Gardening with kids is fun, but can turn dangerous very quickly. Follow these easy steps to make sure you and your child stay safe.
1. Sunscreen and Hat
Very important safety precaution for parents and kids alike. As a general rule, the sun is hottest and UV light most likely to burn the skin between the hours of 11am-3pm. Take breaks in the shade or indoors between these times and always remember to wear sunscreen 50+ and a hat. A wide brim hat is best, but don't forget to put sunscreen on the tops of little ears if wearing a ball cap or bonnet.
2. Water Water
Plenty of water to stay hydrated through the hard work of gardening, yes. But also pay attention to little ones around water features such as ponds, fountains, and pools. It is best to gate them in or cover them while not in use. Don't leave buckets of water around where kids will be playing unsupervised, think rain barrels and watering cans.
3. Poisonous plants
Teach kids early on not to eat ANYTHING from the garden without permission, including those edible fruits and vegetables. With so many poisonous flowers and leaves, it is best to supervise what they are eating. Also be sure to look for Poison Ivy and Poison Oak in the garden and eradicate it safely away from the area in which kids will play. You can even check with your local Master Gardener organization to see if they have a list of toxic plants in your area!
4. High Stakes
Make sure to put little balls or figurines on top of stakes. It would be great to teach kids to garden while wearing eye protection, but not realistic. Un-capped stakes can be a threat to the eyes as well as a fall-into kind of hazard.
5. Garden Tools
Keep all tools safely away from kids. Kid-sized tools are best for toddlers through adolescence with adult-sized tools being introduced to teens. Make sure all sharp pruners and loppers are stored above where kids can reach, both on their own and with a step stool. Make sure not to leave tools lying on the ground. Kids should be supervised while gardening, especially while using any tools. Even hand trowels can be sharp when vigorously digging.
6. Use Manure and Soil Safely
Fresh raw manure should never be used in a garden with kids and should be avoided altogether. Aged manure is safer, but could still contain organisms unsafe for toddlers to handle. If you must use manure, try a commercially composted (not one cured in home compost) type which claims to be pathogen-free. As an extra precaution, use manure sparingly (or not at all) and only after the last fall crops have been harvested and at least 3-4 months (overwinter) before spring planting. Know what is in your soil- you can read the labels or contact the company. I prefer Dr. Earth Pot of Gold because it is people and pet-safe, and manure free, but there are plenty of safe commercially available soils out there.
*This is just a basic list. It is tempting to let kids garden alone, but it is very important they be supervised by an adult.