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It's A Jungle Out There! Preparing Your Backyard For Summer Play, Part 1
by the Paranoid Sisters
The painful screams of a child can bring any picnic or barbecue to a screeching halt. More than 11,400 children under age 14 are injured every year from burns and fires says Ron Bistolfo, Director of Education at the American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter in San Francisco, California. Barbecues can be an overlooked burn threat to our children and is one of the many hazards lurking in our backyards. As we put away our winter coats and pull out the summer bonnets, parents and caregivers need to prepare the backyard for little ones. Some pre-planning and common sense can go a long way in preventing injury to your child. Here's how you can help:

Survey the Yard
Before letting your child outside to play take a survey of the yard. Is the fence still secure? After a harsh winter boards may have come loose or been blown out. Is all yard cleaning and trimming equipment safely stored and out of reach of small children? Children love to model their parents and "mow" the lawn. Shears and lawnmower blades can cause serious injury. Even rakes and shovels can hurt if the handles fall on a little one's head.

Poisonous Plants
After the wet season, plant and weed growth is rampant. Check for mushrooms and remove them immediately. Wild mushrooms have been known to cause serious illness, even death. Another common backyard plant is the oleander, these too are poisonous. Teaching your children not to eat plants, dirt or anything that you have not given him will add a layer of protection. Check with your local poison control for a complete list of  poisonous outdoor plants.

If you have pets be sure all droppings are cleaned up from the lawn area. Kids have a way of finding interest in the ickiest things. You don't want to end the fun playtime to put your child in the bath after they've found an unpleasant remain. Also, keep sandboxes covered so cats do not use them as a litter box.

Playground Equipment Hazards
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission an estimated 51,000 children are treated in US hospital emergency rooms for backyard playground equipment-related injuries. About 15 children die each year as the result of playground equipment incidents. Most injuries are the result of falls. Be sure that your playground equipment is in good condition. Check for sharp edges or hot surfaces, that it's still secured in the ground, and has protective covering under it that is thick enough and wide enough to prevent injury should a child fall.

More recommendations
The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a wide range of recommendations based on the height of the equipment and the type of protective layering you're using. You can get complete details in the CPSC's Handbook for Public Playground Safety. To obtain a copy send a postcard with your name and address (organization address, if appropriate) to US Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207 or visit their web site at http://www.cpsc.gov.

Other playground equipment hazards which can cause strangulation include ropes, hats, and strings on clothing. Don't allow your child to tie ropes to playground equipment or around them. Remove hats and clothing with strings when your child is playing on gym equipment. Long strings should be removed from clothing entirely.

"Kids go into the world with no intent, they're just exploring," says Bistolfo, "Parents need to protect them and teach them to protect themselves." Safety is an ongoing process. As parents and caregivers, we are constantly challenged to stay ahead of our childrens' developmental abilities. Following these tips will surely help your child's summer memories be about playing in the yard, not about crying in the emergency room.

Part 2 of this series will discuss riding toys and equipment, barbecue basics, and sunburn and dehydration. In the meantime, stay safe!

From the Paranoid Sisters

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