] SickKids adds that you should ensure that your child is developmentally or physically ready for the type of sled they use before tobogganing. [9]

What are the best measures to take before tobogganing?

Family Fun Canada recommends inspecting your toboggan before its use to confirm that it is in good working shape, with no broken parts, split wood or plastic, sharp edges, or other impediments to its safety. [10]. It is best to choose a sled you can steer, although if yours doesn't have a steering wheel, teach your children how to brake with their feet. [11]

What do I need to teach my child to prepare them for safe fun?

To start, emphasize that the best ways to sit on a toboggan are upright, facing forward, with limbs inside the toboggan either feet first or kneeling, and never sliding down head-first or standing. [12] Family Fun Canada recommends reminding children, "To slide down the middle of the hill and move quickly out of the way to the bottom. Explain that they must let the person in front get down the hill and out of the way before they start sliding and not slide in groups. Show them where they can safely walk back up the hill and set area boundaries to keep them away from any nearby hazards. Also, teach your child that if they are ever at risk of running into an obstacle (including another sledder), it's safest to roll sideways off the sled into the snow, rather than collide with an object." [13] Remember to follow these safety measures to ensure that you and your little ones have the best possible time this winter!


[1], [5], [6], [7], [9], [11] Rosenfield, D. (2021, January 29). Tobogganing: Balancing risky play with minimizing injuries. SickKids. [2] Beringer, C. (n.d.). Toboggan safety tips. Calgary's Child Magazine. [3], [4], [10], [12], [13] MacKay, A. (2015, January 9). Tips for safe sledding. Family Fun Canada. [7], [8] Leduc, D. (2021, January 6). Safety guidelines for tobogganing. Montreal Families.


Subscribe to our Newsletter

Sign me up