Child Safety

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Child Safety 

Keeping your child safe is most parents' top priority. Keep in mind, no safety measures can make a space completely safe. Active supervision is important to protect your child. This section will help equip you for the worst so you can expect the best from your child. Learn more about:

Car Seat Safety

Making sure your child is safe in the car can feel overwhelming. You want to protect your child but you're not sure if they are properly secured. What kind of car seat do you need for him/her? How do you install it? When do you need to change car seats? When will your child be ready for a seat belt?

The law in Ontario says that the driver is responsible for making sure any person less than 16 years old is properly secured according to their weight, height and age.

Check out the 4 stages below to see where your child fits as well as a helpful video: 

Stage 1 - Rear-facing car seats

The law in Ontario says that you must have your baby in a rear-facing car seat from birth to at least 9 kg (20 lbs). But, you should keep your child in a rear-facing car seat for as long as possible. Some rear-facing car seats are for children that weigh up to 20 kg (45 lbs). Don't worry about your child's legs touching the back of your vehicle's seat as long as your child is still below the weight and height limits of the child car seat.

How to install your rear-facing car seat: There may be more than one way to install your rear-facing car seat. Always check your vehicle's manual and car seat's user guide for how to install your child's car seat. Make sure the back of your rear-facing child car seat is at a 45 degree angle. Make sure the car seat does not move more than 2.5 cm (1") from side to side. 

How to buckle up your child: Make sure the shoulder harness straps are at or just below your baby's shoulders. Have only a one finger space between the harness strap and your child's collarbone. Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.

For information on the positioning of the handle on your child's car seat, check your car seat's user guide or speak with the manufacturer. 

Remember, think A1Secure for every car ride;

  • Armpit level for harness chest clip. 
  • 1 finger space only between harness straps and the child's chest.
  • Secure car seat to vehicle according to the car seat's user guide.

If you need more help installing your child's car seat you can have it looked at by a certified technician. You can do so at: S.E.A.T.S. for Kids Canada  or at Ottawa's Safety Council's Best Fit Program

Stage 2 - Forward-facing car seats

The law in Ontario says that your child needs a forward-facing car seat from 9 kg (20 lbs) up to 18 kg (40 lbs). But, you should keep your child in a forward-facing child car seat for as long as possible. Some forward-facing car seats are for children weighing up to 30 kg (65 lbs).

How to install your forward-facing car seat: You may have more than one way to install your forward-facing car seat. Always check your vehicle's manual and car seat's user guide for how to install your child car seat. Make sure the child car seat does not move more than 2.5 cm (1") from side to side. 

How to connect the tether strap: Remember, if you have a forward-facing car seat you must connect the tether strap. You will find the tether strap at the top of the car seat. It keeps your child's car seat from moving forward in an accident. If your car does not have a tether anchor, contact a dealership to have one put in.

How to buckle up your child: Make sure the shoulder harness straps are at or just above the child's shoulders. Remember, only one finger should fit between the harness strap and your child's collarbone. Make sure the chest clip is at armpit level.

Remember, think A1Secure for every car ride;

  • Armpit level for harness chest clip. 
  • 1 finger space only between harness straps and the child's chest.
  • Secure car seat to vehicle according to the car seat's user guide.

If you need more help installing your child's car seat you can have it looked at by a certified technician. You can do so at: S.E.A.T.S. for Kids Canada  or at Ottawa's Safety Council's Best Fit Program

Stage 3 - Booster seats

The law in Ontario says that your child needs a booster seat if they weigh over 18 kg (40 lbs) until one of the following occurs:

  • The child is 8 years of age or
  • 36 kg (80 lbs) or
  • 145 cm (4' 9") tall

But, if your child has reached one of the above three criteria, they may not be completely ready for a seatbelt. Have the shoulder belt resting on your child's shoulder and not on their neck or arm. Make sure the lap belt is snug and on their hips. 

Here are some other helpful tips:

  • Big snowsuits can affect how tight you can get you the harness of your child's car seat.
  • Do not leave loose items in your vehicle because they may hit and hurt someone during a sudden stop or crash.
  • Items that did not come with your child's car seat may not be safe to use.  For more information on aftermarket products, visit Transport Canada.
  • Register your child's car seat with the manufacturer. They will notify you if there has been a recall on your child's car seat.
  • Replace an expired, torn or broken car seat. Also replace it if it was in a car during a crash.

Please note: In Ottawa, if you do not properly secure your child in a child car seat it is a $240.00 fine and 2 demerit points.

If you need more help installing your child's car seat you can have it looked at by a certified technician. You can do so at: S.E.A.T.S. for Kids Canada  or at Ottawa's Safety Council's Best Fit Program

Stage 4 - Seat Belts

Seat belts are designed for older children and adults.

Your child is ready for a seat belt ONLY when:

  • Your child's back is against the back of the vehicle's seat;
  • Your child's knees hang over the seat and feet are touching the floor;
  • The shoulder belt can fit across your child's shoulder, NOT on the neck or face; and
  • The lap belt fits snugly across your child's hip bones, NOT on the stomach.

If your child does not meet all of the above, it is recommended that you continue to use a booster seat.

How to place the seat belt: Make sure when your child is sitting, the shoulder belt fits across the shoulder and not on the neck or the arm. The shoulder belt should never be behind the back or tucked under the arm. Also, the lap belt should fit snugly across the hip bones and not across the stomach

Important points to remember about seat belts

  • If your child is under 13 years of age they are safest in the back seat of the vehicle. Most vehicles have front seat air bags, and these can hurt your child if the bags inflate during a crash or sudden stop. The safest place in the vehicle for your child is always in the back seat.
  • Never put two children in the same seat belt or place the shoulder strap behind your child's back.
  • Do not leave loose items in your vehicle because these may hit and hurt someone in a sudden stop or crash.

Anaphylaxis is an allergic reaction . It involves either 2 or more body systems at the same time, or the respiratory system. Anaphylaxis is the most serious type of allergic reaction and is diagnosed by a doctor.

Without proper medical care, the reaction can get worse. It can cause death. Treatment is needed right away.

What causes anaphylaxis?

Your child may have an anaphylactic reaction if they swallow or is injected by something that they are allergic to. Touching or smelling the allergen can cause an allergic reaction, but anaphylaxis is rare in these cases.

The most common sources of allergens are:

  • Medications
  • Food and drinks: nuts, fish, eggs, milk
  • Insect bites or stings: bee and wasp stings
  • Latex: balloons, rubber gloves, some band aids

Preventing a reaction from happening in the first place is always the goal. We can all do our part to keep children with severe allergies safe at school.

What can I do as a parent?

  • Remember that most schools do not allow peanut butter and other peanut/tree nut products at school.
  • Find out from your child's teacher if there are any other foods to avoid in your child's lunch box and what they are.
  • Remind your child to never share food at school.
  • Remind your child to wash their hands well with soap and water before leaving for school.
  • Be careful of cross-contamination between a safe food and a food allergen. This can happen when your child comes to school without washing their hands after eating a nut butter sandwich. Cross-contamination can also happen when a knife is used in an allergen food then a safe food.
  • Remember that alcohol-based hand sanitizers do not remove protein of any kind. This protein can be an allergen. It is important that both adults and children wash hands with soap and water.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.

What are the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis?

Think F.A.S.T (Face, Airway, Stomach, Total Body)

  • Face: itchiness, redness, swelling of the face and tongue
  • Airway: trouble breathing, swallowing or speaking
  • Stomach: stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Total body: hives, rash, itchiness, swelling, weakness, paleness, loss of consciousness

What to do if anaphylaxis occurs?

  • Call 9-1-1 immediately and ask for paramedics
  • Have the person lie down
  • If they have an auto-injector, (EpiPen®, Allergect®) help them by injecting it into their outer thigh
  • Place the person on their side- check their airway, breathing and circulation
  • Have someone at the door to meet the paramedic and direct them

For more information contact Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744 or visit Anaphylaxis Canada. For more information visit the Ontario Ministry of Education for Sabrina's law in Ontario.

Helmet Safety

Helmets are recommended for activities like skateboarding, rollerblading, biking, sledding, skating skiing and snowboarding.

In Ontario, it is mandatory for anyone under the age of 18 to wear a certified helmet while riding a bicycle (Highway Traffic Act).

All skaters, 10 years and under must wear a certified multi-impact helmet while skating at all City of Ottawa public skating sessions in indoor arenas. Any new or weak skaters of any age must also wear a helmet.

What you need to know about helmets

Helmets prevent serious brain and head injuries by absorbing the force from a fall or hit to the head.

What are some helmet tips?

  • Parents set a good example by wearing their helmet
  • Do not place stickers on your helmet
  • Remember, anyone under the age of 18 years must wear a helmet when cycling - it's the law
  • If children switch activities, they should take off the helmet. If the helmet is left on while a child plays on a play structure or climbs, the helmet chinstrap can get caught and strangle the child

Most helmets will fit into one of the following categories:

  • Single impact: example-bicycle helmet. They are designed to protect against one impact. Must be replaced after a crash or hard hit to the head, even if you can't see any damage.
  • Multi impact: example- hockey helmet. They are designed to protect against more than one impact. Must be replaced when you see damage.
  • Multi Sport: does not mean that it is multi impact but that it is approved for more than one activity. Check the maker's label for the list of activities for which the helmet can be worn safely.

What to look for when buying a helmet:

  • Make sure that the helmet has been safety certified. There will be a certification sticker on the inside or outside of the helmet. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has a standard for hockey and bicycle helmets.
  • Never buy a used helmet.
  • Buy a helmet that fits now and not one that a child has to grow into.

How to fit a bicycle helmet

Know the 2V1 rule to fit a bicycle helmet. Put the helmet on the head so it is level and so it is not tilting backwards or forwards. Then check the following:

cartoon showing Two fingers distance from helmet to eyebrowcartoon showing V-shape straps around each earCartoon showing One finger between chin and fastened strap
  • Two fingers distance from helmet to eyebrow.
  • V-shape straps around each ear.
  • One finger between chin and fastened strap.

How to fit a hockey helmet

cartoon child showing one finger distance from helmet to eyebrowcartoon child showing One finger between the chinstrap and chincartoon child showing helmet does not move

Put on the helmet so that it is not tilting forward or backward. Then check the following:

  • One finger between the chinstrap and chin.
  • One finger distance from helmet to the eyebrow.
  • Make sure the helmet doesn't move. Move head up and down, and side to side. The helmet should stay in place and feel comfortably snug on the head.

When should I replace a helmet?

  • Single impact helmets like a bicycle or ski helmet should be replaced after a crash or large impact.
  • When it does not fit anymore.
  • Helmets with cracks, dents or frayed and torn straps should be replaced.
  • Every five years after the manufacturing date for bicycle helmets (this date will be on a sticker in or on the helmet).

Instructions and illustrations provided by Parachute

For more on choosing the right helmet, visit Ottawa Public Health

Walking and Cycling Safety

Road safety is an important tool for your child to have as they begin to cycle, wheel and walk.

Tips for parents

  • Don't buy a bike that is too big for your child. If cost is an issue, consider buying one second hand instead. Make sure your child's feet can touch the ground when sitting on the bike seat. Another tip: it's a good idea to have bikes inspected by a bike mechanic before taking them out for the first time. 
  • Make sure your child always has a parent or guardian with them when learning to cycle.
  • Take them to places with few distractions and little traffic.
  • Your child should be able to focus on your words and direction in a safe and controlled environment.
  • A great place for kids to learn to ride is a flat grassy area at a local park. There's no traffic to worry about and lots of grass to cushion any falls.  
  • Be a role model! When cycling, wear your helmet, signal your turns. When walking or biking, always limit distractions and be encouraging.
  • Start out with small trips to school, grocery stores, and parks without the car.
  • Consider a cycling course in your community

Safety check

  • Don't buy a helmet that your child will grow into. Make sure helmet safety is a priority. Also watch this unique video with your child to help encourage them to adopt a helmet. Wearing one yourself helps too. 
  • Identify safe routes with your child.
  • Encourage your child to wear bright colors and use reflective materials. In bad weather, visibility is even more important.
  • Eye contact with other road users is important. 
  • Pay attention to surroundings to make safe decisions when using the road. Help your child understand that distractions take their concentration away from the road. 
  • Review the rules of the road before cycling, walking or wheeling.
  • When walking, cross only at designated crossings such as pedestrian crossovers and intersections. Visit the School Zone Traffic Safety page for more tips about teaching your child to cross the road.
  • When cycling, help your child understand right-of-way and road signs. For more information, visit the children and cycling page. 
  • Visit the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website for cycling safety laws.
  • Dress for the weather. Here are a few tips on protecting your child in cold weather in Ottawa.

Learn more about the benefits of walking and cycling to school here. The City of Ottawa also offers short and affordable cycling courses that can help everyone improve their skills.

Visit the Ottawa Public Health Cycling page for bike maps and tips. Check out the Walking page for local walking and hiking resources.  Also visit this link for more information on bike repair stations.

Sun Safety

Safe fun in the sun

Outdoor activities are a great way to be active. It is important that you take care of your skin and your child's skin while outside so you can all enjoy activities safely. The sun's ultraviolet rays (UV) can't be seen or felt.

Young children have sensitive skin that can burn easily. Those with fair skin, light blue or green eyes, blonde or red hair and freckles are more at risk. As parents, we can help children learn how to be sun safe by making it fun and by being good role models.  The risk of skin cancer later in life is increased by:

  • Going outside in the sun unprotected (not using sunscreen or proper clothing).
  • 1 or more blistering sunburns during childhood or as a teenager.

Helping your children learn about sun protection means teaching them at an early age. Children learn best while having fun. Check your local bookstore or library for storybooks and activities that promote sun protection awareness.

What you can do to protect your child from the sun:

  • Limit the time in the sun when the UV Index is 3 or higher, usually between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., between April and September.
  • Clothing and accessories are best at blocking UV rays. Dress your children in long pants and long-sleeved shirts in tightly woven fabric. Dark or bright colors such as orange and red block more UV rays. 
  • Wear wide-brim hats to protect the face, ears and neck and close fitting/wrap-around sunglasses with UV 400 or 100% UV protection. Choose sunglasses for children and babies that are unbreakable.
  • Look for a shaded place for children to play and place a canopy or umbrella over a baby's stroller to give shade. 

For a quick and easy way to remember how to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun and still have fun- remember your Sun Safety ABC'S:

  • Seek shade by using a UV protective tent or pop-up shade shelter, umbrella or resting under a big tree. Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight by using a canopy or umbrella over your baby's stroller to give shade.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, labelled "broad spectrum" and "water-resistant". Reapply if child is swimming, sweating or toweling off.
  • Cover up with a hat, sunglasses and clothing.
  • Say something. Tell others about sun safety. Signs of too much sun include having skin that gets hot and red. You may also feel tired and thirsty.


Ask your health care provider or pharmacist to help you choose the best sunscreen for your child. Don't forget to check the expiry date and replace sunscreen that is out-of-date.

  • Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of six months.
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or more, labelled "broad-spectrum" and "water-resistant".
  • Reapply sunscreen when needed (especially after swimming, sweating or toweling off).
  • Use a sunscreen lip balm. 
  • There are many sunscreens available including sunscreens for babies over 6 months, as well as people with sensitive skin. Before using sunscreen, test it on a small area of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there is a reaction.
  • Always follow the directions on the sunscreen container. It is important that sunscreen be applied correctly and generously for it to do its job.
  • Pay special attention to areas that are easy to miss. Think about the ears, nose, back of the neck, legs, top of feet and up to and under the edges of bathing suits.

Know your daily UV Index

  • Check your local radio, TV stations or online for the UV Index forecast in your area
  • When UV Index is 3 or higher, limit your child's time in the sun.

OPH recommends that residents buy and use an effective and safe sunscreen. Look for:

  • A product approved by Health Canada with a Drug Identification Number (DIN) or a Natural Health Product Number (NPN);
  • A "broad-spectrum" and "water-resistant" sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more;
  • An expiry date.               

If you would like to choose a sunscreen that has been laboratory tested by the Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA), please visit their website for a list of approved sunscreens. Test results must prove that the product: 

  • has a UVB sun protection factor of at least 30;
  • contains a broad spectrum UVA block;
  • is non-comedogenic;
  • is non-irritating and hypo-allergenic.

Don't forget to do the Shadow Test. It's a simple way to help determine when it's time to seek shade. If the child's shadow is shorter than they are, the sun's rays are strong and they should seek shade or go inside. 

For more information about sun safety, call the Ottawa Public Health Information Line at 613-580-6744, TTY 613-580-9656, email

Playground Safety

Playgrounds - what a great place to have fun and be active with your child! But, there are things you need to know before you go.

Check out this section to help prevent playground related injuries:

Supervising your child

Supervision is important for all children. If your child is under the age of 5, it is recommended to stand at arms' length to prevent them from falling. This way you are able to reach them easily at all times, especially when they are climbing, on a swing or playing on equipment above ground level.

Most playgrounds have equipment for two different age groups. These are often grouped for children under the age of 5 and for children from 5 to 12 years of age. This is usually indicated on a sign found on the equipment. When making a decision for which playground equipment your child can use, remember, all the following are important:

  • Your child's age
  • Your child's stage of development (for example, being able to reach the equipment)
  • Constant supervision

Teaching your child about playground safety

Playground safety involves checking the playground equipment and surrounding areas for things that could be harmful to your child. It also means teaching your child about the rules of the playground. Show them that they can have lots of fun while being safe. Here are some things your child needs to know:

  • Wait their turn
  • Slide down feet first
  • Wait at the bottom of the slide ladder until the person before them has gone down the slide
  • Hold on to railings
  • Sit down on swings and slides
  • Keep away from moving swings and the bottom of slides
  • Tell their parent or caregiver if they come across broken glass, garbage, sharp objects, and bolts that stick out and not to touch them
  • Not to tie things such as skipping ropes to the playground equipment
  • Remove bike helmets before using the equipment to help keep your child's head from becoming stuck in a small space

Dressing your child for the playground

  • Secure all clothing that can get caught on the equipment (for example, drawstrings or other cords)
  • Instead of using a scarf, have your child wear a neck warmer during the winter
  • Avoid using mittens on a string, consider mitten clips

Scanning the playground

Things to look for when choosing a playground:

  • A soft surface such as sand, wood chips or shredded rubber.
  • Handrails and barriers on equipment.
  • The equipment is well anchored.
  • Swings are made of a soft material such as plastic. Wood or metal swings are not recommended.
    • Be aware of spaces that your child's head could get stuck (for example, the steps on a slide and the spaces between railings).
    • Look out for broken glass, garbage, sharp edges, and bolts that stick out.

 For more information on how to promote playground safety, visit Parachute

Water Safety

Did you know that drowning can occur in as little as 2.5 cm (1 inch) of water? According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, drowning is the second most common cause of death for children less than 5 years of age.

General Safety

To keep your kids safe around water, follow these tips:

  • Your child should always be within arm's reach of an adult when they are in or around water. This includes pools, bathtubs, bodies of water, and other water sources. They should never be alone, even for a moment.
  • Your child should wear lifejackets or personal flotation devices in and around water.
  • Your baby should be held by an adult if they cannot yet sit without support.
  • Swimming lessons are great for your child but alone, they will not protect or prevent your child from drowning.
  • Know what do in an emergency, including CPR and calling 9-1-1.

Backyard Pools

According to Parachute, nearly half of all child drownings occur in backyard swimming pools. Follow these tips to help ensure pool safety:

  • Your child must be supervised by an adult at all times.
  • Have safety equipment nearby, such as a non-metal reaching pole, a throwing line with buoyant aid, a first aid kit and a phone.
  • Bring everything you need such as drinks, snacks, sunscreen, toys, and towels, before allowing your child into the pool.
  • Use signs to show deep and shallow ends to avoid injuries that could occur from diving in the shallow end.
  • Store chemicals properly. All chemicals, including chlorine, should be out of your child's reach.

New Rules for Backyard Pools

All pool owners in the City of Ottawa must have pool enclosure gates that are self-closing, self-latching and locked at all times, except when the pool area is in use. See Pool Enclosure By-law (No.2013-39) for more information.  

Do you have more questions?