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Playing outside in the yard: 10 tips to make it safer for kids

If you have outdoor space at home, it's probably your kids' favorite place to play, especially in warmer weather. It's healthy for kids to romp outside in the fresh air. By being aware of possible hazards, parents can create an environment that's both safe and fun.

1. Keep an eye on kids outside

Once kids are outside, they may feel tempted to cross the boundaries you've set for them, especially younger ones. Make sure you (or another adult) are watching closely so little ones don't wander off or up the swingset alone or play near the street. We know it can be tempting to run into the house quickly for sunscreen or to refill a water bottle, but the safest move is to bring your child with you. And whether they are young or older, make sure your kids take regular breaks to hydrate and reapply sunscreen, especially during peak sun hours.

2. Secure pools & hot tubs

Drowning is the #1 cause of death among children under four years old. Provide constant, touch supervision around pools or other bodies of water. Many tragedies happen in home swimming pools when children wander outside without adults. If you have a pool, it is essential to have a four-sided fence at least four feet tall, with a self-closing, self-latching gate to prevent a child from slipping into the water alone. Additional safety layers, like locked doors and windows and alarms that detect when someone enters the area or falls in the water, can provide added safety to prevent the unthinkable.

3. Save lawn mowing for another time

Power mowers can throw sticks, stones, and other objects with enough force to do serious harm. And while it's tempting to let your child join you on a riding mower, the safest strategy is to cut the lawn when kids aren't around. Mowers, hedge trimmers and other tools should be stored out of reach, along with gasoline cans and lawn chemicals. If you want to involve older kids in yard work, consider planting a container garden together using kid-friendly shovels and gloves. If you want to involve older kids in yard work, follow these safety tips.

4. Take care around grills & fire pits

When you cook outdoors or enjoy an open fire, use a child safety fence to keep young ones at a safe distance. Explain that grill surfaces are hot and can burn them—like the kitchen stove—so we never touch them. Gas grills should be positioned so kids can't reach the knobs. Always douse a wood fire before leaving the area and make sure charcoals are cold before dumping them.

5. Choose & apply lawn and garden treatments carefully

Organic pesticides and herbicides are generally safer for families with kids. Read the instructions carefully, and make sure children stay away from lawns and gardens for 48 hours after you spray. To help your family remember the yard is off limits, try putting a note on your back door with the end date and time. And don't forget to store outdoor chemicals under lock and key just like you would inside your house.

6. Teach kids to ask before they eat anything growing outdoors

Little ones love to taste things, but remember that plants can be poisonout, especially for young children. If you grow fruits or vegetables, make sure you teach children to ask before taking a bite. Review other trees, plants, and shrubs to ensure they're non-toxic (here's a helpful guide). If your child eats something that might be dangerous, call Poison Control at 800.222.1222.

7. Install home playground equipment safely

Anchor large playground equipment deeply and securely to avoid tipping. Install swings at least 6 feet away from walls and fences. Swing seats should be made of soft rubber, plastic, or canvas. Lay a 12-inch base of sand, mulch, or wood chips under play structures, or use safety-tested playground tiles or mats. Though grass may seem soft, it can't absorb the shock of a child's fall.

8. Do regular safety checks on swingsets & other structures

Keep an eye out for loose connections, sharp edges, splinters, peeling paint, and other hazards on outdoor swingsets, toys, decks, patios, and around the yard in general. Look for openings in play structures, such as spaces in cargo nets, which should be less than 3 ½ inches or more than 9 inches wide. This can keep a small child's head from getting trapped while preventing kids from falling through. Replace older structures with new ones appropriate to your child's stage of development.

9. Rethink that trampoline

Trampoline jumping can result in broken bones, concussions, sprains, bruises, and scrapes as well as serious head and neck injuries leading to paralysis or death. In fact, the risks are so great that the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends against home trampolines.

If you own one, use pads and safety nets that surround the entire trampoline. check nets and padding along the trampoline frame often, and repair or replace worn sections right away. Place trampolines far from hazards such as trees, walls, fences or garages. Install your trampoline at ground level if possible to prevent more serious falls. Set clear rules: remind kids that only one of them should jump at a time, and don't allow risky moves such as somersaults and flips.

10. Be aware of bees, bugs and other creepy crawlies

Insect bites and stings may cause only temporary discomfort, but it's always wise to protect your child. Some ticks can transmit Lyme disease, and mosquitoes may carry viruses such as West Nile, Zika and others. To help keep bugs at bay, avoid bright colored clothing and scented soaps and lotions, which can attract insects. After dark, cover kids up with long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks to prevent bites. Don't allow stagnant water to accumulate in wading pools, bird baths and other structures where biting insects can breed.

To help prevent tick bites, kids should wear hats, long sleeves and pants to protect against ticks when walking in the woods, high grasses or bushes. Check hair and skin for ticks at the end of each day. If you find a tick, follow these steps to safely remove it. When you use insect repellent, consider one with 10% to 30% DEET. Wash the areas where it was applied with soap and water once you are back inside. Don't use DEET on children younger than 2 months.

Remember

Protecting your child from safety hazards in the yard is just as important as child-proofing your home. Share these tips with other adults who provide home-based care for your kids–and when you're in doubt about a specific risk, ask your pediatrician for advice.

More information

Last Updated
6/21/2022
Source
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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