I love the idea of getting kids involved early in family chores. Supervised toddlers can help pull weeds and pick up around the yard and school-aged children can easily help move mulch and do some bigger jobs.
However, safety is of the utmost importance. This is especially true when we are dealing with machines and moving parts. More than 17,000 children a year are injured by lawn mowers. Some of these instances are occurring when children are playing outside while a parent is mowing, some are when the children themselves are allowed to operate a push mower, or ride on or operate a riding mower. Children and young adolescents just do not have the motor skills or reaction time to operate these things safely.
Some rules to go by to help prevent these injuries:
- Don't allow children under age 12 to operate a push mower or those under 16 to drive a riding mower.
- When children and adolescents are old enough to use mowers, teach them safety steps such as wearing goggles and sturdy shoes.
- Do not allow children to ride on mowers as passengers—EVER.
- Keep children off the lawn while you are mowing.
- Pick up potential flying objects, such as stones and toys, before you start mowing.
- Do not pull a mower backward or ride it in reverse unless absolutely necessary. If you do mow backwards, carefully look for children behind you.
Teaching kids to help out in and outside the home is an important life lesson, but we as parents need to keep the expectations and activities safe and age-appropriate.
By Ann Jones, MD, pediatrician, ThedaCare Physicians-Appleton.