Families at home: how to make your garden safe

Children love to play outside but this year, sadly, their options will be limited. Holidays, outings and outdoor activities, including trips to the playground or park, are already severely curtailed on account of the global coronavirus crisis, with social distancing and self-isolation measures set to last for many weeks. But if you have a private garden, that’s a huge silver lining.

A garden is a great place for kids to explore nature, satisfy their curiosity and let off some energy, all while having fun in a healthy outdoor environment. And whether your garden is large or small, it’s a managed space where you can feel confident that your family is protected from the current crisis. All you have to do now is to child-proof your garden, so here are some essential tips on how to prepare your garden as a safe space for young children to play.

The weather
While outdoor play is to be encouraged for many reasons, don’t forget about the weather. A lovely spring afternoon or hot summer’s day in the garden is only a good idea if your little ones are protected from overexposure to the sun. In addition to putting sunblock on and giving them sun hats to wear, there should be areas of shade where your kids can shelter from the sun. Of course, the British weather is famously unpredictable, so adequate rain guards are just as important.

• Familiarise yourself with public sun awareness campaigns. Here’s a helpful leaflet to show you how to be sun smart.

• Place garden play equipment in a shady area where possible, and be aware that plastic toys can get very hot in the sun, too.

• Invest in parasols, sun sails and awnings to create extra shade on the patio or law. “With a retractable awning, you’ll be able to enjoy full sunshine or shade and protection from the elements, come rain or shine,” explains one expert.

• Clean and pressure wash algae covered decking and paths; these can become slippery when wet.

Water hazards

Every parent knows that even small pools of water can be a health hazard to children and that toddlers should never be left unattended near a pond or pool. Did you know that drowning in a swimming pool is the second leading cause of accidental death for people aged 5-24? If you have a fish pond, swimming pool or any other ‘body’ of water in your garden, now is the time to ensure its safety.

Child friendly plants
Not all plants are child friendly and some are downright dangerous to human health. Make your garden a place where nature can be safely discovered, explored and enjoyed by all ages, by taking action against thorny growths and poisonous plants and inedible berries. Instead, fill your garden with safe, colourful plants that attract bees and butterflies and support the eco system.

From family pets to common garden pests, your kids are bound to encounter many animals (or their droppings) that share the outdoor environment. Take sensible protective measures against insect bites and stings, toxic faeces left by cats, dogs and foxes, and any other potentially harmful effects of coming into contact with wildlife or pets in the garden.

General safety
It should go without saying that the same diligence applies to childproofing a garden as it does to the interior of the home. If your garden has been a bit neglected over the winter months, now is the time to look at it with fresh, security conscious eyes. Check your gates and fences, maintain any garden equipment, secure garden tools and chemicals to create an outdoor play environment where your children can come to no harm.

Keep tools and chemicals – bleaches, herbicides, baits, pesticides etc – locked up and out of reach. Don’t use slug pellets and similar substances that could be ingested.