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Safety and Injuries > Outdoor Safety (not sun or bugs)

Outdoor Safety (not sun or bugs)

Topics covered on this page are backyard safety (poison ivy, lawn mowing and lawn care products, play equipment); bicycles/tricycles, scooters, and skateboards; and outdoor food safety.


What are the dangers in my own backyard?

  • If you don't have a fenced yard, teach your child the boundaries within which he should play. Always have a responsible person supervise outdoor play.
  • Check your yard for dangerous plants, which are a leading cause of poisoning in preschoolers. If you are unsure about any of the plants in your yard, call your local poison control center and request a list of poisonous plants common in your area. If you find any, either replace them or securely fence and lock that area of the yard away from your child.
  • Teach your youngster never to pick and eat anything from a plant, no matter how good it looks, without your permission.
  • If you use pesticides or herbicides on your lawn or garden, read the instructions carefully.
  • Don't allow children to play on a treated lawn for at least forty-eight hours.
  • Don't use a power mower to cut the lawn when young children are around. The mower may throw sticks or stones with enough force to injure them. See more on Lawn Mower Safety below on this page!
  • When you cook food outdoors, screen the grill so that your child cannot touch it, and explain that it is hot like the stove in the kitchen. Store propane grills so your child cannot reach the knobs. Be sure charcoal is cold before you dump it.
  • Children under five should not be allowed to cross streets by themselves and should never play unattended near traffic.

How do we keep the play equipment safe?

  • Install and maintain a shock-absorbing surface under and around the play equipment. Use at least 9 inches of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber for play equipment up to 7 feet high. If sand or pea gravel is used, install at least a 9-inch layer for play equipment up to 5 feet high.
  • Carefully maintain all equipment. Open "s" hooks or protruding bolt ends can be hazardous.
  • Swing seats should be made of soft materials such as rubber, plastic or canvas.
  • Make sure children cannot reach any moving parts that might pinch or trap any body part.
  • Never attach - or allow children to attach - ropes, jump ropes, leashes, or similar items to play equipment; children can strangle on these.
  • Make sure metal slides are cool to prevent children's legs from getting burned.

  • Trampolines provide hours of exercise and fun, but can be very dangerous. If used, they should be used wisely. A responsible adult should monitor use. Only one person at a time should be allowed on. A safety net should be used at all times. For a fun Simpsons video clip highlighting the safety problems of a trampoline, click here.
  • Parents should supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.

What can I do to keep my child safe on a bicycle or tricycle?

  • Do not push your child to ride a 2-wheeled bike until he or she is ready, at about age 5 or 6.Consider the child's coordination and desire to learn to ride. Stick with coaster (foot) brakes until your child is older and more experienced for hand brakes.
  • Take your child with you when you shop for the bike, so that he or she can try it out. The value of a properly fitting bike far outweighs the value of surprising your child with a new bike.
  • Buy a bike that is the right size, not one your child has to "grow into." Oversized bikes are especially dangerous.
  • Your child needs to wear a helmet on EVERY bike ride, no matter how short or how close to home. Many accidents happen in driveways, on sidewalks, and on bike paths, not just on streets. Children learn best by observing you. Whenever you ride your bike, put on your helmet.
  • When purchasing a helmet, look for a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the CPSC safety standard.
  • A helmet protects your child from serious injury, and should always be worn. And remember, wearing a helmet at all times helps children develop the helmet habit.
  • A helmet should be worn so that it is level on the head, not tipped forwards or backwards. The strap should be securely fastened and you should not be able to move the helmet in any direction. If needed, the helmet's sizing pads can help improve the fit.
  • Visit HeadStrongForJake to learn about local bike safety events.
  • The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute has information on how to choose a safe helmet, helmet laws, safety data, and much more. Click hereto open their site.

What about infants/children traveling on a parent's bike?

For information on infant/child safety while riding with an adult, click here.

How do we keep a child safe on a skateboard or scooter?

  • Children should never ride skateboards or scooters in or near traffic.
  • All skateboarders and scooter-riders should wear a helmet and other protective gear. (See above under the bicycle discussion.)
  • Communities should continue to develop skateboard parks, which are more likely to be monitored for safety than ramps and jumps constructed by children at home.

How can lawnmowers be safely used in our yard?

  • Make sure children and other adults are not in the immediate vicinity of where you will be mowing to prevent them from accidentally getting hit with flying debris.
  • Try to use a mower with a control that stops the mower from moving forward if the handle is let go.
  • Children younger than 16 years should not be allowed to use ride-on mowers.
  • Children younger than 12 years should not use walk-behind mowers.
  • Make sure that sturdy shoes (not sandals or sneakers) are worn while mowing.
  • Long, sturdy pants such as jeans protect your legs; shorts do not.
  • Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins. Have anyone who uses a mower wear hearing and eye protection.
  • Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary and carefully look for children behind you when you mow in reverse.
  • Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
  • Do not allow children to ride as passengers on ride-on mowers.
  • Lawn mowers operate at 95 decibels or more. Hearing loss is possible, therefore, hearing protection is recommended.

How do we protect against poison ivy or other plants?

  • Learn what poison ivy looks like (leaves of 3 with smaller leaflets) and avoid it.
  • Wash with cool water as soon as possible to remove urushiol, the chemical that causes the reaction. There are special cleansers sold in your pharmacy that remove more of the oils to decrease the contact with your skin.
  • Treatment may include oatmeal baths, calamine lotion, antihistamines, hydrocortisone, and occasionally prescription steroids. See your physician if the rash is near the eyes or covering more than 50% of the body.

We’re having a picnic, what do we need to keep the food safe?

  • Wash hands before handling or eating food and after using the bathroom.
  • Keep raw food separate from cooked food. Marinate and thaw food in the refrigerator. Cook food thoroughly. Refrigerate or freeze food immediately after use.
  • Do not leave food out more than 1 hour if the temperature is over 90°F., otherwise do not leave food out more than 2 hours.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables with water, scrub rough surfaces with a soft brush.
  • At a picnic keep cold foods at or below 40°F. in a cooler and warm foods above 140°F.
  • For more outdoor eating safety, read information provided by the FDA on Tips to Prevent Food Borne Illnesses.

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