5 min readWhen it comes to childproofing, we tend to focus most of our attention to the interior of the home, often overlooking areas such as the garden, alfresco areas or balconies, as well as the pool surrounds.
What may seem normal to an adult can become a hazardous playground for little ones, with some hazards less obvious than others.
To help you tackle the task of childproofing your backyard we’ve split our tips up into three zones: the garden, pool surrounds and outdoor entertainment areas.
We’ll show you what to look out for and how to transform your yard into a safer place for the kids, without sacrificing on outdoor aesthetic or functionality.
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Tips to childproof your backyard
Whether your yard is lavishly spacious or a simple veggie patch with a strip of grass, it’s only when you take some time to analyse it, do you realise how many potential hazards there are.
Replace poisonous plants
The first step is to go through your garden and remove any toxic or prickly plants that kids might come into contact with. This can include cactus, roses, stinging trees, mushrooms, oleander (anything with white milky sap), azaleas and some succulents.
Consider planting more kid-friendly options that are non-toxic including vegetables, fruits, and herbs, so your child won’t be harmed if they were to accidentally ingest or come into contact with specific plants.
The garden shed and garage can be dangerous places. Think about all the things we like to keep in our sheds — weed killer, fertiliser, mouse traps, pesticides, paint, solvents, power tools, lawnmowers, garden tools etc. On top of that, with so many nooks and crannies, it becomes a breeding ground for spiders and pests.
If you haven’t already, invest in a padlock and keep your shed and garage door closed and locked at all times. Make sure all toxic chemicals are placed out of a child’s easy reach on high shelves, as well as all power tools and garden equipment neatly tucked away or hung out of reach. Keep all cables and cords organised in drawers, removing any trip hazards.
Puddles of water
What may seem like a harmless puddle of water could be a potential slip hazard for small children. If you notice any holes with water or damp sunken areas that seem to never go away, consider investigating it as it might be due to an underground leak or burst water pipe.
When it comes to keeping the bugs at bay, it’s a good idea to understand what’s out there and what first aid actions are needed in the event of a bite or sting. Purchase first aid identification charts that include what to do in the event of a nasty snake or spider bite and what emergency phone numbers to call. Keep a first aid kit at the ready for immediate treatment.
Australia has two of the most venomous spiders in the world, one of them inhabits gardens nation-wide — the redback — so it’s a good idea to perform monthly perimeter sprays or hire professional pest controllers annually to keep your space safer. Wasps tend to appear during hotter months, so keep an eye out for nests on patios, fences, trees and other corners of the backyard.
Swimming pool safety
Swimming pools can be a highly dangerous area for children. According to this Royal Life Saving WA report, there were 31 swimming pool drownings across the nation 2018-19. It is imperative for safety that all swimming pools have a fence around them.
Under current pool fencing regulations, you need to be aware that:
- All new swimming pools require a building permit before installing.
- Compliant pool fencing is required for all pools filled with a depth of water more than 300mm.
- There should not be any doors anywhere that can be used to access the pool unless they’re permanently sealed.
- Pool fencing must be constructed with durable materials.
- Pool fencing must be at least 1200mm tall above ground.
- Fencing gates must open away from the pool and close automatically with a self-locking system.
- Nothing climbable within 1100mm of the fence, including furniture, pots, trees or BBQs.
- All fences used around a pool must be erected vertically or leaning no more than 15 degrees.
Also, consider getting a pool cover that covers the entire pool and leaves no gaps around the edges to safeguard from falls into the water.
The next thing to think about in terms of pool safety is the type of flooring surrounding the pool. With lots of water splashing out of the pool, it’s bound to get slippery. This can be extremely dangerous for children who happen to be running around the pool or jumping in.
Consider choosing a non-slip floor material such as liquid limestone or outdoor tiles with a textured finish. Textured concrete or exposed aggregate around the pool are also popular and safer choices. Even when wet, these materials remain non-slip, are highly durable and heat resistant, meaning your feet won’t burn on those hot summer days.
We all know how much Australians love a good BBQ, with this, comes a greater responsibility to ensure it is completely childproof. Keep the BBQ at least three metres away from the house and never leave a hot flame unsupervised. Put all BBQ utensils, especially grilling forks, out of reach of small hands.
There’s more than meets the eye with outdoor blinds. Yes, they are an excellent addition to the outdoor landscape, transforming patio areas into an indoor entertainment experience, but they are also great at keeping the elements out and the kids inside and safe.
Rather than childproof fencing, which doesn’t do much in terms of keeping the wind, rain and dust out, childproof outdoor blinds also increase privacy and security, improve light control and ventilation, and can also add value to your home.
Consider adding zip screens, shade tracks or cafe blinds to create a modern or rustic feel to your alfresco area.
Keep an eye out for any sharp edges and corners especially on glass and metal tables. What may seem like conventional patio outdoor furniture to an adult can be a hazard for a child who’s at eye level with the corner of a table.
The best solution for covering up sharp edges is with a bit of foam tape, which you can purchase at your local hardware store.
With the hotter months picking up and the kids spending more time outside, there’s never been a better time to childproof your backyard.