For some kids, getting new bandages to show off is one of the best parts of playing sports. T-ball is a great opportunity to get rowdy and do things mom and dad would never let you do in the living room, but a serious injury can put a stop to the fun quickly. It can be hard to find a balance between letting your child take risks and letting them hurt themselves, but with the right game plan you can make sure playing t-ball is as safe as it is fun.

Don’t Overreact

As any parent learns during those clumsy first steps days, often a kid doesn’t know how they should react to a bump until they see their parents’ faces. Keeping a calm, encouraging demeanor can head tears off at the pass. If you’re practicing at home, try asking your kid to take a tumble or two on purpose, just to know how it feels. When a play doesn’t go exactly as planned, try to find ways to react that don’t focus on the negative. If your kid gets hit by a ball and doesn’t seem hurt, try saying something like “Wow! You really got behind that one!” Praise your child for being brave and for sticking at it even if they make mistakes.

Don’t Stop Play for Every Minor Incident

Most childhood injuries aren’t that serious. If a bruise or scrape seems minor, encourage your child to keep playing and patch them up later. Many kids prefer it this way, and might try to wiggle out of your grasp even when it is time to clean up that scrape. T-ball is the perfect time to teach your child to start being more aware of their body and how it feels, so they can differentiate between serious problems and more minor ones. Just remember that very young kids often aren’t very good at accurately describing where and how they hurt. When assessing the damage, be sure to watch what your child does as much as you listen to what they say. If they twist an ankle and suddenly can’t put weight on it anymore, it might be time for them to sit down.

Do Be Prepared

Every t-ball coach should have a first-aid kit as part of their game gear, but there’s no harm in bringing extras. If you’re driving, throw a small cooler with a few ice packs in the trunk, and make sure you have some band-aids, disinfectant, and sunscreen with you out in the stands. Serious injuries in t-ball are pretty unlikely, but just in case, look up the address of the nearest hospital or emergency center and plan the best route to get there. The last thing you want to do is wait for your GPS app to load when you’re dealing with a crisis.

Do Take Concussions Seriously

Encourage batting helmet use at all times, even during practice. If a kid does get an unprotected hit to the head by a ball or, worse, a bat, you need to take action. Check that your child can focus their eyes properly and follow your finger as you move it from side to side. Ask them a few simple questions, to make sure they aren’t having trouble thinking. If they seem off-balance when they walk, slur their speech, or vomit, take them to a doctor immediately.

If the bump to the head doesn’t seem that bad and your child is able to return to play, keep an eye out for symptoms over the next forty-eight hours. If your child complains of having a headache, has trouble sleeping, or is unusually emotional in the days after getting a head bump, tell a doctor. Concussions during childhood can lead to complications in adulthood, so it’s important to treat any head injury quickly and appropriately.

Do Take Time to Heal

If your child has a bad scrape or strains a joint, make sure they rest long enough for it to heal fully. Remember RICE – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Your child’s pediatrician can give you advice on treating specific injuries, but in general just staying off the affected area for a few days and watching symptoms will be enough. Even if your child complains, it’s better to miss a practice or game than to risk worsening an injury. Remember, nobody ever missed out on an MLB contract because they missed a game of t-ball. Playing hurt is never fun, and it sets a bad example for the other kids.

Don’t Forget about Germs

Many a t-ball outfielder passes the time between hits by rooting around in the grass, and any kid will tell you that the infield is like the world’s greatest sandbox. Getting grubby is healthy for kids, but it does mean you need to pay special attention to make sure any scrapes stay clean. When your child gets a scrape, run the skin under cool water to gently remove any debris, and then wash the area with a washcloth soaked in mild soap and water. You may be tempted to use antibacterial gel, but not only does overuse of antibacterial products contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant “superbugs,” putting that gel on raw skin can sting like crazy. Ordinary scrapes don’t need debriding agents like peroxide or disinfectants like alcohol. Just use soap and water, a dab of wound cream like Neosporin, and a clean, well-fitting bandage.

Set a Good Example

Any time you get a minor injury of your own, let your kids see you treating it appropriately and explain the steps as you undertake them. “Ow! I cut my finger. I better wash it and put on a bandage so the cut will heal properly.” And don’t forget a kiss to make it better – but after the bandage goes on!