Getting time outside is important for everyone’s physical and mental health. But as any parent knows, it can be a tricky balance to keep kids safe while they play, learn and explore outdoors. However, there’s plenty you can do to childproof your yard.
Playing in the garden can be fun, but there are plenty of potential hazards for curious kids.
- Remove poisonous plants
Start your childproofing with this vital first step — get rid of any poisonous or harmful plants. Children, particularly younger ones, explore the world with all their senses, including their mouths. Avoid a trip to the emergency room by making sure your garden only includes child-friendly plants.
Take the extra step and get rid of any plants that pose additional hazards. This can include plants with thorns or irritating hairs, along with low-hanging vines that may pose a strangulation risk.
If you can’t bear to part with a favourite plant, make sure it is out of your child’s reach.
- Fence off garden beds
It’s a good idea to fence off garden beds when there are little ones running around. Not only does this keep them safe, but it will also help to keep your garden beds intact. As your children get older, you can remove the fencing.
- Look out for dangerous insects
While it’s not possible to completely remove insects and spiders from your garden — nor should you want to — try and stay on top of the creepy-crawlies that call your yard home. You may need to discourage certain dangerous creatures, like wasps and redbacks from taking up residence.
Make sure your children know which insects to avoid. Teach them to recognise insects and spiders that bite or sting and ensure they know what to do if they encounter them.
Fencing off your garden beds can be a way to minimise interaction between potentially dangerous creatures and your children too. As your kids get older, they’ll learn to avoid these animals on their own and to let you know if they find one.
Shed or garage
A shed or garage can be a place of mystery and adventure for a small child. However, these places can be full of serious hazards, like power tools and paints and chemicals, and expensive items that you don’t want the kids playing with. Here are a few tips to childproof these areas.
- Keep the doors locked
Avoid accidents by keeping your shed door locked at all times. Kids are curious and a garden shed or garage may prove too tempting for some. If they can’t get in, they can’t cause trouble.
- Keep chemicals out of reach
If you have any chemicals stored in your shed or garage, make sure these are kept out of reach at all times. Even if you routinely keep the door locked, it’s not worth the risk of your child coming to harm. This also helps protect them if they follow you into the shed to see what you’re doing. This includes things like paint, fertilisers and pesticides, cleaning products and anything else potentially harmful.
- Store power tools and garden tools safely
Store any power tools and garden tools appropriately. Smaller items can be hung up or put on shelves. Make sure your child can’t access them by climbing on nearby items.
For larger tools, like lawnmowers, make sure these cannot be started by kids and don’t pose a risk.
Swimming pools are an obvious danger around the home. Depending on where you live, there will be regulations about fencing around your pool. For instance, in Victoria any pool deeper than 30cm must have a fence at least 1.2m tall around it. These regulations exist to minimise child drowning deaths and must be followed.
Besides fencing, there are other things you can do to ensure your pool area is child safe.
- Keep furniture away from fence
Make sure no outdoor furniture is stored near the pool fence. Kids could use this to climb over the fence and into the pool area.
- Supervise children in pool
When children are swimming or in the pool area, it’s essential that they are supervised by a responsible adult. Even confident swimmers can get into trouble and may need an adult’s help.
- Safely store pool chemicals
Pool chemicals like chlorine and salt can be poisonous and can irritate the skin and eyes. Make sure all pool chemicals are always safely stored when kids can’t get to them.
General yard area
Along with fencing your pool, your yard should also be fenced to avoid children wandering off the property. This fencing should be well maintained and children should not be able to go through, over or under it.
Similarly, if you have a gate, make sure that it latches automatically and cannot be opened by a child. You could invest in an automated gate that closes and locks automatically and that can only be opened by an adult.
- Regularly check play equipment
If there is any play equipment in your yard, like cubby houses, swings or slides, it’s worth regularly inspecting these items. Look for anything that could cause injury, like signs of rust, split or cracked wood and any foreign items that shouldn’t be there.
Also, remember that some play equipment can be an appealing nesting spot for spiders and other bugs. Take the time to look for signs of creatures living in or around your child’s play equipment too. You may need to relocate or exterminate the animals.
- Educate children about interacting with animals
Make sure that your children understand that your yard is home to lots of other creatures. Explain that no animal wants to do harm to your child but may respond aggressively if they feel threatened.
Talk to them about what to do if they spot different creatures in the yard. For instance, if they see a snake, they should not approach it and immediately get an adult. Alternatively, if they see a bee, they should not be worried but remember to leave it alone.
If you have pets, make sure to set rules with your children about playing safely with pets. These rules could include treating them gently and not bothering them while they’re asleep.
- Supervise children
Whenever your children are in the yard, make sure they are supervised. This supervision can be more relaxed when they’re older but if you have young children you should be actively watching them.
Your children will not only be safer for your supervision, they will likely be happier to have your company. Many children want to explore the outdoors with their parents, so don’t see supervision as a chore but instead as a chance to spend some quality time together.
Follow the tips above and use common sense to childproof your yard today. That way, you and your family can enjoy plenty of good times in the backyard this spring.