School’s out and –if you can get them off their screens long enough—kids are happily playing in their backyards. Here are ten ways to keep backyard time blissful, rather than requiring trips to the ER.
Lay some ground rules
Get together with your kids to establish ground rules for safety. Write them down, memorize them, live them. Stick your list on the fridge so nobody forgets. You might agree on things like not roughhousing on pay structures, not standing on swings, wearing close-toed shoes for play, and staying out of off-limits places like sheds with sharp garden tools or other dangerous areas of the yard.
Remove safety hazards
Regularly scan the backyard for safety hazards. These could include hedge clippers, hoses, ladders, weed killers and other chemicals. Stow these in a secure place, such as a locked shed. Fill in holes, eradicate yellow jackets and trim sharp branches.
Check your fence
Is your fence in good repair? Are there holes big enough for a child to wander through? Make sure your fence is shipshape. Self-closing fences with self-latching gates also help keep children in the yard.
Supervise trampoline use
Trampolines are fun. They also lead to many injuries every year—especially when more than one kid jumps on the trampoline at the same time. Since the temptation for doing crazy stunts on a trampoline is irresistible to many kids, trampoline time pairs well with adult supervision.
And before inviting the neighborhood kids over for a jump, check your homeowner’s policy to see if it covers trampoline-related injuries. Hint: It probably doesn’t.
That fireball in the sky really heats up during summer, causing heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and sunburn. So grab your favorite sunscreen and cream up. Dress little kids in sun hats and loose, light-colored, lightweight clothing. Avoid the hottest times of day for backyard play.
Fence that pool
Nothing says summer like a dip in a pool. But, like trampolines, this fun backyard entertainment is fraught with hazards. Half of child drownings happen in the family’s backyard pool. Pool time demands adult supervision in and around the water. Also, a sturdy four-sided pool fence with a self-closing and self-latching gate.
Nix the poison plants
If you have very small children, you need to be especially vigilant about what’s growing in your garden. Toddlers might be so enthralled with a beautiful flower that they rub it on their skin, lick it or stick it up their nose. If you’re worried about something your child just ingested, call the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ Poison Helpline at 1-800-222-1222.
Cushion a landing
If your family has a backyard play structure, regularly inspect the parts to make sure it’s still safe and sturdy. For added peace of mind, plan for soft landings by providing at least 12 inches of wood chips or shredded rubber. When a monkey bar dismount goes awry, this cushion can make the difference between requiring a band-aid or a trip to the emergency room.
Grill with care
Watch that grill! Little kids might not understand the dangers of heat and fire yet. Slightly older children could lack the situational awareness to avoid bumping the grill while playing. Never leave a hot grill unattended. Same goes for matches, propane and lighter fluid.
Accidents happen. Take a CPR and first aid class, just in case. You might save a life.