The garden is a great place for kids – but it can be a dangerous one too, and as the accident statistics remind us all too graphically, every year far too many children are hurt, and even sometimes killed, within sight of their own back doors.
Many of the dangers are obvious ones – or at least they are to adults – and with a little bit of thought, it’s often a fairly simple matter to keep your kids safe from most of them.
There’s plenty of good advice elsewhere on this site about safety in general, but in this article, the emphasis is on how you can go about developing a simple overall strategy to help keep the time youngsters spend in the garden as accident free as possible. It largely comes down to a bit of common sense, and following the three ‘A’s…
The three ‘A’s:
Every parent needs to know the list of possible trouble spots, including:
- Garden tools, especially ones with sharp blades or points
- Electrical tools and equipment
- Pesticides and other garden chemicals
- Ponds and water butts
- Biting and stinging bugs
- Broken fences, crumbling walls and slippery steps
- Greenhouses, cold frames and glass panes
Of course, not all of these apply to every individual garden, while some gardens will hide additional dangers all of their own; the first step in helping kids to avoid getting hurt is being aware of the kind of accidents that are potentially waiting to happen in yours. It’s seldom a difficult task – a simple walk around will normally reveal 90 per cent of them – but it’s an important one to do.
It’s often worth revisiting your own childhood, and trying to see the garden through the eyes of a youngster, both in terms of how appealing that gap under the rhododendron bushes looks to a seven-year-old and what the world looks like, quite literally, when you’re only four feet tall! Just that simple change in perspective may reveal things which you never knew lay concealed in your garden.
Having worked out where the danger areas lie, the next step is to do an assessment of how big the risk is that they pose. This certainly doesn’t have to be a formal Health & Safety sort of thing, and much of it is, once again, common sense. If you routinely keep your pesticides locked away in a suitable container when not in use, for instance, then although they represent a potential threat, the likelihood of them being the cause of an actual accident is, clearly, fairly small. On the other hand, if your razor sharp scythe currently lives at the back of your garage, right next to the tennis rackets and cricket bats, then things look a little more dodgy!
It’s all pretty obvious stuff, but it should help you begin to see where the biggest and most likely threats to your children are to be found and it’s a fundamental tenet of accident prevention that you can only guard against the dangers that you recognise.
Part three of the strategy – avoidance – follows on logically from the preceding steps. Having spotted where the possible risks are, you now need to take suitable action to remove them, or at least significantly lessen the probability that anything bad will happen. Exactly what this involves, of course, depends on the nature of the potential problem. It may require a new purchase – a more secure padlock for the shed, or a lockable cupboard for your weed-killer, for example – or necessitate a change of behaviour or routine, such as when you cut the grass, or which tools you use to trim the hedge.
For the most part, once you have identified a possible ‘accident in waiting’, and worked out just how likely it is to happen, what you need to do to avoid the problem becomes pretty self-evident.
There is a fourth ‘A’ to consider too – age appropriateness. It’s another obvious point, but one which can sometimes be overlooked. Although some of the possible threats remain, irrespective of how old your child is, others change as kids grow up, so it’s worthwhile reassessing the accident potential of your garden from time to time, to make sure that what you’re doing is still relevant.
Some minor accidents are always going to happen, no matter how ultra-safe you try to make your garden. Knocks, bruises and scraped knees are, after all, part of childhood, but with a little attention to the three ‘A’s, you should be able to do a lot to make sure that your kids don’t suffer anything worse.