While there are many articles on how to kid-proof the interior of your home, you may not have considered how important it is to ensure their safety while outside. Looking out your window, you may think that your yard poses no risk to the small people and pets that come to visit.
Here is a list of things to look for when walking around your property with an eye towards safety. Some of them may be obvious, but others may surprise you!
Lock Up Dangerous Items In Your Sheds
Keeping your garden tools safely locked away in a shed or other building is an obvious way to protect the kids that may come to visit. While you may like the look of your tools hanging on the side of your shed, there is potential for a small child to hurt himself or others.
Put keys for lawn tractor out of reach. Most riding lawn mowers have safety features built-in to prevent starting unless the driver is heavy enough to weigh down the safety switch. But many older models don’t have this. Best to be safe.
You’ll also want to make sure all dangerous chemicals like fertilizers, house paint, driveway deicers, and the like, are in closed containers and safely locked up. Or, if you store them in your garage, place them out of reach of small hands. That includes the gasoline for your yard tools.
It’s important to ensure that your pet does not have access to antifreeze from your vehicle, as this can be deadly. Make sure jug lids are sealed tightly in the event that it is tipped over and spilled.
If you use rat poison to control your rodent problem, be sure to keep these well concealed where pets and kids cannot reach them. Too many families have had their hearts broken when they found their young puppy sick, or worse, after having eaten poison.
We all know how much fun a huge pile of fallen leaves can be to play in. While this may be harmless fun, you want to make sure to keep any fallen branches picked up and disposed of as they can pose a trip hazard for small children (not to mention adults!).
A Bug-Free Yard
If you have kids and pets playing in your yard on a regular basis, be sure to keep an eye out for poisonous insects and critters. Keeping wasp and bees nests off of your buildings is a simple way to do this.
You’ll also want to make sure to keep brush and yard debris piles cleaned up, as snakes and insects can make this their home.
If you’re noticing that small family members are getting little red bites after being in your yard, it’s possible that you have a flea infestation. If this is the case, it’s best to get a qualified professional to provide safe and effective treatment to your yard. If you choose to do it yourself, be sure that the product used is pet and kid-safe.
Kid-Safe Plants And Landscape Features
As an adult, you may not spend a lot of time putting things in your mouth. Not so with kids and dogs! Those bright red berries of the deadly nightshade are awfully tempting to a youngster. You want to make sure that the plants you choose are not poisonous. But what if the kids only visit occasionally? If you already have a poisonous plant that you don’t want to get rid of, consider a small fence or other barrier to keep those at risk at arm’s length.
Another consideration is keeping those paws and bare feet safe when running around your yard. You’ll want to choose mulch that does not contain large, pointed chips that can cause damage to unprotected feet. Consider softer, shredded mulch, or even rounded pebbles for your garden beds.
Keeping kids safe around water features can be challenging, but it is doable with a little planning. If you are in the process of designing your new pond, consult with a landscape expert to help you find a design that poses less risk to the wee ones. You may need to consider a decorative fence around the area, or a strong mesh covering.
Another great option is a waterfall with a riverbed, as these tend to have shallower water areas, rather than the deeper water contained in most ponds. You’ll still have your water feature, and won’t have to worry about the kids as they are playing around it.
Treated Wood and Potential for Splinters
If you have a deck or fence made out of pressure treated lumber that was built before 2004, you may want to consider replacing it if there’s a chance your pet might chew on it. Prior to 2004, lumber was preserved using arsenic to prevent decay caused by termites and other insects. These days, most pressure-treated lumber is preserved using a mixture that is made of copper.
Another thing to consider about wood decks is the potential for splinters, whether the wood is treated or not. Any splinters can pose a problem, and old wood develops splinters more easily, so make sure to check your wood regularly and replace any bad boards.
Even more concerning is the old play-set out in your yard. If it was made using this arsenic-laced wood, you’ll want to seriously consider replacing it as this poses a heightened risk of cancer to any small children who play on it. And again the potential for getting splinters is greater as the wood gets older so replace older parts.
Dangers From Outside
While we’ve mostly been considering dangers posed by what’s inside your yard, another thing you want to think about is what is outside your property lines. Creating a yard that is safe for dogs and kids includes some kind of barrier to discourage people or stray animals from entering that may wish to do them harm. You also want to be sure the little ones can’t get out your yard unless supervised!
This is commonly accomplished by a tall fence, but this barrier can also be made out of natural materials, such as a thick hedge. If you choose a hedge, be sure it goes all the way to the ground to discourage crawling under. Otherwise you may need a small fence to prevent this.
You may have a neighbor down the road who loves to feed the local raccoon population, but it’s not so cute when you have kids and dogs at risk of these furry critters. Raccoons can be very dangerous, so you don’t want to encourage them to hang around your yard.
It’s not easy to keep raccoons out of your yard, the best thing you can do is to make it less friendly to them. Keep garbage cans locked tight, pick up any dog food and water bowls in the evening, and keep water sources covered.
If you have a pond with fish in it, this is like a raccoon-magnet as they love to fish! Keep those fishies protected by installing a strong mesh covering over your pond.
Creating a yard that is safe for your pets and small children requires that you look at every detail of your yard from their perspective. Think about places those unprotected paws will be running, what they might chew on, or crawl under. Once your yard is safe for dogs, you’re most of the way to kid-safe as well!