3 fun but dangerous activities emergency doctors say kids should skip

Image of children jumping on a trampoline

Risky play is important for growing children, but pediatric emergency experts said they would avoid letting their children use trampolines, ATVs and electric scooters, which are responsible for hundreds of pediatric hospital visits and injuries.

The arrival of spring means more time for outdoor play, but some activities may bring about the potential for bumps, bruises or worse.

While risky play is an important part of childhood development, as highlighted by a recent study by the Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS), some outdoor activities can lead to serious injuries like broken bones and sprains.

We spoke with two pediatric emergency medicine experts about the activities they caution against doing based on data and their own experiences treating injuries.


According to Statistics Canada, there are an average 100 deaths every year involving ATVs. About 12 per cent of those fatalities involved people under the age of 20.

“I’d never buy my children ATVs as I live in an urban centre, don’t have use for them for transportation, and they are heavy, fast machinery that can cause severe injury or death – more than enough to give me fear as a pediatric emergency medicine physician,” says emergency physician April Kam, an associate professor in the department of Pediatrics in the Faculty of Health Sciences.

ATV use by children can be particularly concerning, agrees Nathalie Schindler, an assistant clinical professor in the department of Pediatrics.

“In some rural areas in Canada, ATVs are a necessary part of everyday life. However, young children are inexperienced and lack the size and strength to handle these vehicles. That’s why the Canadian Paediatric Society advises against the recreational use of ATVs, especially for children under the age of 16,” Schindler says.

The CPS Injury Prevention Committee has drafted an updated statement on off-road vehicles that advocates for increased safety standards specifically around use by children, Kam says.


Trampolines are a popular addition to backyards. But more than 1,200 kids are injured on average every year while using a trampoline, reports Parachute, a Canadian charity focused on injury prevention.

Alberta Health Services, which advises against the purchase of trampolines for use at home, reported 967 injuries in children in 2021. Those injuries accounted for 60 per cent of all trampoline injuries that year.

Kam asked her colleagues with CPS which activities they would be reluctant to have their children to participate in. There were a few caveats, but they agreed trampolines would be on the list.

“Those of us with older children have had them jump on the trampolines of friends or relatives, or when they’re at a birthday party,” Kam says.

“ From a harm reduction point of view, certain hard “no” to using a trampoline for me would be not letting my toddler or smaller child jump simultaneously with a teen or adult, due to the risk of double bounce with the weight disequilibrium that can cause injury.”

One bad jump can land you in the emergency department, Schindler says. Common injuries include sprains, head and neck injuries, and broken bones — mostly wrists, forearms, elbows and ankles.

“Using a trampoline at home might feel safer because of the use of padding and nets, but these things do little to prevent injuries. The most common cause of injuries are multiple jumpers, landing wrong, and falling off the trampoline,” Schindler says.

Electric scooters

In the early 2000s, scooters became all the rage among youthful millennials and Gen Xers. Fast forward to 2024 and scooters are back in fashion, but with a very distinct difference — battery power.

“While they look like a lot of fun, electric scooters can reach speeds of 24 to 40 km/h. We see injuries that stem from people not wearing a helmet and not being aware when scootering,” says Schindler. “Scootering on sidewalks is dangerous for pedestrians while scootering on the road with cars puts the rider at risk.”

Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada published a report in 2021 that highlighted 523 hospital cases involving e-scooter injuries between Jan. 2012 and Dec. 2019.

“Electric scooters would be on my list of something I wouldn’t purchase for my children. Injuries associated with them include fractures of your arms, as well as facial and head injuries. Also, I’d prefer my children to use their muscles a little to get around occasionally,” Kam says.

“Parents should allow kids to run outside, play with friends, tumble around and soak in the joy, ideally without any motorized vehicles going more than 20 km/h.”

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