Though it’s impossible to entirely childproof your yard, there are some things you can do to up your backyard safety game. Trust us — it’s a huge help to have some sort of safe outdoor space for your kids to run around in without needing to constantly worry.
If you’re lucky enough to have outdoor space where you live, there are three main common “concern areas”: gardens, decks, and perimeters. (See also: pool safety.)
Backyard Safety: The Garden
There are two issues with gardens — to begin, there are some hazardous/toxic plants you should be aware of. Secondly, you probably want to protect your gorgeous flowers and veggies from your prowling toddler. Also: dirt eating – HA.
Some garden-variety plants and flowers (heh) can be harmful if they’re ingested (in large amounts). Some of the most common ones are: daffodils, rhododendron, azalea, hydrangea, water hemlock, holly, nightshade and foxglove. A big one in Florida is Oleander. You can find a full list of toxic and non-toxic plants at the Poison Control Center’s website (complete with images).
If you have a garden you simply want to keep protected from your child, you could fence it off using a simple mesh guard. A classic green garden fence is the YARDGARD mesh wire fencing (~$28):
To rig it up, you just secure it to stakes — it’s designed to protect gardens from critters, but it can help with toddlers too. 🙂
If you’d prefer to use a child-specific product, you could opt for this mesh guard from KidKusion (~$18). It’s technically designed for decks (see below), but you could also use it as a light garden protector — just select the length you need, then fasten the ends to stakes using some zip ties.
One other option is to use a giant pet gate (~$34) to block the whole thing off — this is a tiny bit more expensive, but much more durable. My daughter Alice used to toddle around behind our deck and eat dirt by the fistfuls, which drove me completely insane. This gate also kept our dog from rolling around in the dirt and tracking it back into the house.
Backyard Safety: The Deck
Having a deck is the absolute coolest. Decks are the ultimate adult hang-out space — they’re chill, sophisticated, and fun… no matter where you live.
Having a deck when you have young kids is a whole ‘nother story, though; it can also turn even the most calm and collected parent into a nervous wreck.
There are some (albeit imperfect) ways to help make your deck more family-friendly:
First of all, kids should never be on decks alone, especially if you’re high up. Remember that littles can climb up on stools and chairs and easily hop over the railing. You’ll need to keep the entrance locked up like no other, especially if you’re elevated.
For peace of mind, you can get a door alarm that will alert you in the event that your child gets onto the deck without your knowing. We’ve had good luck with the Doberman Security Window Alarm Kit ($29 for 4).
For your deck balustrade, you can use Deck Guard (~$18) from KidKushion to keep kiddos from squeezing in between the slats.
Note that the mesh guard is still not foolproof (and some say it doesn’t hold up well under the elements), so you’ll still need to keep a close eye out. The same company also makes a clear balcony shield (~$40), but it doesn’t do as well in the wind.
You could also use garden fencing (mentioned above).
Backyard Safety: Securing Perimeters
Obviously, the easiest and best way to secure your yard is with a traditional fence, but a fence is pretty pricey, and some neighborhoods really have a thing with them (ahem, New England).
If you’re not interested or able to put up a fence, you could think about using a number of over-sized gates to section off a portion of your yard as a safe play area.
If you’re looking for something that looks more like a “real” fence, but doesn’t require concrete, check out the Zippidy Fences. They have a number of “semi-permanent” options that are designed for easy installation and average wear-and-tear; they’re pretty perfect for kids and pets. (Remember this phase of childhood doesn’t last forever, so a temporary fence like this one might work well in the short to medium term anyways.)
If you’re driveway is a breach point in an otherwise-fenced-in yard, you could also get a Retractable Driveway Net (~$99). It keeps kids from chasing balls into a busy street.
It comes in either orange or black, and in 18’ or 25’ lengths. (Note that some parents have had some trouble with the “retractable” feature — there is an option for a non-retractable net if you prefer not to fiddle with it.) Note that either of these options only blocks off the driveway, so if you’re otherwise fenceless, it may not do you any good.
Okay, so maybe outdoor safety isn’t all that surefire… but every little bit helps—even those cheesy yellow signs that announce “I HAVE KIDS — SLOW DOWN ASSHOLE.” What? They work (except for my neighbor, who had hers stolen. We later found it in the bathroom at the local park….)
Whelp, folks, I’m sorry to say that’s about it for yard safety. These childproofing aids can help, but they can’t take over the heavy lifting. Hey, at least they’re a start. In the meantime, try to enjoy being outside as much as possible :).