Parents and children gardening together: Safety First!

Safety is the parent’s first consideration when gardening with children.

Spring in Michigan is a great time for parents to garden outside with their children. Gardening together can be beneficial for bonding with children, educational and fun if safety is the first consideration.

Protecting children from exposure to toxic outdoor plants is crucial for keeping children safe. Ingesting plants and planting materials is a common hazard for children. Parents know how fast their small children can pick up anything and everything to put it in their mouth!

 Here are four safety points from Michigan State University Extension to keep in mind:

  • When purchasing outdoor plants, consider using safe, non-toxic plants. Plant buyers that want to protect children might not know which plants are non-toxic and will need a reliable educational source. One source that is available free of charge is the National Capital Poison Center, available at http://www.poison.org. The site offers a list of plants of “non-poisonous plants, poisonous plants and mushrooms” at http://www.poison.org/prevent/plants.asp. The common name and botanical name are both listed. The list can be copied and taken with you when purchasing plants.
  • Know all of the plant names that are in your yard. The National Capital Poison Center and your Regional Poison Center say it is important to know all the names of plants in your yard or home. The Poison Center can be reached at 1-800-222-1222 on a 24 hours a day, seven days a week basis and need the common name or botanical name of a plant; otherwise they cannot positively identify plants over the phone. Keeping a written list of the plant names and location in your yard can assist child caregivers if they need to call the poison center. Be sure to store bulbs and seeds out of children’s reach.
  • The parent is the first teacher in a child’s life. Teach your children not to put plants, berries, soil, leaves, bark, seeds and any plant material in their mouth. Young children need patience and repeated messages to learn this skill. Even when a parent thinks the child has out grown the stage of putting something in their mouth, they could still do it.
  • Be safety–minded. When gardening together with your child, remember that accidents can happen at unexpected times. In my experience as a parent, I was within 12 inches of my child when he picked a mushroom from the grass and popped it quickly into his mouth. I called the Poison Control Center and received expert advice.

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