Spring Lawn Care: Your Family’s Safety Checklist

Is your lawn kid-safe?

mower on the lawn

Nothing brings on spring fever like the smell of freshly cut grass. Before you break out the gardening gloves and rev up the mower, have your family take stock of springtime lawn care safety tips from pediatrician Jacalyn Hazen, MD.

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1. Check “green” or “natural” lawn products

Don’t assume “green” means “safe for kids.” Biologically derived (versus synthetic) products aren’t automatically safer. Familiarize yourself with all ingredients.  Ask the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or your local poison center about any questionable ingredients. Read and follow the manufacturer’s application directions.

2. Consider zero-chemical lawn care strategies

The EPA website offers tips for caring for grass without the use of any chemicals. To encourage strong grass root growth, the EPA suggests watering 1 inch once a week and using a higher mower blade setting, cutting no more than one-third of the total grass blade length. A strong root base helps grass stay green with less water. It also helps lawns tolerate insect damage, reducing the need for pesticides. Autumn aeration also can encourage strong root growth and minimize the need for water to maintain green color. Also, compost and mulched grass clippings can serve as chemical-free fertilizers, according to the EPA.

3. Stay off the lawn after pesticide and fertilizer applications

Read and follow the label’s instructions carefully. Pay special attention: How long must you avoid walking or playing on the lawn? In general, people should stay off until the lawn dries after applying fertilizer or pesticide. Don’t forget to mark your lawn with a sign following application!

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4. Store pesticides safely

Grubs and bugs are annoying. But pesticides are potentially downright dangerous. Risks include skin exposure and accidental ingestion. Parents: Store all pesticides out of kids’ reach. Be able to check all lawn product ingredients (including active and inactive ingredients). In particular, organophosphates pose a threat to your nervous system. Seek help if you notice skin irritation, mental status change, agitation, changes in pupil function or vomiting, all of which are symptoms of neurologic poisoning. Your local EPA and poison center are good resources for your family. 

5. Train and supervise older kids who mow

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children younger than 12 should not use a push mower, and those under 16 should not use a ride-on mower. These are guidelines; also consider a child’s size, strength and coordination. Train and supervise your son or daughter on proper use of a mower before letting them tackle it on their own. Be mindful of protecting eyes from debris, and set a time limit on exposure to loud motors to protect hearing. 

6. Exercise caution when mowing around young children

Children under the age of 6 should remain indoors when an adult is mowing. Never let a child ride on an adult’s lap on a riding mower or be towed in a trailer or wagon behind a mower.

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With these tips in mind, enjoy a safe, green spring. 

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