700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Home Safety Series: Outside and the Yard

Aug 08, 2022
playing outdoors

Our patio furniture is finally out of hibernation and I’m enjoying running around the backyard with my son and dog, using our grill, and having meals outside. With a mobile toddler we have a few extra things to think about when using our patio or my parents’ deck:

  • Lawn care:
    • Do not mow your lawn while children are outside. They could be hit with a rock or stick thrown by the mower.
    • Never allow children younger than 12 years old to mow the lawn.
    • Keep the mower locked away out of reach of children. Never let children ride or play on the lawn mower.
    • Chemicals, cleaners, gas, car fluids, pesticides and fertilizers can be poisonous. Always tightly replace the lids of poisonous products and lock them up out of sight and reach of children.
    • If your lawn has been treated with pesticides or fertilizer, do not let children play on it for at least 48 hours.
  • Railings and steps:
    • Make sure that the railing is not more than 4 inches off the deck or porch surface so your child can’t crawl through.
    • If the slats or spindles in your railing create spaces that are wider than 4 inches, add additional slats or spindles to fill in the gaps so your child cannot slip through. If this isn’t possible, install a guard on the inside.
    • Keep furniture and outdoor decorations away from railings so children can’t use them to climb onto or over the railing.
    • If you have stairs leading down from your deck or porch, make sure there is a handrail, and install a gate at the top and bottom of the stairs if you have small children.
  • Cooking:
    • Keep your grill at least 10 feet away from other things, including the house, trees and bushes. Never use your grill in the house or garage.
    • Keep children at least 3 feet away from the grill, outdoor cooking equipment, and fire pits.
    • Stand by the grill when you’re cooking. When you are finished cooking, soak coals with cold water and then place them in a noncombustible metal can for safe disposal. Charcoal may feel cool to the touch, but if you throw away coals that are still hot on the inside, you may risk starting a fire.
    • Store propane tanks in the garage, not in the house.
  • Lighting:
    • Candles or torches: Place any open-flame lights, like candles or torches, up and out of your child’s reach. And remember to extinguish them before you go back inside.
    • String lights: Make sure the lights don’t have frayed or exposed wires, and do not use the same extension cord for more than 3 strands of lights. Place the lights up and out of your child’s reach.
    • Cover any outdoor electrical outlets that are not in use.
  • Monitoring your outdoor space:
    • Make sure the doors and windows that lead to your deck or porch are always locked so children can’t access the space unsupervised.
    • Check your outdoor space regularly for wear and tear like loose boards, railings, or splinters, and look for more serious deterioration that can be caused by water, weather, animals or insects.
  • If you or your neighbors have a pool or hot tub - even a portable/kiddie pool - swing set, or treehouse - take a moment to read some tips on those.

Adapted from Make Safe Happen, where you can find more information and safety tips.

Center for Injury Research and Policy
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Laura Dattner, MA
Center for Injury Research and Policy

Laura Dattner is a research writer in the Center for Injury Research and Policy. With both a health communications and public health background, she works to translate pediatric injury research into meaningful, accurate messages which motivate the public to make positive behavior changes.

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