Once winter ends, all your kids will want to do is go outside and soak up the sunshine as they play in the yard. Before they do though, you’ll need to make sure that your yard is perfectly kid-friendly — and that means ensuring that it is a safe place for them to play.
However, kids will likely get into everything. After winter, your yard may be filled with lots of little hidden dangers that will result in cuts, scrapes and bruises — or worse. Here’s a look at how to kid-proof your yard after a long winter.
First, Do Some Serious Cleanup
Wintertime is notorious for causing trees and shrubs to shed branches, and if your yard is close to the road, you may find cans, bottles, bottle caps or even nails hidden in your yard. In addition, trees and shrubs may have branches sticking out where an unsuspecting child can run into them.
This means that the first step to making your yard safe is to clean it. Pick up all the branches and debris that you find, then give the grass a thorough raking to remove dead leaves, and smaller objects like nails, stones and broken glass. Once that is finished, prune trees and shrubs to remove broken branches or branches that are sticking out too far. For the final step, do a thorough search for pipes or wires that may have become exposed during winter. You might not find these immediately, but your kids almost certainly will!
If you have a pile of leftover firewood from winter, or even a stack of lumber from a construction project, make sure that it isn’t near your children’s play area. Kids love to climb on piles of firewood and lumber, which puts them at risk for anything from a splinter to a serious fall if the woodpile collapses. Woodpiles also tend to attract all sorts of critters, including rats, mice, spiders and snakes — some of which can be dangerous.
Fix Play Equipment
Winter weather is harsh on outdoor equipment. Wooden playground equipment, for instance, is highly prone to developing splinters — large, long splinters that could require medical attention. Make sure to inspect wooden outdoor equipment, and if necessary, remove large splinters by hand.
The same goes for metal and plastic. Wet winter weather and freeze-thaw cycles can cause rusty edges or shattered plastic. Plastic may need to be replaced, while rusty items can often be repaired by removing the rust and then painting over the affected areas with a quality metal enamel.
Search for Poisonous Plants
Once the greenery starts to grow again, you should most definitely search your yard and garden for any plants that are known to be toxic or poisonous. Even if you keep a perfectly manicured yard all year, some of these plants can invade your lawn through seeds that birds have carried from nearby areas.
Be sure to rid your yard of poison ivy, oak and sumac if they appear. Across the southern half of the United States, you may find a pretty flower known as Datura, which is actually a powerful and deadly hallucinogenic if ingested. In other parts of the United States, you’ll find pokeweed, which is a plant that produces edible-looking berries that are highly poisonous. Familiarize yourself with dangerous plants in your area, and then remove them when you find them.
Use Rubber Mulch in Play Areas
Under swing sets, play equipment, and in or around gardens that your children are likely to play in, be sure to put down mulch as a soft barrier that will prevent your children from getting hurt if they fall. What mulch should you choose? Woodchips are full of splinters and sometimes toxic chemicals, depending on how they were processed. Sawdust and sand can get into the eyes or in the case of sawdust, spark allergies.
If you’re looking for a safe, nontoxic option, try rubber mulch. Schools and playgrounds tend to use rubber mulch because it provides a soft, safe play surface. In addition, several studies, including a study by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2008, proved that rubber mulch was nontoxic and harmless for children.
Once you’ve done all of these things, you can be reasonably certain that your yard will be safe for the kids. However, as previously noted, kids are known for getting into everything, so don’t discount their natural ability to get into trouble even in a perfectly safe yard!
Penny Klein is the owner of Perfect Rubber Mulch (perfectrubbermulch.com). She has extensive experience in the industry, understands the best product fit for her clients’ needs, works with customers to guarantee the right amount of product is purchased, and makes certain the delivery process is best in class.