Each year, millions of families visit amusement parks for a day of fun together. And each year some of those families take a trip to the hospital. In 2009, over 1,000 ride-related injuries were reported. 65 of them were serious enough to warrant a hospital stay. If you're planning to take the kids to a theme park this summer, there are precautions you can take to stay safe.

Plan Ahead

Read up about the park you are visiting. Know which rides are appropriate and safe for you and your children. This will save you time and stress while at the park, and ensure that there is no question in your mind of whether or not you should allow your children to go on a certain ride.

Play by the Rules

Go over the rules of the park, and your own family rules, in the days before you go. Make sure your children know and understand what is expected of them and how to behave on the rides. Standard rules include keeping your arms and legs inside the ride, staying on the ride until it stops completely at the platform, and making sure your seat belt, harness, or lap belt latches correctly. If your belt doesn't latch, yell for help immediately. Make sure your children understand they are not to enter restricted areas. In addition, parks have age and height restrictions as well as restrictions for certain medical conditions, including high blood pressure, back or neck injuries, heart conditions, epilepsy, and pregnancy. Don't expect your children to follow the rules if you don't.

Practice

Teach your children how to talk to strangers when they are in need of help. Make sure they know and are confident in how to speak to the staff at the park and what information to give them. Practice some emergency scenarios so that your children are prepared should they be separated from you. Make sure they know what the park staff wears and tell them to head to the closest food stand or staff member that they see. You should also have a specific location at which to meet each other should your children get lost.

Pay Attention

There's a lot going on in a crowded theme park. There are children running, parents chasing, strollers, and wheelchairs all moving through the same walking paths. Be aware of your surroundings. Don't run, don't stop short, move out of the way of traffic if you do need to stop. And if you notice that anything is off, report it. This could be a person acting strangely or a ride that you believe may be malfunctioning. Definitely don't get on any rides that make you nervous.

Prepare

We never think it will happen to us, but accidents are an unpredictable part of life. Be prepared. Dress your children in bright colors or unique outfits so that you can pick them out in the crowd. Carry up-to-date photos of your children and give each of your children under age 10 an ID card with their information and your cell phone number.

There are other dangers at theme parks besides rides and getting lost. Make sure you keep everyone hydrated, wear sunscreen and take a break mid-day to rest, get out of the heat and, avoid the heavier mid-day crowds.

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