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Five Ways to Make Your Back Yard Safe for Kids and Pets

The outdoor areas of your home provide space for entertaining, relaxing, and playing. This is true of your whole family, including children and pets. While adults can pretty well avoid getting into trouble in the back yard, there are dangers lurking for frolicking youngsters and curious animals. You want to make sure that they can't inadvertently wander off, drown, cut themselves, or fall victim to any of a number of other mishaps. Here are some of the things to watch for to keep your back yard safe for all.

1. Security is important. To keep the kids and pets from wandering off, you should have a sturdy fence. If not around the entire yard, then at least fence a play area for children and an exercise area for the dog.

2. When designing playground areas in the outdoors, make them as safe as possible. Make sure that the ground is covered with the proper depth of cushioning material. But playground equipment that is age-appropriate, even if you have to replace it every few years as your children grow. Playground equipment should be sturdy and free of toxic materials such as lead-based paint.

3. If you have a swimming pool or hot tub, make sure that it is secure to keep children and pets away from it when you aren't around to watch them. Install a secure fence with gate latches are high enough that little ones can't reach them, and consider alarms on exterior doors or a surveillance camera.

4. Keep garden tools and other sharp or heavy objects locked up when not in use. A child can easily cut themselves on the sharp edge of a shovel, or puncture a foot on the sharp tines of a rake.

5. Make sure your landscaping is safe. Consider not only plants with spiky vegetation, thorns, or sharp pointed branches, but also plants that can be poisonous. You can find information on toxic plants in a number of places. One good source is an article on the subject by UC Davis Master Gardener Courney Denney. Plant toxins can cause problems not only by being ingested, but in some cases by mere contact. Your local poison control center can give you information on antidotes and treatment.

Despite everything you can to make your back yard safe for children and pets, the best safety device is you. Try to be on hand whenever the kids or pets are playing in the yard, and be ready to respond to any threat.