Every summer, the backyard is a hub of activity for children and adults alike. Marshmallows by the fire pit, dips in the pool, hours spent on play sets, and grilling dinner in the evenings are all summer backyard favorites. But though your backyard may be your favorite place to be this summer, it’s important to remember there may be many hazards waiting outside for you and your family. Follow these tips to make your backyard safe and secure this summer.
Boundaries and Supervision
Keep children and pets safe with proper boundaries and supervision in your backyard this summer.
- Always supervise outdoor play: Young children should always have a responsible adult outside with them to supervise safe outdoor play.
- Install a fence: Children and pets are safer inside of a fenced yard. They’ll be less likely to run into the front yard and away from the street.
- Lock backyard gates: Keep children and pets in and deter intruders with a locking gate.
- Establish boundaries: If you don’t have a fenced backyard, teach your child the boundaries in which they can play. Strictly enforce them.
- Lock pet doors: Pet doors are convenient for small animals — and small children. Lock your pet doors to avoid letting small children crawl through them.
Plants and Landscaping
Whether you’re mowing the lawn or treating weeds, you can’t forget about safety. Use these tips to stay safe while making your yard look great.
- Identify poisonous plants: Plants are a common cause of poisoning among young children. Identify all plants in your backyard and remove or fence in any that are poisonous to children or pets.
- Educate children on edible plants: Teach children not to pick and eat anything off of plants. Explain the difference between wild plants and a vegetable garden.
- Follow lawn care instructions carefully: If you use a pesticide, herbicide, or lawn service, be sure to read the instructions. Many recommend not allowing children to play on a treated lawn for two days or more. Always wear protective clothing and eye protection while applying pesticides and wash your hands afterward. Alternatively, consider fighting pests naturally.
- Clean up objects before mowing: Pick up rocks, toys, and other objects before mowing to avoid injury.
- Wear safe mowing shoes and clothing: Avoid open toes and heels when mowing. Ideally, you should wear boots or non-slip shoes and long pants.
- Do not allow children outside while working on the yard: Lawnmowers, edgers, and other lawn care power tools can kick up debris that may injure children. It’s best to keep children inside while mowing, edging, and weed eating. Don’t allow children to ride as passengers on a riding lawn mower.
- Waterproof your deck: Decks that have warped from a lack of waterproofing can be dangerous. Waterproof your deck every two to three years.
- Keep lawn care chemicals locked up: Always tightly replace lids of lawn care products, lock them up, and keep them out of sight and reach of children.
- Call before you dig: Before digging a hole in your yard, call your local utility company to identify underground gas and power lines.
- Safely store garden tools: Put rakes, shovels, hoses, and other garden tools away safely when you’re done with them.
- Fill backyard holes: Inspect your yard and find hose, loose soil, and other trouble spots that can cause trips and twisted ankles. Fill them in immediately.
- Use the right ladder for the job: Avoid using a ladder that’s too short for what you need to reach. You should be able to reach no more than four feet above the ladder you’re using.
Grilling and Fire Pit Equipment
Grilling dinner or enjoying an evening around the fire pit? Use these tips to play it safe.
- Never place a grill or fire pit near flammables: Use and store your grill away from tree branches, the side of the house, and overhanging plants. The same goes for fire pits.
- Teach children not to touch grills: Explain to children that the grill is dangerous and hot, just like your stove or oven in the kitchen.
- Create grill barriers: Keep your grill screened so your child can’t touch it, and store propane grills where your child can’t reach the knobs.
- Always stick by the grill: Don’t step away from your grill while it’s on. Supervise it for flare-ups that may be out of control.
- Protect your hands: Use long-handled utensils and a long-armed oven mitt when manning the grill.
- Never throw away hot or warm coals: Throwing away coals while the insides are still hot is a fire risk. You may still have a risk of fire even if charcoal feels cool to the touch. Soak coals in cold water, place them in a noncombustible metal can, and place it on a nonflammable surface until you’re ready to throw them away.
- Never leave the fire unattended: Always have a responsible adult watching the fire just in case, and require adult supervision for children around the fire pit.
- Fully extinguish your fire pit: Use sand to fully extinguish your fire pit and let coals cool completely before disposing of them in a metal container.
- Never use your grill or fire pit in your garage or inside: Using your grill or fire pit in an enclosed area can cause a deadly gas buildup, not to mention the risk of fire. Never store your grill or fire pit indoors, even when you’re done using it.
- Practice firework safety: Use fireworks only as directed with adult supervision.
Backyard Water Hazards
Pools, ponds, even standing water can be serious and even deadly hazards in your backyard. Learn how to manage them safely with these tips.
- Fence in pools and ponds: If you have a pool or even a small pond in your backyard, install a four sided fence at least 5 feet high with a self-latching gate. Don’t place patio furniture near the fence where it could be used to climb over. Consider adding a pool alarm as well so you’ll be alerted if anything or anyone enters your pool. Never let a child play outside unsupervised in a yard with a pool or pond, not even for a minute. Teach children not to use the pool unless supervised by an adult.
- Safely store water treatment chemicals: Never leave chlorine and other pool chemicals where they can be accessed by children.
- Never leave toys in or near the pool: Toys in or near the pool can be tempting for small children, Always clear them out when the pool is not in use.
- Use secure drain and suction covers: Repair missing or broken pool drain and suction covers.
- Identify water trouble spots: Children can drown in as little as an inch of water. They should always be supervised when in or near water.
- Look for standing water: Mosquitoes will breed in even small bits of standing water, turning your backyard into a home for their swarm. This increases your risk of bites and infections such as West Nile and the Zika virus. Check buckets, planters, birdbaths, fountains, and other areas where water may be standing and dump water out weekly.
Make sure outdoor play is safe and fun. These tips will help you secure and maintain play equipment and ensure that it’s being used safely.
- Supervise children while playing outside: Keep an eye on children when they’re using play sets, tree houses, and other outdoor play equipment.
- Check the temperature of play equipment: Before letting kids loose on play equipment, feel slides and swings for heat. They can get very hot and even cause burns.
- Establish trampoline rules: Limit jumpers to one at a time and require supervision for jumping. Anchor the trampoline and use a trampoline enclosure to reduce the risk of injury or falls from a trampoline.
- Secure playsets: Place your play set securely on level ground, ideally on wood chips or a soft material that can cushion falls.
- Repair or replace damaged or worn playsets: Regularly inspect your play set for wood rot, rust, and sturdiness. Look for openings between pieces where a child’s head or neck could get stuck.