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Helmets go radical

Kids who balk at the idea of wearing head protection for outdoor activities might find it harder these days to argue that helmets aren't cool. From dry-erase helmets to those shaped like animals and bugs to those in bright colors, many of today's helmets are designed to make kids want to wear them long after the bike is parked. Here are some of what's new:

C-Preme's helmet line Raskullz has a wide range of styles shaped or painted like dinos, sharks, ladybugs and pussycats, complete with appendages like fins, antennae and ears. There are lightning bolts, zebra stripes and a Mohawk trim. A new toddler Miniz version of the lineup was added this spring, and this month the Raskullz line adds additional 3-D animal attachments like raccoon tails and feathers.

Helmet Zoo makes colorful, elasticized fleece helmet covers on themes like sea, farm and woodland creatures, as well as fantasy characters. Pandas, tigers, skunks, snakes, pink poodles, devils and a generic version of those popular ill-tempered birds are all available, as are multilegged spiders and a pink fairy princess with tiara and veil. The covers will fit any style of helmet, and they can be cleaned.

Low-key-cool Burton has the RED helmet line that includes kids' Avid Grom, a cross-sport helmet for snow and pavement. No wild graphics, but there are hip colors like green, white, red, black and orange branded with a logo.

Smith Optics makes the Gage snow helmet in matte black or white, or more vivid hues like cyan, bright green and violet. They're embellished with an understated, stylized graphic on one side. Also from Smith, a combo of Cosmos Jr. helmet with Galaxy goggles, with a magnet and slide-release buckle that keeps the two pieces together. The Zoom Jr. has a soft, fuzzy lining, and all have lots of head vents, since kids' heads get sweaty quickly.

Swedish company POC makes a helmet named Pocito Light. In-mold technology means the outer hard shell is thinner, and there's expanded polystyrene foam all through the inner layer to disperse impact. A fluorescent orange would stand out, and there are options for different weather conditions, too: Neck and ear pads may be removed for warmer-weather skiing and snowboarding.

Biking and scootering kids might like the imaginative range of helmets from Scotts Valley, Calif., company Giro, with names like Rascal, Rodeo, Flume and Slingshot. Graphics such as red flames and silver skulls might appeal to older children, while cartoon airplanes, pigs, firefighters and bunnies could attract younger — or goofier — kids.

Want to jazz up an existing helmet? Check out the funky line of helmet accessories from Fauhaux, started by two former Toys "R" Us executives and moms, Jocelyn Fine and Kelly Dineen. The embellishments are made of lightweight foam and attach with Velcro. Dreadlox comes in black, green, blue or multicolored; spiky Punkrox comes in pink or red.

For the DIY crowd, Wipeout has helmet and dry-erase marker kits. White, black, pink and green helmets can be decorated with kids' own designs or the stencils provided. Those include rockets, peace signs, clouds and stars.

Tips from safety experts

The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute says the best way to get your child to wear a helmet is to wear one yourself. Start the helmet rule early, be consistent, point out sports pros wearing helmets and teach kids that having a bike is really owning one's first vehicle — and responsibility comes with the privilege.

At, find an easy test for fitting a helmet: Once it's on, ask the child to look up. The child should be able to see the bottom rim. Straps should form a "V" under the ears and be slightly tight. When a child opens her mouth wide, the helmet should hug her head. There should be no rocking of the helmet at any time.

You don't need to replace a helmet each year if your child's helmet has thick and thin pads so you can adjust the fit. But do take your child with you when buying the first helmet, and buy from the right category: toddler, child or youth.

All helmets made in the United States must carry the Consumer Product Safety Commission's sticker.

Replace the helmet if there has been a crash.

Helmets go radical 05/22/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 21, 2013 6:55pm]
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