While there is no substitute for proper adult supervision, you can take a few simple precautions to make your yard safer. Take a walk around your property and look for things that could injure a child. Watching your child play is the most effective way to reduce potential risk.
Step 1: Keep It Out of Reach
Pick up any rocks, branches, broken glass or debris that might be lying around the yard. Place any waste in a heavy-duty trash bag. Keep an eye out for any insect infestations around the house and yard. Use a good insect spray to get rid of any wasp nests or beehives.
Any ditches in or around your yard should be filled up or covered and secured so children cannot accidentally fall in. Ask for a neighbor’s help if the ditch is not on your property but accessible to children. It’s in everyone’s best interest to make the neighborhood a safer place.
Put away lawn equipment, garden tools and other things you use around the yard that could cause an accident. In the garage, keep chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, automotive oils and fuel locked. Keep tools in a secure place and remember to keep all ladders out of children’s reach. These items don’t always seem dangerous, but they need to be kept where little hands can’t get them. Lock tools and chemicals in a shed or in a storage cabinet in the garage.
Be sure all buckets — and any large containers that can collect water — are empty and put away. Even a five-gallon bucket can hold enough water in it to drown a child.
Step 2: Repair and Maintain Play Equipment
The elements wear on playgrounds all year, so give your play equipment a quick, annual tune-up before the kids start playing. Look over slides, swings and other pieces of equipment for any breaks, sharp edges, weak spots and loose or missing hardware. Tighten any bolts, screws, etc. with a wrench or screwdriver. Cover any exposed bolts with protective plastic or rubber caps. Make sure playground equipment is anchored properly so it won’t tip over. Once you’re sure the structure is sound, don’t forget to check on and around play equipment for areas where bees, wasps or other pests could hide. Destroy any infestations you find with a spray insecticide.
Place a 10″ layer of sand, mulch or wood chips under and around play equipment. This will provide a little cushion in case of any falls from a swing or monkey bars. If you have a sandbox, make sure to clean the sand before playtime. Remove bugs, leaves and other debris that doesn’t belong. It’s a good idea to replace the sand every year to avoid any hidden problems and keep this play area safe and clean.
Step 3: Check Decks, Walkways, and Other Areas
There will be a lot of bare feet running through your yard in the summer. Make sure your porch or deck floor and handrails are splinter-free. Foot splinters aren’t just painful—they can easily become infected. Use a medium-grit sandpaper to sand down any splinters or rough areas. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check wood patio furniture for any splintering or broken parts.
Examine your concrete or stone patio, sidewalks, and walkways for large cracks, broken pieces, and other tripping hazards. For tiny cracks in concrete less than 1/2″ wide, patch with a concrete grout. First, clean the crack and surrounding area and remove any debris and dirt. Adding a bit of water to the inside of the crack will help the grout bond better. Apply small amounts of concrete grout until the crack is filled a bit above the surface. The grout will shrink as it dries.
Slightly larger cracks can be fixed with caulk. Prepare the crack as you would for a tiny crack. Using a caulking gun, apply caulk to the crack in small amounts until it is level with the surface.
The largest cracks—those that are larger than an inch—need to be repaired with concrete patching compound. Prepare the area the same as if you were patching a tiny crack, cleaning the area of dirt and debris. Mix the patching compound with water, adding water to the crack and the surface. Use a trowel to apply the compound to the crack in small amounts until it is filled.
If you have any kind of breaks that are larger in size, you may need to call a professional to do more extensive repairs.
After you’ve done diligence to the concrete in and around your yard, check your lawn for protruding tree roots near play areas. If you see any roots that might be a tripping hazard, you may have to use an ax or hatchet to cut them down so they’re level with the ground. But take care so you don’t damage the tree—check with a local horticultural expert before you cut any roots.
Step 4: Keep Your Pool Area Safe
The number one rule for keeping kids safe around your pool is adult supervision. Keep little ones in your line of sight at all times when they’re playing around water. To keep your kids safe, install fences that are at least 4′ tall around the entire pool; all gates should be self-closing and self-latching. Cover the pool when it’s not in use. And always keep rescue equipment by the pool.
Many of the precautions you take to keep your children safe in the yard will protect your pets as well. Since some pets — especially dogs — can be even more rambunctious than kids, you may need to take a few extra precautions to keep them safe.
Step 1: Put Things Away
Don’t let your pet come in contact with hazardous chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides out in the yard. Keep these kinds of materials locked away in appropriate storage areas.
Step 2: Clean Up
Routinely clean up pet waste from the yard. There are a variety of pet waste scoops and bags that make cleaning up after your pet easy. Any dog waste left to sit for an extended period of time can be a health hazard for your pet and your family. It’s a haven for bacteria and can easily be tracked back in the house by your dog or anyone in your household. Training your dog to go in a certain part of the yard will make clean-up duty easier and more convenient.
Collect any pieces of wood, rocks, and debris your dog might choke on, disposing of them in a heavy-duty trash bag. Collect your kids’ toys from around the yard so that your dog can’t chew or choke on them. If your dog is a “chewer,” be sure to keep your garden hose out of harm’s way.
Examine the vegetation in your yard. Sometimes the mushrooms that grow on your lawn can be poisonous. Because dogs are very curious, they may eat the fungi and become very ill. Some plants and berries can be poisonous as well. Pull up any mushrooms or potentially harmful plants and dispose of them in a trash bag. Put the bag in a pet-proof receptacle, such as a 30-gallon trash can. If you’re not sure what might be harmful to your pet, check with your veterinarian.
Step 3: Fence Them In
If you don’t have a fence around your yard, you may want to consider putting one in for your pet’s safety.
If you opt for a chain-link fence, remember what kind of dog you’re fencing in. Larger, more agile breeds can easily hop over a fence if it isn’t high enough. A 6′ tall fence should be adequate, but be sure his doghouse or any other structure isn’t too close to the fence — you don’t want him to climb or jump to freedom.
If a chain link fence isn’t your first choice, think about putting in a privacy fence. This makes it difficult for your dog to see things on the other side and can help discourage any escape attempts.
If you already have a fence, examine it closely and try to think like a dog. How might he try to get out? Repair any loose fence slats or chain links. If there are places at the bottom of the fence where he could dig his way out, put in wire mesh fencing to discourage digging.
Step 4: Keep Your Pet Cool
Pets are just as susceptible to heat as humans. Put your dog’s house or shelter in a shady area, such as under a tree. This can also shelter him from any rainstorms. Provide your pet with plenty of water in an appropriate water receptacle — you may want to put out more than one water bowl since they can spill.
Step 5: Tag Your Pet
Sometimes it just happens — your dog finds a way to escape or is accidentally let out. Just in case, make sure your dog’s collar has an updated ID tag with his name and your name, current address and phone number. It’s also not a bad idea to have your dog fitted with a microchip. These chips are injected under your dog’s skin so if he is lost, he can be identified when picked up by animal control or taken in by a shelter or veterinarian. The chip is virtually foolproof; it can’t be lost like a collar can.
Nice work. You’ve made your yard a safe haven for kids and pets alike, so now you can relax and enjoy the summer.