Help toddlers get used to wearing helmets by storing them in the toybox

Autumn's fantastic tip for helping toddlers get accustomed to wearing a helmet:

My husband and I are both snowboard instructors and have recently started teaching our son, Noah (18 mos) to ski. [WOW. — Ed. (who didn't ski till high school)] We wanted him to be comfortable with wearing a helmet long before he hit the slopes, so in October, we stuck one of our old helmets in his toy box. Over time, he started thinking it was great fun to wear it while playing, since it appeared to be just another toy. By the time January rolled around, he thought nothing of sticking his own big plastic noggin-protector on and it didn't interfere with all the other new equipment involved with the sport.

I think other parents might want to give this a try, even for spring bicycle helmet season. Just make sure the helmet that gets knocked around for "practice" is not the one you depend on for real protection. Any helmet that takes a big hit should get retired, much like a car seat post-accident. Another acclimation step we used was to try the ski boots alone indoors one day before adding the skis themselves. That's not an option for everyone if you plan to rent, but it works well if you can borrow or buy used.

Related: How to teach a kid to ride a bike


  1. Sarah E says

    Good idea! And thanks for reminding me to buy a helmet! We’re getting my son his first bike (a balance bike – no wheels) this year for his third birthday and I completely forgot to buy a helmet to go with it (and I’m usually so safety-minded!). Any suggestions for safest brand/type of helmet? As a kid I never wore one, so I don’t know much about what to look for…

  2. says

    Another thing that helps is to let your kids see you wear helmets for the activities that require them. My son has been a helmet wearer since about 18 months, when we bought a bike trailer. He’s 4 now and always wears his helmet (without being asked) for biking, skating, and riding his scooter. I think it helps that he’s seen me postpone a bike ride if I forgot my helmet.

    My son has a big head, so we buy his helmets at a local bike store, since they have a large selection for kids. There’s always someone there to help us make sure it’s a good fit or recommend a model that might work better. If you have a girl with long hair, you might want to ask about a ponytail friendly helmet. I have one and it’s great.

  3. Liz says

    We did the same thing with the ear muffs (Peltor Junior) our kids wear for hearing protection when we go to concerts. They got to wear them around the house with the stereo turned up so they could see how they worked, and got used to the feel. Now they just wear them in the house for fun, which can be really amusing.

  4. says

    Just remember that a helmet can be a strangulation hazzard so supervision is required.

    “The other problem with helmets is wearing them where and when they should not be worn, off of a bicycle. Children are killed every year because they wore their bike helmets on playground equipment and the helmet got hung up in the equipment. The kids die from either their necks getting broken or getting strangled by the chin strap. Since a helmet that isn’t on your head during a crash is just so much wasted money chin straps have to be made strong, and a chin strap that is strong enough to not let the helmet fly off in a wreck is also strong enough to strangle a child.”

  5. Amy says

    Good point, Marita!
    Maybe the decommissioned helmet for playing could have the straps cut off, leaving just the hat part.

  6. Lisa says

    Ever since Natasha Richardson, I’ve been obsessive about helmets… not always easy when you have a kid who hates the sensation of wearing a helmet, period.

    I love the toybox idea, tho. It’s easy, but I’m guessing it’s very effective. One of those “power of small” things – a big outcome for a little effort. Something every parent needs!

    Now all I have to do is find space in the toybox…LOL!


  7. LeAnn says

    I second the comment about the parents always wearing the helmet when participating in the activity. My daughter has always seen both her parents abide by the “ride with a helmet or don’t ride at all” rule and got her first bike helmet at 10 months for use in the bike trailer. She has never questioned wearing it now that she rides her own bike. And she is a child who will not wear a hat of any kind for any reason.

  8. JIll says

    Be careful what activities they do with the helmet on though… there have been incidences in play grounds where kids are wearing bike helmets and they get caught on something when they jump off or go on monkey bars…