| ||Melting snow, baby animals, and more daylight can only mean one thing: spring is here! Even on the heels of one of the mildest winters on record, children are excited to trade in their winter boots and parkas for rubber boots and sweaters.
Children of all ages certainly benefit from playing outside, but before you send the troops out the door, take a moment to think: what potential dangers are lurking on your farm?
“The most important factor to a child’s safety on the farm is supervision,” says Raelyn Peterson, farm safety coordinator for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF). “Having a responsible caregiver watch young children at all times, and knowing exactly the whereabouts of older children, is key to keeping future farmers safe from harm.”
Peterson notes an effective way to supervise young children is to designate a special play area for them. It is important that the area has clear boundaries – preferably a fenced area that physically restricts children from leaving. Toys and other age-appropriate activities should be inside the play area so children aren’t tempted to wander away.
“Inevitably, children will explore other areas of the farm as they gain more independence,” says Peterson. “For this reason, it is important to designate hazardous areas as ‘No Play Areas.’ Children may not recognize or understand the dangers on a farm, nor do they always remember the rules for each particular situation. Even as they gain more independence, children should be reminded often what is safe, and practice a ‘check in’ system.”
To clearly mark dangerous areas on the farm, use easily identifiable signage such as decals. These are a great visual reminder for both adults and children. AF has an assortment of decals available to farm families that will remind children to be safe on their farm. Decals include “No Play Area,” “Danger – Chemical Storage,” “One Seat – One Rider,” and “Helmet On – Every Time, Every Ride." These decals are an effective reminder for kids growing up on a farm to continually think of safety. To order, please contact Peterson (contact information below).
Some areas parents may want to mark with decals are granaries, chemical storage sheds, grain augers, grain trucks, well houses, root cellars, medicine storage areas, dugouts, barns, and animal corrals or pens. Each farm is unique, so it is important for parents and caregivers to carefully consider how they want children to perceive their surroundings.
“The more children hear and see what is safe and not safe, the more they will develop the ability to make safe choices,” says Peterson. “That ability to make choices based on safety is a skill they will take with them to all other areas of life.”