Whenever the temperatures start to warm up, children begin itching to be outside. Fresh air, exercise, and fun are great for kids, but your backyard does pose some safety concerns — especially if you have a pool. Here are a few easy ways to make your backyard and pool safer for kids and give you a little more peace of mind when they’re playing outside.
1. Secure entrances and exits.
This is an important first step, especially if you have a curious child or toddler who is just figuring out how to open doors, gates, and latches. Making sure doors and fence gates remain closed and locked can help prevent a youngster from falling in the pool or escaping the yard without notice.Consider adding some bells (or even a full pool alarm system) that can alert you when someone goes in or out. If you don’t have a safety fence around your pool or a fenced in backyard already, it might be something you want to consider.
2. Pick up around the yard and patio.
As children run and play outside, they’re often not paying close attention to their surroundings. That means they can easily trip and injure themselves, or even fall into the pool. It’s important to regularly pick up pool toys, towels, sandals, and other objects on your deck that may cause your kids to accidentally slip and fall in the water. Be sure all toys are out of the water after swimming, as children may be tempted to reach for them and accidentally fall in. Lawn toys, tools, rocks, and hoses can also be potential tripping hazards when kids are running around the yard. If toys, floats, and other objects are kept outside, place them off to the side where they’re less likely to be a tripping hazard.
3. Beware of dangerous plants.
Landscaping can be a great way to add color and beauty to your backyard, but use caution when planting flowers and doing yard work. Research before picking plants to put around your pool and backyard so you’re aware of any possible risks. There are a variety of plants that can be dangerous for children and pets, including:
- And more!
You should also keep an eye out in your yard and nearby wooded areas for plants that can cause skin irritation, like poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettles.
Landscaping and plants can be confusing for young kids, especially if they’ve previously learned they can pick certain flowers or eat from your vegetable garden or fruit trees. Discuss with your kids which plants are safe to eat or touch, and which are not.
4. Inspect structures around your yard.
The beginning of the summer season is a great time to inspect your pool, swing set, sheds, fencing, and other structures in your yard. After the winter months, it’s likely they’ll need some TLC before they’re safe for your kids. Look for things like:
- Exposed nails or screws
- Sharp edges
- Broken boards
- Exposed wires
While it’s impossible to eliminate every risk, it’s important to take time to address structural damage and weaknesses early on and continue regular inspections throughout the season. A few minor repairs could save your children scrapes, falls, and more serious injuries down the road.
5. Keep chemicals out of reach.
Just like household cleaners and medications, outdoor items like fertilizers, weed killers, and pool chemicals pose a serious risk to children if spilled or ingested. It’s important to keep these types of chemicals out of reach, preferably in a locked cabinet or shed where kids won’t have access. When using chemicals like these, be sure to follow all safety instructions and allow the proper amount of time to pass before letting kids swim or play in the yard.
6. Properly store your power tools and equipment.
While saws, drills, lawn mowers, and other tools are great for helping you maintain your yard, they can be dangerous when in the wrong hands. Much like chemicals, it’s important to keep tools and yard equipment out of reach of your kids and stored in a safe area. Power tools should also be unplugged and have safety guards in place when not in use, in case a child would accidentally gain access to them. When the tools are being used for an outdoor maintenance project, be sure children are closely monitored or kept inside.
7. Use caution around grills and fire pits.
Grilling out on your patio or relaxing around an outdoor fire pit is a great way to spend time together as a family. However, children often forget that these things stay hot long after you’ve used them. Make sure your grill and fire pit are covered when not in use, kept a safe distance from play areas, and never left unattended. Lighter fluid, matches, and propane should also be immediately put away after use.
8. Invest in flotation devices.
There were an average of 3,536 fatal drownings (non-boating related) annually between 2005 and 2014, many of which were children. To keep you and your family safe, pool owners should invest in a lifesaver ring with rope and a shepherd’s hook that could be utilized in case of a drowning emergency. Be sure floatation devices are kept near the pool and that every member of your family knows where they are.
Life jackets are also a great way to keep kids safe during swim time, especially if your child isn’t a strong swimmer yet. Kids grow quickly, so you should check the size of the life vest at the beginning of every season to be sure they haven’t outgrown it. Other water toys, like arm floaties, kickboards, and pool floats, can also help keep your child afloat during supervised swim time.
9. Enroll your child in swimming lessons.
This option requires a little more time and money that some of the above safety precautions, but it is well worth it! From teaching basic swimming techniques and water safety skills to improving health and wellness, there are a number of reasons to enroll your child in swimming lessons. They’re also a great option for children who are afraid of the water and need a little help adjusting. You can rest easy knowing that your child is being taught by a certified instructor and learning proper swimming, diving, and breathing techniques.
10. Always have an adult supervising.
It’s always safest if no one swims alone. Make sure children are supervised at all times when in the water or playing around a pool. Even if a child appears to be strong swimmer, it’s best to have an adult keeping a close watch.
Accidents and injuries can happen in the blink of an eye, so it’s important to take a few extra precautions to keep your family safe. By keeping these tips top of mind, you can address common safety hazards and make your backyard a safe and enjoyable place for your children to spend time.