Kids love the outdoors — sometimes, it’s difficult for parents to get kids inside after a good day of outside play. However, just because your kids are playing in your yard doesn’t mean they are safe. Landscaping is filled with potential hazards, from the chemicals sprayed to prevent weeds and pests to the tools used to mow, prune and pick up afterwards. Even water and sunshine can pose risks to your child’s health.
Kids will have fun in almost any outdoor setting, but it’s your job as a parent to make sure that setting is safe. Here are a few ways to create a fun and safe backyard for kids.
Keep Flora Well-maintained
An overgrown, dying yard is not a yard you want your kids to play in. Plants that are left to grow tend to obscure your view and hide potential dangers, like wild animals and sharp objects. Plus, your kids probably don’t want to play in a yard filled with dead and dying plants, anyway.
Fortunately, yard maintenance isn’t particularly difficult. Trees and shrubs should be pruned once per year, but exactly when depends on the type of plant. You should perform a survey of your landscaping to understand exactly what kinds of flora you have on your property and what kind of care each needs — and while you’re at it, you should remove any plants that are poisonous. If you have a lawn, you need to commit slightly more time to its care; you can read lawn care tips online or call a lawn care professional in your area for assistance.
Clean up After Yard Work
The last thing you want to do after mowing the lawn or replanting the garden is drag your tools and materials to the garage or shed. Yard work is tiring, and once you are done, you might want to drop everything and rest. Unfortunately, many yard work tools are sharp, pointy, heavy or otherwise incredibly dangerous, especially to curious kids playing nearby. It is much safer to store anything dangerous well out of your little ones’ reach, which means replacing your garden tools on high shelves or pegboard. While you’re at it, you should also store toxic substances, like pesticide and fertilizer, up high because the packages are brightly colored and might tempt sugar-hunting hands. Ultimately, it will only take a few more minutes to clean up, and it could easily save your child’s life.
This means literal boundaries — around your property, your vegetable garden, any water features in your yard, etc. Walls and fences will keep your kids playing in the safe areas of your yard and prevent them from doing damage to more delicate areas of your garden. It is especially important to section off areas of your yard that have or often collect water, even bird paths or rain barrels. A young child can drown in just two inches of water, and they do so silently. Hardscaping like walls and fences are relatively easy to DIY, and they can allow you to make a backyard with different spaces or “rooms,” which is incredibly on trend.
Establish Backyard Rules
As soon as your little one is old enough to understand, you should set rules about how they should behave when they are outside. Some examples of near-universal outdoor rules include:
- Never play with tools, equipment or machinery in the yard
- Stay away from off-limits areas like the pool, garage or shed
- Keep toys, backpacks and other items away from areas where they could cause trips
- Don’t climb trees, fences or walls, and don’t jump from high up
You might work with your kids to create a written list of rules for outside play, so they are involved in the decision-making process and accept the regulations. You might hang this list somewhere visible in the backyard, so they are likely to see the rules often and remember them.
You can’t plan for every disaster — during their lifetime, your kids will get cuts and scrapes, and they might even break some bones. But, you should take pains to protect them from the worst dangers, especially those lurking in your own yard. By maintaining your landscape appropriately, keeping the yard clean and clear, building physical protections and laying clear guidelines for play, your kids will be less likely to seriously harm themselves during outdoor play.