Photo by Lyndsay JenkinsonGone are the days of riding your bike with abandon down the street and the wind blowing through your hair. Strapping on your roller-skates and stumbling down the sidewalk, nary a piece of padding in sight or swooshing your way down the slopes with only a toque and goggles on your head.

We have become aware, and some might argue obsessed, with keeping our children safe. Not so long ago things were very different. Children of the 80’s did not sit in car seats or infant carriers. Now, by the time your child is 8, you will have gone through infant carriers, rear facing car seats, front facing car seats and then finally graduated to a booster seat which your child may leave by law when he or she is 8 yrs old, 80 lbs in weight or 4’9” (57”) in height, whichever comes first. If you decide to go to with the weight or height requirements you could very well still be sporting booster seats in your car until your child is 11, but the safety precautions don’t end here… even going out to play requires more safety equipment than ever.

Many of us are padding our kids up for every sport and helmets are everywhere. Some might even say we are bubble wrapping our kids. Hockey personality Don Cherry is well known for his position on helmets in the world of hockey. In addition to his controversial opinion that helmets emasculate the sport of hockey, Cherry has expressed the opinion that if helmets were removed we would see less high-sticking and dangerous actions. Perhaps he has a point in that wearing a helmet might give one a false sense of security and lead one to take more risks, but here is where my agreement with Cherry ends. Apparently, however, there are plenty of people who have similar attitudes to Mr. Cherry.

This past Friday, the CBC published a story about a study on wearing helmets for tobogganing:  This study, which was done at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute in Ottawa, was published in The Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.  This study is in favour of wearing a helmet.

Ok, no surprise here. I was, however, stunned to read the harsh comments made following the post on the CBC website. Some commentators appeared to be furious about this posting and seemed to feel that if we make our children wear helmets that we are raising “idiots” and “cowards”. In addition, the term “Nanny State” was tossed about in many comments. I had a strong reaction to these comments – questioning the intelligence of these commentators and even wondering if these idiotic attitudes were a result of a few too many bumps on the head…something which might well have been avoided by wearing a helmet!

Photo by Lyndsay Jenkinson

NO ONE is saying we should bubble wrap our kids nor are they saying don’t ski, snowboard or toboggan. COME ON you anti-helmet people! What is the big deal about wearing a helmet while tobogganing or skiing? Some of these commentators expressed that we should send our kids out the door wearing helmets to walk to school or better yet, give birth to babies who come prepared wearing helmets. Yes, accidents happen and you could slip and fall on the icy sidewalk and hit your head, but no one expects or thinks that it is taking a risk to walk on the sidewalk. Racing down a steep slope on a snowboard, skis or even a toboggan at fast speeds definitely increases your risk and potential to fall and hit your head so why be stupid about it. Isn’t your head or your kid’s worth the cost of a helmet? It is a small price to pay to protect your head. No, it is not fool proof as is evidenced by the recent death of Canadian skier Sarah Burke this past Thursday after a ski accident where, yes, she was wearing a helmet. For those of you who would argue that Xtreme sports such as freestyle pipe skiing are the type of sports where you are going to fall and hit your head and, therefore, are the only circumstances in which you need a helmet, let’s go back to March 2009.

Many will remember that Natasha Richardson fell and hit her head while on a beginners slope at Mont Tremblant, Quebec. She later died of her head injury in a New York Hospital. Yes, Richardson was reportedly not wearing a helmet when she fell. Many expressed the opinion that she might not have suffered such a severe head injury had she been wearing one, but medical experts could not confirm that her injury would have been prevented by a helmet. There are some head injuries which cannot be prevented by a helmet due to the rotational forces in the brain. The point here is that falls can happen anywhere whether it be in a daring extreme sport or slowly sliding down the bunny slopes. Helmets are not a guarantee, but they can increase your odds or surviving a hit to the head so why wouldn’t you wear one when participating in a sport?

My emotional and personal reason aside here are a few more things to consider about wearing helmets:

  • Children have underdeveloped skills physically and are more likely to fall, therefore, more precautions are required to protect their heads.
  • Concussion is most common head injury and especially for the young developing mind it can cause lasting damage. Even as adults repetitive concussions are not to be taken lightly and can have long term impact – case in point, Sidney Crosby.
  • Studies show that head trauma, in particular concussions, lead to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

So there you have it. I am obviously in favour of helmets. Was I always? Not completely. I ski, rollerblade, roller-skate, bike, skate, and enjoy tobogganing, but grew up in an era when no one wore helmets except in hockey, football and baseball. Many years ago, I did start wearing a helmet for biking and rollerblading, but really didn’t give it much thought for other sports. Even when I bought my daughter her first pair of skates 4 years ago, I was surprised to realize that I needed a helmet too. I was caught off guard, but after about 2 whole seconds of thought I went straight to the helmet section of the store, daughter in hand, to try on helmets. My daughter, not knowing any different, had no objection to getting a helmet. Her only objection, in fact, was the colour. She wanted the white/girl helmet, but the only helmets they had left were black. Seeing her disappointment and realizing that finding a white helmet late in the season might prove to be a challenge, I promised her that I would do something special with her helmet and it would be even better than the white one she had wanted.

My daughter wanted to learn to skate and I wanted to do it right which meant wearing a helmet…and also doing it in style. So here is what I did. It was very easy, and is a great option to parents whose little girls are getting their brothers hand-me down black hockey helmets.

Photo by Lyndsay Jenkinson

Who says black helmets are just for boys…

Here’s what you need:

Photo by Lyndsay Jenkinson

  • Acrylic Interference/Iridescent paint – the colour looks creamy when wet but then deepens to a nice, iridescent shade when dry/cured.
  • Sponge tip blotters/dabbers
  • Snowflake Stencils – I took a strip of 4 and cut them into individual snowflakes. NOTE: that you must make cuts in the excess plastic around the stencil to allow give as you place the flat stencil over the curved surface of the helmet.
  • Flat-back crystals in an AB (Aurora Borealis) finish.

How To:

  • Place the stencils randomly on the helmet and secure with a bit of tape.
  • Blot or dab the paint over the stencil. Note for the smaller snowflakes I simply only applied paint to the inner portion of the stencil.
  • Remove stencils and repeat until in other areas of the helmet until you snowflakes dispersed over the entire surface of the helmet.
  • With the end of your dabber or a paint brush, place a dab of paint in the centre of each snowflake. Next place a crystal in the dab of paint.
  • NOTE: It doesn’t have to be perfect and it is likely that your snowflakes will not be, but I actually like the slightly messy effect here.
  • Wait 24 hours for the paint to cure.

Photo bu Lyndsay Jenkinson

My daughter loves her helmet and we have received many compliments on it, but more importantly she loves skating and has no fear of falling (nor do I fear her falling for that matter). It was a small effort and worth it to give her a stylish helmet to protect her head.

There are lots of options out there for helmets and should you not be inclined to break out the paints and paint a brush that is ok. The important thing is to buy a helmet that fits, is appropriate for the activity AND to wear it.

As for the “Nanny State” commentators, who believe that we are over legislated, I have this to offer: In Ontario helmets are only mandatory for children for hockey and biking. Although recommended, they are not however, mandatory for skating, tobogganing, skiing or snowboarding. It is your individual choice.

That being said, why be stupid? Use your noggin and save a melon!

Attitude, Helmet, & Photos by Lyndsay Jenkinson

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  1. midnitechef says:

    There are some cool and cute helmets for kids these days. I’ve had my share of accidents on my bike to be very thankful I had a helment (and jeans on!). Try hitting a curb head-on and flying over your handles to the sidewalk! Stuff happens even when you are careful, best to be prepared! Thanks for the great article.

    • Thanks for your comment and input. I remember as a young kid, riding with my sister and watching her fly over the handlebars when her bike tire got caught in a railway track. She landed in the middle of a busy road. She was not wearing a helmet, but we didn’t have them back then. We both always wear helmets now when cycling.

  2. Well said. I have gone over the handlebars of my bike twice, once as a child and once as a young adult. It could have been a lot worse if I was NOT wearing a helmet. I still gear up today and make sure my helmet fits me properly too. I would rather look dorked out than sustain an injury to my brain or scalp, nothing to mess around with for sure! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for your comment – Yes better to be “dorked out” as you put it! Let’s face it, if you suffer a head injury the odds are you are not going to care how you looked while falling! 😉

  3. Jfeldt says:

    Way to go! I couldn’t agree more. I am constantly shocked when I see people riding horses, (my sport of choice), without helmets. I don’t understand how preventing the worst case scenario is ’emasculating’ lol. Amazing job and great idea on the stenciled helmet 🙂

  4. Better safe than sorry, as an avid bike rider I’m kind of a safety freak after having many close calls. Now I wear a helmet and bunch of bright yellow reflective clothing plus I have a bunch of red flashing lights for when it gets dark. I do probably look kind of silly but at least people can see me and avoid me. All these drivers around here are kind of oblivious sometimes. Nice post 🙂

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