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Find the Best Helmet For Your Kid

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Experts say actress Natasha Richardson may have survived her ski accident if she were wearing a helmet. Here are our top headgear picks.

kids wearing helmets

Actress Natasha Richardson was reportedly not wearing a helmet when she hit her head during a fatal ski accident on Monday. And although it's unclear whether a helmet could have saved Richardson, research shows helmets reduce the likelihood of a head injury by 40 to 60%, because the helmet's thick plastic foam inside the hard outer shell absorbs much of the force of impact that would otherwise be directed to the head.

"Surprisingly, the people who often don't wear helmets are moms because they're so busy securing their kid's helmets " says Karen Williams, Founder of PHAT, a helmet research team aimed at increasing voluntary ski helmet use among children. "However parents should set an example for kids by making helmets a mandatory piece of equipment."

No matter what helmet you chose, it should be snug -- not slide from side-to-side or front-to-back, sit squarely on your kid's head, covering his forehead. What's more, the top should be smooth and round and a flashy color that makes your kid visible.

Here are four helmets we think are great, no matter what sport your kid plays.

Best Helmets For Kids

Bike Riding

Each year, bike-related crashes kill approximately 900 people and injure 567,000 others, yet 43% of people never don headgear. However, wearing a bike helmet reduces the risk of serious head and brain injury by 85%.

Biking: Bell Boomerang ($30)

Bell is the largest company in the bicycle helmet market, and a 2006 Consumer Reports article highly recommended the Bell Boomerang ($30) for toddlers. This helmet has a PinchGuard buckle designed to prevent kids from pinching their neck when they secure their helmet, a foam visor, eight air vents and cool graphics.

Biking: Schwinn Intercept Youth Helmet ($16.97)

Rated “Youth model, Consumer Reports Best Buy” it has a rounded, smooth exterior with no major snag points, a snap on/off visor, heat-sealed pads, and 10 vents to keep your kid’s head cool.


Good news! According to research from the National Ski Areas Association, 70% of children under the age of nine and 60% of kids between 10 and 14 wear helmets. And it’s a good thing they do – the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission says ski helmets can prevent or reduce the effects of 53 percent of the head injuries suffered by children while skiing or snowboarding. Swoosh!

Skiing: The Giro Slingshot Ski Helmet ($34.93)

This gear is covered with a tough polycarbonate shell and impact-absorbing foam liner for extra protection, four vents to move cool air in while radiating heat out so your kid stays comfy.

Skiing: Smith Kids Upstart Jr. Snowsports Helmet ($59.99)

It’s perfect for older kids who do jumps and spend more time in the air than on the snow. It has an “AirEvac” goggle venting system, extra soft lining, under-shell channels and brow vents to keep your kid’s sight crystal-clear.

Ice Skating

Gliding across smooth ice SURE looks fun, but a study published in the journal “Pediatrics” found ice skaters to be 20% more at risk for head injuries than skateboarders and roller skaters. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that ice skaters use bicycle, ski or skateboard helmets which have multi-impact capability and more coverage in the rear than a bike helmet. Since ice is smooth, look for an exterior slightly more flat than a bike helmet.

Ice Skating: Kids Bell Tony Hawk Huck Jam Multi-Sport Skate Helmet ($24.99)

Sealed with full-coverage interior padding it offers excellent protection. You can adjust the chinstraps and size to fit your child’s head, and the rear exhaust vents will keep him cool on the ice.

Ice Skating: The NikeĀ® Bauer 3500 Ice Hockey Helmet ($39.97)

Comes with dense foam for protection and comfort. Other features include a dual-ridge crown, floating pro ear loops, and translucent ear covers.

Skate boarding

Since the 2005 death of a professional skateboarder during a demonstration, helmets have become a crucial accessory in this popular sport. Look for a “multi-impact” helmet for kids who like to try complicated tricks.

Skate boarding: S-ONE Team CPSC Skateboard Helmet ($32)

This helmet is CPSC (The US Consumer Product Safety Commission) rated, packed with absorbing inner foam for support, stretch nylon straps, adjustable padding and 11 air vents.

Skate boarding: Free Agent ($99)

Comes with an adjustable visor snap, and a soft-cloth tightening system with comfy buckles and is certified to the ASTM (Standard specification for skateboarding helmets) standards. Look for the “ASTM F1492” sticker on the helmet.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 23,000 head and neck sledding injuries each year. But helmets can reduce the number of injuries by 50%. “ A combination ski/snowboard helmet would offer the best protection,“says Jim Savage, a representative of Kohl’s Safety Center, which offers helmets and other protective equipment for children and adults. “ It’s designed to protect the ears and lower part of the neck along the spine, and provides warmth in the winter. In a crash, there’s energy being transmitted to the brain. The liner in the helmet lessens that energy and reduces the impact of the injury.“You could always choose a bicycle helmet — in 2006 the Consumer Product Safety Commission deemed them suitable for sledding.

Sledding: Bell Trigger ($34.99)

Although the Trigger comes in one size, it has excellent ratings in crash testing, 23 vents and a pinch-proof buckle. It resembles an adult helmet but is suitable for older kids from about 5 to pre-teen.

Sledding: Giro G9 Jr Helmet - Kids ($63.96)

The helmet’s liner absorbs the impact of large hits, and the protective shell withstands drops in the parking lot or being tossed into the back of the car. Its warm, comfy earflaps will keep your kid’s ears toasty and its 12 air vents will cool his head.

next: 12 Worst Baby Birthday Party Themes
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doug landau September 30, 2009, 6:03 PM

A well done piece. The price of a helmet is miniscule compared to a trip to the local emergency room for a child with a cracked skull. As the father of 4 kids, I have been fortunate in that they have worn helmets while skiing, biking, roller blading & skating. Developing brains need all the protection we parents can provide.

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