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Summer Safety for Toddlers

Make Your Backyard a Danger-Free Zone For Your Toddler

Summer is a fun time for tots. With the warm weather, you and your toddler will probably be venturing outdoors more often. Your backyard needs to be a safe place for your toddler to explore. Use this checklist to help protect your child from backyard hazards.

BBQ Area

Your toddler should see the grill as a stove. Teach him or her that the BBQ is never a safe object to touch. Even when the grill is cold, ashes can get into your child's eyes if he tips the grill over or pokes a stick in the wrong place. Other items to keep out of reach:

  • Lighter fluid
  • Charcoal (especially the kind that is doused in flammable fluid)
  • Sharp grill utensils and scrub brushes

Power Tools and Lawn Equipment

One of the biggest hazards in your yard is a running lawnmower. Generally, you can't hear if a child is running up next to you – or in front of you. What's worse, a child's head and neck are in the direct firing line of objects that can be thrown from the bottom of the mower (such as sticks, small toys, rocks and other dangerous debris). Keep all small kids indoors when mowing the lawn or using other trimming equipment (like weed-eaters and hedge trimmers).

If you have a shop or garage, you may have other power tools that can be very dangerous to your child. Place these tools on high shelves and always unplug them after use. Keep your shop or garage door locked.

Poisonous Plants and Chemicals

Did you know that many "average" outdoor plants are extremely poisonous? Daffodils and wild mushrooms (which often grow in small patches in backyards), for example, can cause very severe symptoms when eaten. Teach your toddler to never pick berries, leaves or flowers without your permission. While it can be fun to explore the woods looking for edible berries and herbs, wait until your child is older so that he or she doesn't get the wrong idea. Ask your local nursery if the plants you have in your yard are dangerous. If something is deadly, consider replacing it.

All pesticides and other chemicals should not be used near your child. If you must use them, read the warning labels very carefully to find out when your child should enter the area you are treating again. Store all chemicals (including fertilizers, pool chemicals and pet products) in a locked cabinet.

Relaxation and Play Areas

If you have a deck or stairway outside, make sure the railings are no more than 4 inches apart. If they are, nail up lattice or netting so that your child won't be tempted to stick his head or other body parts through and get stuck. Decks and pool sides can become incredibly slippery when wet, so be sure to teach your child not to run in these areas.

Swingsets and other play equipment can rust and deteriorate over the winter months. Be sure to check all bolts, screws and fittings each spring before use. If you plan to buy a swing for a tree or swingset, be sure to buy lightweight plastic ones that won't hurt a child if it strikes him. Rope or tire swings in trees should be able to hold an adult's weight (if more than one child gets on the swing, it could be a problem) and should swing freely in all directions.

To ease falls, consider placing 8 to 10 inches of wood chips under and around all play equipment.

Pool Safety

Toddlers can drown in just a few inches of water, so always supervise your child when in or around a pool. Even kiddie pools can be dangerous. Empty all pools and large basins (like a large water tub for dogs) when not in use. Larger pools should be fenced and the gates should swing closed by themselves and have locks. Carefully scrutinize all fenced areas to make sure kids can't climb through or over the fence at any point.

Even if your toddler has had swimming lessons, never leave him or her unattended in or around the pool for any length of time. If you have a gathering or party near the pool, do not be responsible for more than two to three children at a time. Get another adult to help you watch the kids.

Neighborhood Know-How

Most toddlers don't realize that they could be in danger in the street or that all they have to do is walk a little ways and they could be lost. As parents, we need to keep them from neighborhood dangers until they can understand. A fenced yard makes it easier to watch the kids. Gates should be latched.

Some neighborhood dogs may be a little rambunctious. If you have trouble getting in and out of your car or yard without being bothered by an either over-friendly dog or a less-friendly animal, try talking with the owner or call animal control if you can't find the owner.

Other Yard Dangers

  • Remove all clotheslines and ropes when not in use to prevent strangulation.
  • Keep all gardening tools out of reach – some can be sharp.
  • Make a safe place to climb in the trees or cut down low branches to discourage it.
  • Check for bees' nests and ant hills periodically.
  • If you live in an older home, check for lead paint chips.

Summer is such a fun time for toddlers! Let your little one explore your backyard safely by taking a few simple precautions. After all, summer is all about bugs and water fights – not about accidents. So slather on the sunscreen and enjoy!

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