If there is anything popular culture has captured correctly about fatherhood, it is this: the dad without a lawn, wants a lawn. And the dad with a lawn wants his lawn to be the best lawn. That’s because that gentle green expanse is a dad’s version of a nest. It’s that place where his kids will play and grow safely. It’s where leisure time will be enjoyed. And frankly it’s where he’ll be able to drift into the rumbling white noise of a mower, with a beer sweating in the cup holder, and be completely unreachable for an hour or so while doing something “useful.”
But the dad-nest of a well-manicured outdoor space means nothing if it isn’t safe for your kid. And, unlike exposed outlets in your home, the dangers of a lawn are a bit more subtle, and in many cases not visible at all. So how do you make sure it’s good for your brood? You read on.
Safety For Kids: Childproofing Your Yard
The idea of “childproofing” the outdoors is arguably laughable. That said, it’s less laughable for places that you actually control. Yeah, you’re not going to go into the woods and rip out any roots that could trip your toddler, but you are going to make sure they don’t drown in your koi pond. Here are some things to consider:
Before your kid rolls out to your verdant fields, check the perimeter. Look for pointy sticks that crave juicy eyeballs, wire, construction materials and anything else synonymous with “puncture wound.”
Then, cover or fence off any ponds. Additionally, look for serious low spots that could harbor standing water after rain. These could be a drowning risk as well as a haven for mosquitos.
Move and secure wood piles if they are close to the house. They’re crazy tempting to climb and crazy easy to topple. Not to mention they’re a favorite home of black widow spiders.
Make sure any play structure you install are deeply anchored. And check those anchors every season. Structures should also remain pretty low for little kids, have adequate railings and sturdy construction.
Swings should be soft to keep from breaking faces, should faces get in the way. And kids under 3 should have full back support.
Finally, the surface under the structure should be soft; wood chips, sand and recycled rubber material are all doable depending on your budget.
Safety For Kids: Lawn Care Chemicals
Fertilizers and pesticides are bad news for most people, but can be a super serious issue for younger kids, like toddlers and babies. That’s because their nervous systems are still in sensitive developmental stages. Also, these chemicals can stay in your kid’s body for literally decades.
Make sure any lawn treatments you use are properly labeled and stay in their original containers. If you do apply them to your lawn, follow directions and keep the kids and pets off until after the next watering or heavy rain. 24 hours is reasonable, but why take chances?
Finally, make sure you have the number for Poison Control handy. They’ll know just what to do if your kid gets into something nasty (unless it’s your collection of “vintage” erotica). Need those digits? They’re 1-800-222-1222.
Safety For Kids: Lawn Care Power Tools
Kids, especially toddlers, really want to help you out. That means they’ll likely be attracted to all those awesome tools. So you’ll need to keep your head on a swivel when you’re doing your yard work. Because toddlers are like way more drooly ninjas.
So be aware that it’s not just the blades of your implements that could hurt your kid. Mowers get hot. The fuel produces toxic fumes. The sound could damage their hearing. And if they’re nearby, like they’ll want to be with their toy mower, it’s inevitable that debris will be kicked out and give them at least a hearty sting.
Finally, it’s important that you not let your kid ride the mower with you. Yeah, that sucks. But you know what sucks more? Your kid losing limbs or digits because you both just wanted to have a little fun.
Interestingly, some of the safer lawn care practices can actually make your space greener than the chemical route. For instance, simply leaving your grass a little longer can go a long way to making it more healthy. Plus, leaving lawn clipping behind will put nitrogen back into the soil.
There are also fine, readily available options for pest control. One of the best is to simply wait and let nature find its balance. However, if you don’t feel good until you add “something” there are some less-than-toxic alternatives.
No matter how you go about it, putting a little thought into your yard’s safety will make your dad-nest as perfect as it can be. And make way for hours of beer mowing comfort until your kid is old enough to do it for punishment.