| ||Children are often eager to develop new skills that will help them contribute to the operations on a farm. However, knowing when a child is ready to take on more advanced chores around the farm is sometimes difficult for a parent to assess. Raelyn Peterson, farm safety coordinator with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry says, “while some tasks require youth to be a certain age, such as driving a car or operating a full-sized ATV, there are many tasks with no measurement to tell us when a child is ready for more responsibility. Those tasks should be introduced to youth in stages with enough preparation to ensure adequate capabilities.”
Peterson says before assigning any new task to a child, parents must consider the child’s abilities, possible hazards, pertinent training, and adequate supervision.
Abilities are the capacity to move or think. Someone can be physically able to do a task, but not ready to think it through safely. Assessment guidelines like the North American Guidelines for Children’s Agricultural Tasks can help adults match tasks to their child’s abilities.
A hazard is a situation or item that could cause danger or injury. Having a child help identify hazards is an important way to implement training. Hazard assessments can also help youth understand the need for proper protective equipment (shoes, masks, gloves, etc.), select suitable tools, and plan the most effective way to finish the task.
Training is the action of teaching a person a particular skill or type of behaviour. With training, children and youth learn the details of a task, watch someone else complete it, and then attempt it on their own with direct supervision. Training isn’t always about the physical work; thinking is important too!
Supervision requirements vary by task, age, and abilities. The best way to for a child to learn through experience is to learn with someone who has the experience and adheres to safety requirements. Once a child shows that she or he can do the task, the supervisor can begin to leave them at their task for short periods of time.
Before teaching youth new work skills, adults need to make sure that some important safety measures have been covered to ensure the child’s safety, and to set them up for success in learning. “Patience is important when teaching children new skills,” says Peterson. “By honestly assessing a child’s abilities, checking for hazards, and providing training and adequate supervision, the child will gain the confidence and skills necessary to not only do the job, but more importantly, do it safely.”