Gardens are great places for children. The chance to enjoy paddling pools, barbeques and playing on the grass during the long and, hopefully, sunny days of summer has got to be amongst the biggest joys of childhood – but for all of that, the garden remains a potentially dangerous place for unwary youngsters.
What are the Dangers for Children?
Most of the biggest dangers in the garden for children are pretty obvious ones. Fortunately, the potential threats to youngsters from sharp tools, pesticides, fertilizers and similar chemicals, lawn mowers, shredders and other electrical equipment, poisonous plants, water butts and ponds, are well-known, allowing parents to take appropriate steps to reduce the danger.
Never-the-less, despite this, an estimated half a million children end up being taken to UK hospitals every year as a result of garden accidents, so safety precautions certainly aren’t something we can afford to feel complacent about.
How can I Start to Make my Garden Safe?
There are three main steps. Firstly have a careful look around at your garden – but from a youngster’s point of view – and try to spot all the potential trouble spots.
Look for obvious things such as broken fences, insecure gates, poorly maintained garden swings and so on, but also try to think if, for example, that newly planted shrubbery might prove too tempting for an inquisitive youngster, or will your trellising be turned into a makeshift climbing frame?
Clearly, a lot of this depends on the age and character of the children involved – but the more you can spot before they become a problem, the less parental anxiety you’re likely to suffer in the long run!
Can Ponds be Made Safe?
Ponds can probably never really be described as entirely safe; after all a child can drown in a inch or two of water – and for the same reason, water butts, bird baths and the like also represent a possible danger to children.
One solution is simply to fill the pond in with sand until the family is a bit older – but this isn’t the only approach to make ponds safer around kids. A properly secured mesh cover – and there are plenty available which are specially made for the job – can prevent tragedy and allows you to keep your pond; the plants and wildlife are largely unaffected by it, but your youngster cannot fall through. It’s important to pick a good quality design and have it expertly fitted – it’s no use if it won’t support a child’s weight, sags in the middle or allows your little ones to crawl underneath!
Alternatively, if you want the sound of water, but you can’t handle the anxiety – opt for a bubble fountain; the water runs over stones and down into a hidden reservoir, providing movement but without sufficient depth for your child to be in danger of drowning.
A final word on the topic of pond safety – according to official figures, of the 100 or so children who have drowned over the last decade, around 80 of them died in ponds in other people’s gardens.
Are Pesticides Safe Around Children?
Pesticides are designed to kill and it’s a job they do very well – so again, it’s hard to describe them as ‘safe’. That said, what really matters is how safely you use them.
It’s always important to read the instructions carefully – but around kids, it’s doubly vital – and make sure you know how soon after treatment you can safely let your children back into the area.
Storage is another factor to consider thoroughly to make sure that inquisitive little hands don’t find their way into the poisons store – and you’ll also need to be very careful how you dispose of any unwanted chemicals or empty containers.
It’s not difficult to see why many parents – especially of very young children – choose to abandon pesticides altogether. There are ‘natural’ ways to control pests and you should find that having more wild insects and slugs increases the number of birds and other kinds of wildlife visiting your garden, which your kids will probably appreciate.
Keeping your children safe is largely a matter of common sense and awareness; if you recognise the potential hazards ahead of time and take appropriate action, the kids’ garden should be a source of delight – not danger!