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Spring yardwork: Is your child ready to help?
April 19, 2024
Dad inspecting the lawn mower with teen son

    Keeping kids safe around lawn mowers

    Whether you love yardwork, or would prefer to do just about anything else, springtime usually means plenty of it. Our Safe Kids Virginia team has some insight into when and how kids can safely help with this family chore.

    Lawn mower injuries can be catastrophic

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 9,000 kids in the U.S. go to the emergency room for lawn mower injuries each year.

    “Kids can be injured by lawn mowers in a variety of ways – riding with an adult and falling off, being run over without the lawn mower operator seeing them, being hit by flying debris, losing control of the mower, and more,” said Corri Miller-Hobbs, RN, program coordinator for Safe Kids Virginia at CHoR, part of our Level 1 pediatric trauma center. “Even scarier is that these injuries can be quite catastrophic. We urge parents and caregivers to use caution when it comes to kids and yardwork.”

    How old should kids be to mow the lawn?

    Our team and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that children be:

    • 12 years old before operating a push mower
    • 16 years old before operating a riding mower

    You know your child/teen best. If you don’t think they’re mature enough, strong enough or otherwise ready, this isn’t an area you want to push it.

    Preparing your adolescent or teen to safely use a lawn mower

    Before handing lawn mowing duties off to your teen – a rite of passage for many parents – take the time to discuss the important safety measures.

    • Inspect the lawn mower before starting it to make sure nothing is broken, and all safety equipment is in place.
    • Pick up sticks, stones and other objects that could be thrown by the lawn mower or trimmer blades.
    • Wear closed-toed shoes with sturdy soles to prevent slipping, along with safety goggles and hearing protection.
    • Use extra caution when mowing on hills and around corners.
    • Mow in reverse only when necessary and always check behind you first.
    • If the mower needs to be assessed during the mowing process (it’s clogged, strikes an object, etc.), turn it off, allow the blades to stop completely and give it a minute to cool before touching.
    • Never walk away from a running lawn mower. Turn it off and re-start it when you return.
    • Do not allow anyone to ride on a riding mower with you.
    • Make sure all children (and pets) are inside while the lawn mower is in use, and that another responsible teen/adult is watching young children. Talk with young children about the importance of staying away from the lawn mower.

    It’s a good idea to demonstrate the right way to use the mower and observe your child until you feel comfortable they’re doing it safely.

    Getting younger kids involved with yardwork

    While kids shouldn’t be around the lawn mower, they can help with other tasks in the yard. Get the whole family involved with:

    • Picking up sticks and toys
    • Pulling weeds with gloves on (after making sure they’re not prickly or poisonous)
    • Planting flowers
    • Spreading mulch

    Then, reward the hard work with a game of wiffle ball, glass of lemonade or another family favorite.

    Find more safety tips and topics from Safe Kids Virginia.

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