Children and pets benefit physically and socially from outdoor play, and after a long winter of cabin fever, parents may be eager to send their children outside once warm weather arrives. But before you capitalize on that sunshine and good weather, you should do what you can to make sure your lawn and outdoor spaces are safe for your children and pets.
Here are things you should consider and inspect before your children and pets begin spending significant amounts of time outside:
Boundaries (literal and figurative)
Restricting the outdoor areas your children and pets can explore is one of the safest ways to keep them out of trouble. Fences with self-closing and self-latching gates are ideal. If a physical fence isn’t feasible, set strict parameters and make sure your children follow them. For pets, electronic fences may be an option. For children, you may want to consider wearable GPS devices that allow you to track them if they decide to wander away.
Sheds and garages
Many parents know they need to childproof their kitchens in order to keep idle hands away from things like knives, but too often, they forget the same logic applies to outdoor spaces like garages and sheds. These spaces are often filled with dangerous power tools, harmful chemicals or fertilizers, or other hazards for children and pets. Make sure those things are behind locked doors or otherwise secured. Don’t keep keys for things like tractors or riding lawn mowers near them. Keep the things your kids need — like bicycles, scooters or sports equipment — in a separate area so they can access them without being tempted by anything that might harm them.
Flora and fauna
While your children and pets have mostly been hibernating, wildlife and plants may have been claiming their territory. SF Gate recommends inspecting your yard and making sure there are no toxic plants that your child or pet might consume. For example, Lilly of the Valley is a popular spring plant that is poisonous if eaten, but comes with a delicious fragrance. If you aren’t familiar with what to look for, talk to your local home improvement or landscape company. Similarly, check your yard to make sure animals haven’t started nesting in places they shouldn’t. Remember, hazards include larger animals that might carry rabies, but smaller animals like wasps and ticks can pack a punch too. Rather than create a fear of nature, teach your children to identify insects they should stay away from and show them the proper way to live in harmony. For example, be mindful of snacks and drinks left out during playtime, as wasps are attracted to sugary substances, and use repellent to keep them at bay. After every venture outside, check your children and pets for ticks. If a tick has latched on, be on the lookout for flu-like symptoms after removal, as this could point to Lyme disease. There is often (but not always) a red bull’s eye left on the skin, and is a sure sign of a deer tick bite and a definite warning that your child should see a doctor immediately. Any mention of disease triggers alarm bells, but rest assured it is easily treatable with proper antibiotics.
Swimming pools offer endless amount of summertime fun, but they come with a great amount of responsibility. Mistakes can be irreversible and often fatal. Owners should install alarms or fences that keep children and pets from wandering too close, and falling in and drowning. Even with that precaution in place, the best course of action is to require supervision anytime there is a child near a pool. Keep life-saving devices like floatation rings on hand, and make sure older children and adults are CPR certified so they are prepared for the worst-case scenario.
Trampolines and playhouses
Since 1999, the American Association of Pediatrics has cautioned against recreational trampoline use. Sprains, strains and contusions are common injuries associated with trampoline usage, and the younger the child is, the more likely they are to be injured. Serious spinal injuries may also occur, especially when older kids attempt tricks like backflips or somersaults. If you do decide to allow a trampoline, make sure play is supervised and try to avoid having multiple people on the trampoline at once.
If your trampoline hasn’t been used in a while, inspect it to make sure the hardware is still in working order and there is no troublesome wear and tear. Similarly, inspect other play structures — treehouses, swing sets, etc. — to make sure they haven’t rusted or gotten too worn down.
You cannot control every aspect of your child or pet’s outdoor activity, but with these basics, you can greatly reduce the chances of serious harm. Stay safe this spring and summer!
Article written by:
Clara Beaufort, a wonderful writer, gardener and Garden Rooms follower.