Finally it’s officially Spring and also the start of the Easter Holidays. This means the kids will be spending a lot more time in the garden so it’s important that it’s a safe place for them. Our main job to make our garden child friendly is to put up a new gate. We also need a clear up, a check then a cut of the lawn.
Kids love to get outside and play in the garden and they’re more weather resistant than most adults: torrential rain = mud = loads of fantastic mess. It’s one of the few places you can give them freedom without too much worry and, the older they are, the more adventurous they can be. But even in the smallest gardens, teaching your kids some basic rules, and being aware yourself, is a good plan. There are few ‘real’ garden dangers in the UK. We don’t have snakes or poisonous frogs, the creepy crawlies can be ugly, but fairly harmless and the worst most plants do is cause a slight allergic reaction. But for your peace of mind and more fun in the long run, here are few easy ways to keep kids garden-safe this spring and summer:
Getting your children involved in gardening is lovely for you and also for them. Contact with soil is inevitable when you’re digging, weeding or planting and that’s fine most of the time. Just make sure you have a firm rule about keeping dirty hands away from eyes and mouths and explain why. Cover cuts or scratches with plasters – the tiniest graze can easily get infected. If you’re handling thorny or ‘hairy’ plants use good, sturdy gloves yourself (you probably really don’t want your kids touching brambles or roses, but seeing you being careful is good future-sense for them). Be strict about washing hands thoroughly after you’ve been in the garden – keeping a special antiseptic wash and a hand cream by the kitchen sink is a good habit.
Keep Tetanus up-to-date
Tetanus is very rare in the UK now but making sure your kid’s shots and boosters are up-to-date is a good idea if you’re getting dirty in the garden. Tetanus Vaccinations are part of the UK Childhood Vaccination Programme, if you’re unsure ask your local GP or Health Clinic.
Teach some simple plant sense
Eating fruit and veg straight out of the garden is a gorgeous summer image, but take care. Most younger kids can’t differentiate between pretty cherry tomatoes and the scarlet ‘danger-danger’ berries on some plants. Growing easy-to-manage container veg on the patio is a good way to start teaching common sense. Keep pots within view of your glazed external doors and get kids into the habit of harvesting ‘crops’ into containers and washing before eating. It’s still exciting, they have the satisfaction of growing food and you can gently explain the difference and dangers without being too terrifying.
Be weather-wise all year round
Always keep an eye on the weather when kids are outdoors. Noses, cheekbones and backs of necks are high risk for sunburn in the garden, use high SPF cream and reapply often. Wellies don’t keep feet warm, but putting a pair of long ski-socks over ordinary socks does (leave ‘outdoor’ socks inside the boots all the time and putting them on will be automatic). And insist on hats for the garden in spring and summer.
The messy side of cats and dogs
Try to avoid gardening with kids in areas where there might be pet waste. Cats are quite fastidious so it’s usually easy to pinpoint their preferred ‘toilet’. And dogs shouldn’t use the garden at all. But accidents happen and it’s best to teach your kids what to look out for, animal waste contains dangerous micro-organisms even in trace amounts.
Learning to live with insects
Mini-beasts, creepy-crawlies or horrors-beyond-all-imagining, it doesn’t matter how much insects delight (in our case) or ,aybe scare you, they’re a fact in the garden. Get into the habit of putting an effective, gentle insect-repellent spray or cream on kids in summer to cut down on the irritation of midges and mosquitoes. If you get ants, teach children what they look like and not to touch. And you can cut down the risk of bee and wasp stings quite easily by making sure kids don’t overreact and stay calm, especially in late summer. If you’re worried about your child having a severe reaction to stings, this Allergy UK Fact Sheet is a great source of sensible advice.
Finally, the best way to keep kids safe in the garden is to be there or nearby and take care of them especially while you’re using garden tools or playing on garden toys (take special care on the trampoline and in the paddling pool).
Most of all enjoy these carefree garden days- I hope we have lots of sunshine!