bounce castleThanks to hot days, warm nights, plentiful sunshine, and verdant backyards, summertime in itself is an excuse to party! Not to mention that it's the perfect season to celebrate kids' birthdays or graduations outdoors. But unfortunately, along with those celebrations often comes activities with inherent dangers.

As much as we want our children to be able to enjoy jumping up and down in bounce houses or diving into the pool, we have to consider potential related injuries. Here, the six riskiest party playthings and what parents can do to guard against related accidents ...

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1. Swimming Pool

The truth is that most of us would be perfectly content to live in the pool on hot summer days. And many kids have one pool party after the next to attend from the minute school lets out 'til Labor Day. But unnervingly, between 2000 and 2006, drowning was the second-leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old, according to the CDC.

How to make sure they're safe: Children should always be supervised by adults, even if lifeguards are present. "Parents should designate a water watcher; someone who is the designated person to watch the pool undistracted for 15-20 minutes," advises Jennifer Hoekstra, an injury prevention specialist at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Michigan.

Other smart rules to set: "Unsafe water activities, such as breath-holding contests and dunking, should be discouraged," says Dr. Kay Leaming-Van Zandt, M.D., emergency medicine physician at the Texas Children's Hospital. She also recommends enclosing and covering pools and hot tubs and enrolling your children in water safety and swim classes, as well as learning first aid and CPR.

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2. Piñata

Understandably, as much as kids may love and request piñatas, parents tend to loathe the party plaything that must be smashed with a bat in order to spill out loads of sugar-laden goodies to eager, but often frightened kids (thanks to all that smashing!). Given the nature of the activity, it often seems like an injury waiting to happen!

How to make sure they're safe: Parents who've been there, done that with piñatas recommend that adults in charge designate a “safe zone,” where everyone is required to stand while one person is hitting the piñata. Also, try to spread the candy out a bit before all the children come running, so as to avoid trampling or a painful pile-up!

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3. Bounce House

One of the most popular party must-haves for kids these days is also one of the most dangerous. Consider these frightening stats: Bounce house (also referred to as jump houses or inflatable bouncers) injuries rose 1500 percent between 1995 and 2010 -- likely, as the activity's popularity rose. A whopping 18.5 percent of kids experience head or neck injuries, while most injuries are arm- or leg-related.

How to make sure they're safe: Teresa Cappello, M.D., pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Loyola University Health System, notes that a common source of injury is children of different ages and sizes jumping at the same time. For that reason, Dr. Cappello recommends placing kids into small groups by age and size and having an adult at the entrance to ensure the appropriate kids are playing together. You should also limit the number of children in a bounce house at a time. Too many kids means a higher risk of one falling out of the entrance and injuring themselves on the ground. "It's more fun for kids if they have space to play and it’s good for them to learn to take turns," explains Cappello. "If you’re planning a party, add bounce house monitor to your list of volunteer duties. Adult supervision really is the best way to prevent injuries."

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4. Trampoline

Before there were bounce houses, there was the good, ol' fashioned trampoline. But they're also frequently a source of injury. For kids aged 0 to 4, the injury rate was 70 per 100,000 in 2009, while children aged 5 to 14 had an injury rate of 160 per 100,000.

How to make sure they're safe: Because three quarters of all trampoline injuries occur when more than one child was jumping on the trampoline, and the smaller jumpers are 14 times more likely to get hurt than the heavy jumpers, experts say allowing only one child on a trampoline at a time may be the best way to go. Parents can also make sure the trampoline sits on a level surface with no trees or other hazardous objects nearby. Also, warning against flips and somersaults can preempt head and cervical spine injuries.

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5. Rock Climbing Wall

On a hot day, having a party at an air-conditioned rock climbing gym may sound perfect. But as popularity of rock climbing walls has increased, so too have related injuries. In fact, a 63 percent increase in climbing injuries was seen between 1990 and 2007, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy of the Research Institute at the Nationwide Children's Hospital.

How to make sure they're safe: "Proper footwear, a snug-fitting harness, and a properly fitted helmet are essential," advises Hoekstra. "Also, be sure the spotter is not distracted. And if you notice your child getting tired, it’s okay to take a break, and try again at another time."

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6. Slip 'n' Slide

Since 1961, the Slip 'n Slide and similar devices have been childhood backyard staples in the summer. But unfortunately, they're not without their risks -- especially for older kids, teens, and adults! The heavier your weight, the higher the risk of a serious back or neck injury, as there's a greater chance you'll stop too suddenly while diving onto the length of the slide.

How to make sure they're safe: "Slip and slides can be fun and a great way for children to keep cool in the summer; however kids need to be taught how to use them!" advises Hoekstra. "There should only be one child on the slide at a time, and be sure the previous slider is out of the way before the next child slides." Hoekstra also recommends ensuring that there are no rocks, twigs, or sharp object under the slide and that they are placed on level ground with a safe ending point.

How do you protect your kids from the dangers associated with these activities?

 

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